Rwanda's President Paul Kagame on Sunday became the first African leader to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, hailing Israel as an inspiration for his own country's rebirth after genocide.
Kagame was commander of the rebel force that put an end to the 1994 slaughter of Rwandan Tutsis by Hutu extremists and has led the country since 2000, as it recovers from the conflict and becomes a regional economic success story.
Speaking at the AIPAC conference in Washington, he hailed the success of the state of Israel after the horrors of the Holocaust and pledged Rwanda's friendship.
"The security of peoples who have once been targeted for extermination can never be exclusively physical," Kagame told the delegates, who received him with warm applause.
"Until all ideologies which justify killing as a patriotic duty are defeated our world is not truly safe. Not for us, not for anyone."
Israel's relations with African governments have not always been easy, but today it has an active diplomatic engagement on the continent and has won friends through economic and technical cooperation with major players like Rwanda.
Last year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu toured four African countries, including Rwanda, and in October he is expected to meet around 30 leaders at an Israel-Africa summit in Togo.
In 2014, Israel and Rwanda signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish bilateral consultations.
Kagame visited Israel in 2008 and made clear at AIPAC that he sees the country as a friend and ally, rejecting what he sees as efforts in some quarters to delegitimize Israeli statehood.
"Together with friends like the United States we must call for renewed global solidarity against the reckless efforts to deny genocide and to trivialize the victims," he said.
"Israel has the right to exist and thrive as a full member the international community. This is not an infringement of the rights of any other people," he declared.
In 2014, when Rwanda sat on the United Nations Security Council, it abstained from a resolution that condemned Israel for “occupying Palestinian territory” but was ultimately rejected.
AFP contributed to this report.