Fostering relationship: How retired Chinese diplomat still tells the Rwandan story

By Hudson Kuteesa

Shu zhan, a retired Chinese diplomat says there is a big job to do in order to improve people’s knowledge about the real Rwanda and the significant developments that have taken place after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The genocide ripped the Rwandan society apart, splitting its social fabric such that some considered far-fetched the unity, reconciliation as well as progress of the devastated nation. In fact, the country’s future looked bleak.

Shu worked as ambassador of China to Rwanda from 2011 to 2013 before retiring and joining academic world. Currently he is a lecturer at Zhejiang normal university, as well as a member of the china Africa think tank forum, which seeks to promote China-Africa relations and to cultivate a win-win cooperation.

In an interview with Hudson Kuteesa in Beijing, Shu said that there is a kind of misunderstanding not only about Rwanda but Africa as a whole among people in China which calls for efforts to provide them with accurate and reliable information, instead of being fed with misinformation.

“As an Africanist I think I got energy to do something. I think I am fit enough to work on it,” said the 65 year old diplomat.

“For instance before I went to Rwanda, even now, most of the Chinese people’s knowledge about Rwanda was the 1994 genocide, nothing more than that. They don’t know the big change afterwards in the last 24 or 25 years,” he said.

“So there is a lot of job for us to do through talking, lecturing, writing papers,” he observed.

Shu shakes hands with Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame (courtesy).

In his lecturing, he says that he tries to introduce to his audience Rwanda’s homegrown solutions, among other things, revealing that they get surprised at it because it is a new thing they were not expecting.

Every year, Shu is invited to talk to students in different universities. He does this for about ten times within a year.

“I talk about my experience in Africa but always I bring out Rwanda as an example,” he said.

He said they also try to make more researchers and scholars go to Africa to learn and produce accurate reports.

“I communicated with one scholar yesterday and she said she went to Rwanda in 2013 or 2014. She said she was already deeply impressed with the homegrown solutions. She came back and wrote a paper and it was published. But still she does not think that the Chinese public really understands the real Rwanda after 1994,” he said.

Shu came back to Rwanda for two weeks in August last year and he says he noticed a number of physical developments. However, he got more interested with the progress in form of ideas for instance the use of drones to deliver medicine – to save lives of people in urgent and critical condition especial in remote areas –and the 4G internet to speed up realisation of Rwanda’s ambition to become a knowledge-based economy through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

He adds that the young Chinese have a lesson to learn from Rwanda regarding the “kind of seriousness” Rwandans have “when they want to get things done.”

Shu has held several diplomatic posts, representing the People’s Republic of China in Namibia, South Africa, and Ethiopia.  He was also the Chinese ambassador to Eritrea from 2006-2009.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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