Agaciro Development Fund

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…it is obviously designed to strengthen the repression against the [Rwandan] population.

As we remember the Fund was incidentally launched on August 23, 2012 by the Rwandan president Paul Kagame following measures taken by major donors against Rwanda for its UN evidence-proven support of the Congolese rebel movement M23.

An initial confusion needs however being alleviated. It would greatly help if the initiator of the Fund could explain to anyone willing to contribute “voluntarily” where Government departments which have pledged millions will get them from, since their source of revenues have drastically reduced with the cutting of aid they were receiving?

The easy answer to the question appears to be that government’s pledges will be fulfilled by retention from public servants’ wages. But who will have paid those wages, knowing that more than 50% of them were coming from external aid, which is today significantly reduced.

Agaciro Development Fund initiative at the occasion of Rwanda Day in Boston on 22/9/12. The Rwandan president introduced the Fund to the Rwandan diaspora living in North America.
Agaciro Development Fund initiative at the occasion of Rwanda Day in Boston on 22/9/12. The Rwandan president introduced the Fund to the Rwandan diaspora living in North America./ photo Jennifer Fierberg

it on the part of Paul Kagame and his institutions a way of fooling Rwandans to force them into contributing to the Fund, under the false pretence that the government is too playing its part?

Under different circumstances the concept of such fund is an ideal initiative on the part of a responsible government which intends to become less dependent from the outside.

But the way it was brought to life recently, in the heat of a situation of regional instability created by the Congolese rebel movement M23 supported by Paul Kagame, Agaciro Development Fund raises more questions than good intentions from its initiators.

War contribution

Back at the start of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s war against Rwanda towards the end of 1990 and early 1991, the Rwandan government led by Juvenal Habyarimana appealed to the population to contribute to the country’s efforts for war.

Since the country was attacked from Uganda by the then exiled Tutsis under RPF banner, anyone among internal Rwandans who understood and could, contributed voluntarily, well aware that effectively Rwanda sovereignty was in danger.

RPF on its part, for its efforts of war, had been mobilizing its supporters among Tutsi refugees and populations in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo [then Zaire], Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, and beyond.

They gave money and allowed their children in big numbers to join the Rwandan rebels and support its war against their home country.

From this perspective, knowing the character of Paul Kagame of never giving up on what he pursues, whatever could be the opposition or humanitarian consequences, Agaciro Development Fund should be seen more as a war effort contribution than anything else.

The Rwandan president has had persistent plans for M23: control of Eastern Congo; and nobody will stop him as long as he is alive. His determination, which in some sense explains his political survival, will keep him on such path. The last two decades of his regional policies cannot lie to any attentive observer of the scenery.

Officially, the Rwandan narrative on the situation in Eastern Congo or the whole of Democratic Republic of Congo is that all the problems of instability, illegal exploitation of minerals, inefficiency of administration and army, are consequences of incompetence of Congolese authorities.

Though there is some truth in that view, such assertion should not exclude a significant part of responsibility of the Rwandan government. And this has been widely documented by different objective sources, including mainly UN for more than ten years.

That the Rwandan president continues to lie about such responsibility each time he has an opportunity to speech publicly, his denials will only fool those who don’t know his modus operandi.

And this is where in his ways of minding his own business, Paul Kagame has transformed his initiative Agaciro Development Fund into another Rwandan regime’s repression tool.

This has been recently evidenced in US at the occasion of Rwanda Day – Boston 2012 where for example the Rwandan president forced his compatriot businessmen to accompany him at that event in their hundreds, while paying themselves the bill.

Another repression tool

Since the initiation of the Fund, we have received many complaints from Rwandans, highlighting its repressive and harassing character in seeking funds from the population, despite the official portrayal of contributions being voluntarily.

One anonymous complainant explains:

“I regularly receive emails … reminding me to pay the contribution. I received SMS from the Umudugudu [Ward or local authority], reminding me to pay such contribution. It is actually a kind of harassment when every time I receive such messages. Now I am asking myself, when this intimidation will come to an end? People are living in fear; they do not know that they can say no to such solicitations. They pay money whenever they are asked to. …it is obviously designed to strengthen the repression among the population.”

Congolese activist Felicite Nduku holding a picture of Victoire Ingabire, Rwandan imprisoned political leader of FDU-Inkingi, during a protest held by Congolese, Rwandans, Burundians against Paul Kagame in Boston - US on 22/9/12.
Congolese activist Felicite Nduku holding a picture of Victoire Ingabire, Rwandan imprisoned political leader of FDU-Inkingi, during a protest held by Congolese, Rwandans, Burundians against Paul Kagame in Boston – US on 22/9/12./photo Jennifer Fierberg

A press release published on October 2nd, 2012 by FDU-Inkingi of imprisoned political leader Victoire Ingabire reports eviction of one of its active members Theophile Ntirutwa by RPF authorities from an area where he lived, as a consequence to his response to the forced voluntarily contribution to the Fund.

“The local administration and members of the paramilitary militia known as “local defence” intruded the home of Mr. Theophile Ntirutwa, located in Nyarutarama (Kangondo II , Remera sector, Gasabo district) and took him to Nyarutarama police custody for a few hours. His house was sealed off and was ordered to pay Frw 20,000 and told to get out of that area. Apparently this happened after he turned down money collectors from Agaciro development fund, the controversial fund set to pump money from the population to compensate the delayed budget aid in light to overwhelming information that Rwanda is backing M23 rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

That Agaciro Development Fund would have become a laudable tool for development under a different government than the one led by Paul Kagame, this is incontestable. That the Fund has already added to the panoply of structures of RPF repression against Rwandans, the story so far is telling. Finally, that any contribution to the Fund might end up in strengthening M23, or supporting Rwandan president’s other self-centred initiatives without any gain for the population, but instead increased impoverishment, that is more likely.

The Rising Continent

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