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Avellon Williams 

KINGSTON, JAMAICA- It is time for the Caribbean region and the African continent to establish more direct contacts rather than relying on multilateral organizations for such links, according to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

During an address to a special joint session of the Jamaican Parliament at Gordon House in downtown Kingston on Thursday, Kagame made the comment. He is on a three-day state visit to Jamaica.

Rwandan President, (left) Paul Kagame, and Jamaica’s Prime Minister (right) Andrew Holness, leave the Norman Manley International Airport, Jamaica /Image, JPM, AH/ 

“Africa and the Caribbean should work together to advance common positions in these (multilateral) bodies where our interests align as they often do,” Kagame said. Climate change and global health are examples of such common positions, he said.

“Africa and Jamaica do not have to relate to each other only through intermediaries. Our diplomats tend to meet in New York, London or Geneva. I do not have a problem with that but we could do it otherwise,” Kagame said.

He added, “It is high time for Africa and the Caribbean to work together in (a) direct and sustained manner, both through our present regional organisations – Caricom and the African Union – and bilaterally.” 

Africa and Jamaica to strengthen bilateral ties /Image, AS/

He remarked that the first Africa-Caricom Summit, which was held last September, had long gone unfulfilled and must be built upon.

“There should also be direct people-to-people exchanges, particularly for the youth and entrepreneurs,” he stated.

Among those praising Kagame for turning Rwanda into one of the leading countries in Africa and an example of overcoming great odds are Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader Mark Golding, and Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson.

Several Jamaican professionals have visited Rwanda and have made “meaningful contributions,” some as representatives of international organisations.

President Paul Kagame arriving at Jamaican Parliament at Gordon House in downtown Kingston on Thursday, Image, JPM, AH

“This has only made us want to see more people from Jamaica and this region in Rwanda,” he said.

His emphasis was that Rwanda was willing to cooperate with Jamaica much more closely, as well as share experiences in “…investments as well as strengthening national unity and promoting citizen development“.

Rwanda’s president thanked Jamaica for its support in becoming a member of the Commonwealth.

“We are not strangers to one another. In our diversity, we share common traits, our peoples are resilient, creative, and, as our common history shows, also indestructible,” he said to more sustained applause.

According to him, Rwanda is proud to host the next Commonwealth meeting in June as the newest member of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth countries map /Image, DM/

“And I can’t forget to thank…Jamaica for supporting Rwanda,” Kagame said while expressing that Rwanda hopes to see a strong representation from the Caribbean at the next meeting of The Commonwealth.

At that meeting, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade will vie for the top job with incumbent Secretary-General Patricia Scotland of Dominica.

The Caribbean and the African continent to strengthen ties, /Image, JPM, AH/

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Avellon Williams

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