By David Himbara
Rwanda’s scandalous sponsorship of Arsenal Football Club continues to generate heated debates in Britain. The British government was drawn into the debate as well. In reaction to the US$39 Million Rwanda-Arsenal sponsorship deal, the UK Development for International Development (DfID) issued the following statement:
”UK aid to Rwanda has been carefully and specifically earmarked for programmes that will support the country’s most vulnerable people and help it stand on its own two feet. UK aid is not used for sponsorship deals with Arsenal FC and DFID is not giving any money to Visit Rwanda or the Rwanda Development Board.
Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over a third of its population live in poverty…
We will continue to prioritize investments in saving lives…while encouraging and supporting the government of Rwanda to grow its economy and further increase its own investment in helping people lift themselves out of poverty.
The British government statement is strange. Whether or not Kagame uses British aid in tainted ventures, it remains a fact that foreign aid frees the Rwandan ruler to spend Rwandan taxpayers’ money recklessly. In other words, donor money provides Kagame considerable space to do mischief. UK aid gives British taxpayers’ money to Kagame. He turns around and gives Rwandan taxpayers’ money to Arsenal. Our British friends choose not to see any connection.
And yet, the British insist that they are ”encouraging and supporting the government of Rwanda to grow its economy and further increase its own investment in helping people lift themselves out of poverty.” All the more reason why donors must tell Kagame that under no circumstances can he expect a helping hand if he squanders his own resources.
There was one exception to the British fence-sitting among the ruling conservatives. In an interview with The Mail, a conservative MP Andrew Bridgen described the Kagame-Arsenal deal as ’an own goal’ and ’absolutely astonishing:’
‘British taxpayers will be rightly shocked to learn that a country supported by huge handouts from the UK is in turn pumping millions into a fabulously rich football club in London. It’s ludicrous.
‘If this isn’t a perfect own goal for foreign aid, I don’t know what is. It serves to expose the complete idiocy this system is based on.’
We entirely agree with the British MP’s perspective on Kagame-Arsenal romance. British taxpayers should rightly be shocked to learn that impoverished Rwanda supported by donor handouts is, in turn, pumping US$39 Million into a rich football club in London. What a shame.