His Excellency Ambassador Zac Nsenga, Embassy of Rwanda


As part of the Ambassador Roundtable Series on International Collaboration to Combat Terrorism and Insurgencies, The Homeland Security Policy Institute and the International Center for Terrorism Studies co-hosted Rwandan Ambassador Zac Nsenga on March 26, 2007.

"We all share this common evil. This is not just an American issue." Rwanda’s Ambassador Zac Nsenga summed up his country’s views on terrorism and its reach into Africa at an Ambassador’s roundtable hosted by the Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI).

Ambassador Nsenga cited poverty, political instability, and injustice as the root causes of terrorism in Africa, admitting that on the vast continent terrorist groups feed on these problems and often operate unnoticed for years. Rwanda has emerged from a terrible chapter in its history where genocide threatened its very fabric by addressing some of these issues, but the ambassador admits it will take more than a regional approach to keep terror at bay in Africa.

"We have to bring people together to undermine terrorism. We must put policies in place to fix economies and the health issues confronting our peoples."

Key to the country’s recovery since the 1993 genocide is the ongoing reconciliation project, known as Gacaca (pronounced "ga-cha-cha"). An alternative justice system, it is set up to hold criminals from that era accountable and required a community effort. Gacaca became on of the most effective things for producing stability in Rwanda. Ambassador Nsenga suggest that countries in or recovering from conflict, including Iraq, could fashion a similar system of reconciliation to prevent further violence and release the people from the stigma of violence for generations to come. In addition, Rwanda has been successful in keeping its HIV/AIDS rate low and fixing some of the injustices that once plagued the country.

Though Rwanda has found success, there are still threats to the nation and the region. Ambassador Nsenga’s worries include activities in the Congo and Darfur where health problems and political instability translate into security problems for those countries and their neighbors. What affects these nations directly affects Rwanda as well. Areas of these nations that remain ungoverned become a harbor for both local and transnational terrorist groups. Former Ambassador David Shinn, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University, noted that most terrorist acts in Africa would be considered domestic incidents, but those of a transnational nature do exist though they are not the trend.

HSPI Director Frank Cilluffo explained that because terrorist threats are transnational and that the nature of acts of terrorism are similar at any geographic location, "there needs to be a transnational approach developed for counter-terrorism solutions." For Africa, according to Ambassador Nsenga, government actors should utilize measures focusing addressing the problem of terrorism holistically, to include security, economy, justice, and reconciliation. Manifested, governments should strive to install principles of democratic governance, fight poverty through mechanisms for economic growth, and invest in human resources.

Co-host Yonah Alexander, co-chair of the Ambassador Roundtable series, said the roundtable was an important first step in understanding how terrorism is taking root and spreading in Africa. "I hope this presentation will be the beginning of a dialogue on the problems in Africa.

Ambassador Nsenga is leaving Washington to take a position with the Defense Ministry in his country where he will continue to be involved in counter-terrorism.

Ambassador Zac Nsenga

Ambassador Zac Nsenga was born in 1958 in Rwanda. He studied and graduated from Makerere University Medical school- Uganda with a degree in human medicine and University of Westminster with an MA in diplomatic studies and a certificate in strategic studies. He practiced medicine both in Uganda and Lesotho before joining the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) in December 1990. The Ambassador served as Secretary General in the Ministry of Internal Security (overseeing National Police and Prisons Services). He has been ambassador to the State of Israel, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and now the US with concurrent accreditation to Brazil, Mexico and Argentina as well as the Bretton Woods institutions. Ambassador Nsenga is married with 3 children.

The Ambassadors Roundtable Series is designed to provide Ambassadors to the United States and their key diplomatic staff with a forum to discuss current and future counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts on a regional or country-specific basis. In an effort to draw upon various insights and experiences, the Ambassadors Roundtable Series builds upon and institutionalizes efforts over the past two years to engage in a dialogue with members of the international community, policy makers, and practitioners.