Op-Ed: A Letter to the Rwandan People: Erica Barks-Ruggles, United States Ambassador

A Letter to the Rwandan People: Erica Barks-Ruggles, United States Ambassador

Muraho? (How are you?). After just one week in Rwanda, my heart has been warmed by the welcome that I have received and the beauty of the Rwandan people.  Each person I have met has greeted me with sincere smiles and well wishes for the next three years serving my country as Ambassador to Rwanda.  I have already sensed the deep hope Rwandans have for their future, and their heartfelt desire that the United States and Rwanda will continue to strengthen our relationship for the good of all Rwandans.

After 23 years serving my country in the State Department, I am honored that President Obama and Secretary Kerry have entrusted me to carry on the leadership of our efforts together as U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda.  At the beginning of my time with you, I wanted to write this letter to introduce myself and answer the question I am asked most often.

Even before arriving in Kigali, people would frequently ask me what my goals are for my term as Ambassador. My primary goal is very simple: I want to strengthen and improve the work we do in partnership with all Rwandans to tackle the joint challenges we face in a globalized world and build a better future for both our countries.

As I told President Kagame and Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo this week, I am eager to travel widely throughout Rwanda and to hear from the all the people of Rwanda how best we can work together on the tough issues of our day. We have accomplished so much together, but there are still many challenges ahead. I want to meet people from all corners of Rwanda in order to learn how we can continue to strengthen our partnership.

From improving healthcare and literacy, to promoting economic growth and energy, from strengthening democratic institutions and good governance, to tackling climate change and improving regional security, we have much to work on together.

Twenty years after the 1994 genocide, the United States continues its long-standing commitment toward acknowledging all of the lives so tragically lost, and urges a spirit of tolerance and respect. For this reason, one of my first visits after presenting my credentials to the President was to the Kigali Memorial Center in Gisozi. There, I was inspired by the courage of ordinary Rwandans who survived – and of those who helped others – during that horrible chapter. And I am inspired each day by the hard work of every citizen to build a bright, secure and prosperous future in which all Rwandans have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

The United States is proud to partner with Rwanda to support this growth. Our two nations have a deep relationship spanning issues that include economic growth, poverty reduction, public health, and peacekeeping. The United States is Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor, spending about $180 million in Rwanda each year on health, economic development, education, and democracy and governance programs. This assistance, coupled with the commitment of Rwanda to tackling important challenges like HIV/AIDS and education reform, have helped Rwanda make significant progress in its recovery.

My experience in Africa has taught me the value of these partnerships, and I look forward to continuing to strengthen our friendship with the government and people of Rwanda.

As we move forward, I urge everyone to join in the conversation and follow me on Twitter (my handle is @USAmbRwanda), visit the Embassy website and Facebook pages, or come and visit us at the U.S. Embassy’s Information Resource Center or one of our American Corners in Kigali and Rubavu.

I look forward to my time in Rwanda, and to talking with and working with as many of you as I can over the next three years.