Petr Pavel and Paul Kagame. Credit: Zuzana Bonisch /

President Pavel Visits Rwanda To Honour Genocide Victims, Debate Cooperation

Czech President Petr Pavel arrived in Rwanda on Friday evening for a three-day visit, his first trip to Africa as president. Today he is due to attend the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the genocide that cost the lives of some 800,000 people.

Yesterday, Pavel met President Paul Kagame, as well as other African and European politicians who are in Rwanda to attend the ceremony. He also met Czechs working or doing business in the Central African country of 14 million.

After a short stopover in Cairo, the plane with Pavel arrived in the Rwandan capital Kigali at 7pm on Friday. The presidential delegation is accompanied by the former Czech ambassador to the UN, Karel Kovanda, who in 1994 advocated an active approach by the international community to end the massacre of the Tutsi minority. Many Western politicians now admit that their countries and the UN failed to prevent the massacre at the time of the tragic bloodshed.

“Karel Kovanda played an important role in the recognition of what was happening in Rwanda at the time as genocide,” Pavel said today, reminding that about 100 people in high positions were later convicted of genocide. Kovanda holds Rwanda’s highest state decoration.

Karel Kovanda. Credit: Zuzana Bonisch /

On departure from Prague, Pavel told reporters that Rwanda was a promising partner for the Czech Republic, as one of Africa’s more stable countries with a low level of corruption.

“I believe that it will bring new opportunities for the Czech Republic and for our business,” he said.

After meeting Kagame yesterday, Pavel said that the Czech Republic appreciates Rwanda’s openness to the possibility of accepting foreign asylum seekers, adding that Czechs should seek further opportunities for cooperation with Rwanda in many areas.

Kagame told Czech businessmen accompanying Pavel that they were welcome to the fast-growing Central African country.

“Rwanda’s approach is not only constructive but also humanitarian,” Pavel said after a roughly one-hour meeting with Kagame.

Rwanda has struck a deal with Britain to send refugees to the country. The European Union is now considering a similar scheme, despite criticism that it is a violation of international law about the treatment of asylum seekers. In this context, Pavel said the Czech Republic has decided to provide one million euros to the UNHCR fund.

Pavel and Kagame met yesterday to discuss cooperation. Credit: Zuzana Bonisch /

Kagame said that Rwanda is willing to accept refugees from foreign countries, but needs money. He said Rwanda is a small country which does not have many resources. Rwanda does not have money to feed them, he told reporters after the meeting.

He and Pavel agreed that refugees can have more dignified conditions in Rwanda than in substandard centres in overcrowded countries.

However, some humanitarian organisations have objected to this cooperation, saying Rwanda is not a safe country.

According to Kagame, cooperation can be developed based on three scenarios: either the migrants stay in Rwanda, return to their country of origin or, after a successful asylum procedure, are transported to the countries they originally wanted to reach.

The presidents discussed in particular further possibilities for cooperation.

In recent years, Rwanda has become one of the Czech Republic’s main partners in Africa. In 2014, the two countries concluded an agreement on defence cooperation and implemented several defence-industrial projects. Currently, Czech companies and organisations are active in Rwanda in the field of satellite technology, the space programme, and healthcare. The two countries are also linked by a project to breed black rhinos in the Czech Dvur Kralove zoo to be released into a local national park.

“I think our cooperation is mutually beneficial,” said Pavel, who is on his first trip to Africa since taking office in March 2023. He said he plans to open the question of the possibility of further cooperation after he returns to the Czech Republic.

Kagame said there are opportunities such as in health care, and noted that his country had opened its embassy in the Czech Republic last year as part of strengthening mutual contacts.

Rwanda is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, with gross GDP growing by 8.2% the year before last, according to government figures.

The two statesmen also discussed security issues. Pavel said that as small countries, both the Czech Republic and Rwanda have interest in geopolitical stability. “We agreed that aggression against sovereign states should always be condemned,” said Pavel, who, like the Czech government, is a strong supporter of Ukraine resisting Russian invasion.

Rwanda, like many other African countries, is exercising so-called pragmatic neutrality in the conflict between the West and Russia or China. However, it is one of the countries where Russia’s influence is not strong compared with, for example, some of the unstable states of the Sahel region.

Brno Daily Subscribe
Sign up for morning news in your mail