A small country in the heart of Africa it is facing an uphill PR and financial battle. Over the last few weeks Rwanda has seen dramatic cuts in foreign aid that amounts to tens of millions of dollars. All of these actions seem to be sparked by the United Nations Group of Experts report that provided overwhelming evidences that Rwanda is support the M23 rebels in D.R. Congo with ammunition, weapons and soldiers. A claim that the Rwandan Government (GoR) adamantly denies.
The little report that could
Many reports on Rwanda have been published in recent years but most find themselves covered in dust on a shelf buried in the UN. This report has had a much different impact on the region and the public at large with many activist groups pressing for it to be made public. This reporter hopes that the other reports will be dusted off and reconsidered in light of the revelation as of late.
The most current U.N. report said Kigali had supplied ammunition and communication equipment to the rebels, some of whom are Congolese of Rwandan descent. Rwanda denies the accusations. Yet, this report has sparked a firestorm of speculations on the GoR and in the last 10 days the worlds has been watching as aid donors to Rwanda have been dropping like flies. What started as a symbolic gesture by the US in withdrawing a paltry $200,000 is now gaining momentum as Holland, Pais Basco, Germany and the AFDB also pull the plug to some extent.
Robert Sebufirira, a Rwandan/Canadian lawyer and former journalist, stated to this reporter today that “ironically, this $200,000 in aid the US cut to Rwanda is the same amount Kagame pays to the Cecafa Kagame Cup. The CECAFA Club Cup is a football club competition organized by CECAFA. It has been known as the Kagame Interclub Cup since 2002 due to sponsorship reasons as Rwandese President Paul Kagame has bankrolled the tournaments. It is played by clubs from East and Central Africa. Mr. Sebufirira further stated that, “Rwanda needs aid but where does aid go to and who does it help?”
Rwandan officals brushed off the $200,000 as “nothing” and it appears they are right! If President Kagame can provide this to a football club then he should have no problem reallocating these funds.
Some of the headlines to this week regarding Rwanda to this effect include:
UK FREEZES $24 MILLION IN AID TO RWANDA OVER REPORTS THAT IT IS ARMING REBELS IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO ~Al Jazeera
UK and the Netherlands withhold Rwanda budget aid~BBC News
Germany suspends Rwanda budget aid~AP
Congo concerns prompt U.S. to cut Rwanda aid~Navytimes.com
Rwanda Issues Rebuttal to UN Over M23 Report~VOA News
African Development Bank on whose board sits India delayed payment of $38.9m to Rwanda~FT.com
Early rough estimates so far seem to be showing that Rwanda has lost close to USD $150,000,000 in foreign aid.
How Europe is responding:
Germany’s development ministry said on Saturday it suspended $26m in contributions to Rwanda’s budget planned from this year through 2015. Britain and the Netherlands already have suspended support and the US cut planned military aid of $200,000.~Al Jazeera
German Development Minister Dirk Niebel said he expects “unreserved co-operation” by Rwanda with the UN experts.
Supporting a criminal in Africa no longer makes sense when so many western countries are struggling to keep their own heads above the financial waters that are sinking so many. Taxpayers are frustrated at the level of increased taxes they are paying and realizing that their tax dollars are funding these questionable regimes.
Rene Mugenzi, a Rwandan/UK citizen and human rights activists had this response to this reporter today in regards to the situation of Western donors cutting aid to Rwanda, “Our taxes should be conditioned to democracy, human rights respect and free from fueling conflict. Finally, the British Government has accepted what I have been telling them for the last few years.”
Ambassador Stephen Rapp on his Guardian interview:
Earlier this week The Guardian reported that, “Stephen Rapp, who leads the US Office of Global Criminal Justice, told the Guardian the Rwandan leadership may be open to charges of “aiding and abetting” crimes against humanity in a neighbouring country – actions similar to those for which the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, was jailed for 50 years by an international court in May.”
A report day later surfaced that Rapp had been misquoted. In the press release to correct the comment above he stated the following:
“We support regional cooperation against armed groups, including joint military operations that are conducted with civilian protection as the foremost consideration and that are based on mutual consent and respect for sovereignty.
In his Guardian interview, Ambassador Rapp sought to underscore the importance of holding to account those responsible for crimes against humanity, noting as a general principle that neighboring countries have been held responsible in the past for cross-border support to armed groups. He was not calling for any specific prosecutions in this case.”
While he may have been misquoted the message remains the same. The International community is no longer going to tolerate war crimes and acts of aggression by rulers who want to dominate a region with impunity.
Responses from Oppositional Political Groups to Rwanda:
General Kayumba Nyamwasa gave a statement to this reporter earlier today stating in response to the aid cuts Rwanda has suffered: “Kagame thinks the terror he employs to hold Rwandans hostage can be extended to his neighbours and the whole international community with impunity. He expects to exploit the guilt of the failure by the international to stop the genocide all the time and in all occasions to get away with everything. The world is getting wiser- he cannot deceive forever. He has abused the sympathy and empathy for genocide survivors. Every dictator has his time and Kagame can no longer masquerade. Furthermore, Kagame thinks Rwandans are his property and the international community owes him everything. The insensitivity with which he has gambled the lives of Rwandans and good will the international community demonstrates a sense of arrogance reminiscent with all leaders who are out of touch with reality. Unfortunately, all Rwandans and Congolese bear the consequences of his misadventures.”
DR. Theogene Rudasingwa is quoted as saying, “Rwanda did not complain when it received generous support from the same western governments for 18 years! Relationships based on lies and deception cannot last for long. Finally the truth is catching up with Kagame et al. The best case scenario for the clique in Kigali is to negotiate their future in a new Rwanda. If they do not, they will lose it all. At this point all Rwandans must begin to prepare for two indispensable conditions for a new Rwanda. 1) There has to be an army in which Hutu and Tutsi are represented-50/50 or 60/40 or some other agreed formula, as Arusha Peace Agreement has envisaged, with some modifications. Without security institutions that represent, defend and protect all Rwandans, all other political arrangements will not last. 2) We must have a government in which Hutu and Tutsi are represented, not just marginalized figureheads like the current state in Rwanda. Rwandans must reject rule by absolute rule by Kagame’s family and its clique and embrace the rule of law and institutions. It is time for all Rwandans to make a choice and take a stand.”
Dr. Jean-Baptiste MBERABAHIZI, Secretary General and Spokesperson for the FDU-INKINGI released a press statement on July 27, 2012 and, in part, stated: “UDF-INKINGI regrets that big amounts of US aid are allocated and spent on an inexistent democratic governance, a largely flawed and partial judiciary and, sectarian and anti-people defense and police forces. Clear signals should be sent to the regime so that, not only it stops hunting opponent at home and abroad, but also all political prisoners including the Chairperson of our movement Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza are set free immediately and unconditionally.
UDF-INKINGI awaits other steps in the same direction from the US government and reaffirms that the peoples of Rwanda and the United States of America need a fundamental shift in our bilateral relations from support to one individual and his cohort to that of the legitimate aspirations of our people for equal rights, democracy and shared prosperity. We believe that it’s possible to avoid a situation in the future where the present moves could be described as too little and too late.”
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister
Mrs. Mushikiwabo has been at the center of this PR firestorm trying to put out fires as soon as they are started. Her press conference in New York earlier this month did not help her cause but she has to say what she is told to say. Below is a listing of her reactions to the situation and developments this week:
“This child-to-parent relationship has to end … there has to be a minimum respect,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in an address to a Kenyan business club called Mindspeak.
“As long as countries wave cheque books over our heads, we can never be equal.”
“We have been in much worse situations than dollars being withheld from us,” she said.
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, expressed regret on Friday at the “hasty decisions based on flimsy evidence”.
The foreign minister accused the international community of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern Congo.
“We have had three days of discussions with the Group of Experts,” she said. “We went through every single allegation. Every single one of them. We have given our explanation, we have provided supporting documents to a number of false allegations, what they do with it, we don’t know.”
Mrs. Mushikawabo admitted she did not think the report would necessarily change the minds of the Group of Experts, but said it was important for Rwanda to address these issues.
Rwanda’s Response is no Surprise:
Thus the rebuttal only contains commentary and denials. This is an ongoing pattern for responses to any accusations regarding the Government of Rwanda. The usual response is to deny everything and never take responsibility for any accusation. One has to wonder if Rwanda had accepted some responsibility for the accusations in the UN GoE report is the world would still be withholding financial support.
For a country whose annual budget is made up of roughly 40% in foreign aid one may wonder when programs and innocent people will surely suffer from these decisions.
The conclusion to the Report by the Government of Rwanda to the UN GoE report states the following:
“It is clear from the evidence provided on each of the allegations above that the GoE chose to ignore their own stated methodology and evidentiary standards and instead relied on compromised and inaccurate sources with total disregard for the basic principles of fairness and integrity. It might not be possible to reverse the tremendous damage already caused by the addendum to the GoR and International Community by the addendum to the interim report It is however expected that the contextual perspectives, clarifications, factual corrections and material evidence provided to the GoE during their recent visit to Rwanda will lead to better informed, more accurate, and fairer conclusions in the report’s final version.”
Paul Kagame and his seat on the UN Security Council:
President Paul Kagame has been on a continuous campaign to gain supporters to back him in his bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. India was one of those backers and with their withdrawal of aid today it will be interesting to see if they continue to support this appointment.
His seat on this council must be re-evaluated by all of his current supporters, especially any of those who may be backing him financially. If the message the international community is sending is “We will not support anyone trying to destabilize another country” then how could he possibly be seated on the UN Security council whose primary mission is to determine when and where a UN Peacekeeping operation should be deployed. His appointment to this team would be contradictory at best.
Jennifer Fierberg, MSW