Controversial African leader addresses Aipac

The speech from Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, marked the first time an African leader had addressed an Aipac conference.


America’s largest pro-Israel convention, Aipac, got under way in Washington on Sunday with an address by an African leader for the first time in its history.

Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, said that “Rwanda is, without question, a friend of Israel.”

Mr Kagame, who is credited with ending the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, talked about the history of suffering that Israel and his country share.

“No tragedy is so great, so vast that human ingenuity and resilience cannot give rise to a better future.” he said. “The survival and renewal of our two nations testifies to this truth.”

Although the Rwandan leader was highly thought of for years, his image has been tarnished by reports that he has suppressed demonstrations and arrested opposition leaders and critical journalists.

He has also been accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Congo in military operations following the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Other famous faces to address the conference on its opening day included Tony Blair and Steven Harper, the former prime minister of Canada.

Mr Blair paid tribute to “an Israel that is creative, innovative, dynamic, where its politics are argumentative, full of disputes and differences, where if there are three people in a room you’ve got four different opinions – but my god is it vibrant and capable, and what it has created is amazing.

“At its best, that Israel is a symbol for the region of open-mindedness, tolerance and willingness to work with others.”

Mr Harper told the conference that, as prime minister, his pro-Israel stances had not been taken "as a favour to the state of Israel," but "because I believed them to be in the best interest of my country, Canada." He described both countries as sharing “the same values.”

He also called the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement “the most serious threat” facing Israel today, calling it the “principle vehicle” for “translating the old ideology of antisemitism into something acceptable for a new generation."

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