Some reactions on the cutting of Rwandan aid by donors

Since May of this year, fighting between M23 rebel group and Congolese government forces [FARDC] in the North Kivu province of Eastern Congo, has displaced more than 200,000 civilians and killed hundreds others.

Evidence of Rwandan backing by the UN Experts which was published in their report on June 21st and 27th has made the usually very supportive donor community of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, stop or delay their aid to his country.

Though Kigali has so far tried categorically to deny its involvement as customary when it comes to DRC’s destabilisation, it seems Rwandan partners had had enough of this interference in its neighbour’s affairs, ruining all international efforts being made for many years to bring peace to the region.

While the sort of standoff remains between Rwanda and its aid partners, with immediate effect on quite sizeable amount of financial packages that the country counted on significantly [40 to 60% of its budget], reactions from different concerned parties continue.

I have selected a few for your information.

On Saturday 4th August, Andrew Mwenda wrote online for The Independent, a Ugandan newspaper, criticising those donors who cut aid to Rwanda following its alleged support of M23.

He writes:

“On September 9, 2011, the United States lost 3,000 people, four planes, two prominent buildings and a quarter of another. In response, it mobilised its NATO allies and they have for the last eleven years occupied Afghanistan – a country that is 20,000km from America. Among these NATO members are the Dutch, UK and Germany. They bomb, they kill and they rule there. Note: there was not a single Afghan citizen involved in 9/11; they were all Saudis and Egyptians. The only thing Afghanistan did was to harbour the perpetrators. Doesn’t Rwanda that lost a million people and an entire country deserve to also get involved in DRC – right across its border – where there is no state to protect its people against the threat of another genocide?”

As a proponent of Kigali, the writer seems to imply that Paul Kagame and his forces have a right to be supporting M23. Though, officially, the Rwandan government denies any involvement.

Kambale Musabili, Congolese activist working with Friends of the Congo, replied to Mwenda’s article in a number of tweets that I reproduce here.

“Research a little more and may be you will write a more balanced article rather than being an apologist of Paul Kagame’s crimes.

Also, it is disingenuous to limit analysis on security threat when it has been documented that Rwanda supports the FDLR.

Rwanda genocide of up to a million people cannot be the excuse of allowing 6 million Congolese to die in the past 16 years.

It is disingenuous to base your analysis on the West’ pressure only knowing Rwanda and Uganda’s involvement in DRC.

For the records, African Great Lakes Coalition (composed of Africans) have long called for suspension of aid to Rwanda.

Doesn’t a country that has lost over 6 million deserve justice, end to impunity, and accountability?”

Kambale concludes his reply to Mwenda’s article saying that,

“It’s tough to try to stop genocide in Congo when folks are being apologists for warlords and dictators in Africa.”

Another long reaction I selected is from the editor of the blog CIAfrica. He too is replying to Andrew Mwenda’s article.

His overall opinion on the Ugandan journalist’s writing is straightforward,

“it defends the Rwandan position, as on top of re-voicing the usual international community/NGOs conspiracy theory, it tries to justify a right for Rwanda to intervene in Eastern DRC, if needed by supporting rebel groups.”

CIAfrica blog editor pursues his argumentation attacking Mwenda’s views on the reason donors are cutting aid to Rwanda.

The point that Mwenda puts forward is that,

“It is difficult to develop or emancipate one’s people when the actions taken are aimed at pleasing international masters rather than domestic constituencies. It is through aid and these emergent international institutions like the ICC that the West seems to be seeking to regain what it lost through decolonization.”

And CIAfrica replies:

Andrew has a very valid point, and the criteria used to attribute aid to developing countries, as well as the attribution mechanisms would benefit from stronger transparency in order to reduce the political motivations behind it.

However, it is not the question here. Donor countries are not asking Rwanda to modify its internal development policy, or to change laws impacting human rights. They rather request that Rwanda respects the boundaries between itself and DRC. Boundaries are the core base without which international relations could not exist. By supporting M23 in DRC, Rwanda directly violates its neighbor’s sovereignty. In other words, donors are requesting Rwanda to modify its policy in DRC, and not internally.

In addition, supporting a rebel group such as the M23 implies injecting money in it. If any country has enough money to spare on destabilizing its neighbor, it should not qualify for development oriented international assistance. European taxpayers are happy to contribute to the construction of roads and hospitals in Rwanda. They are not happy to do so if it enables the later to inject the saved money in displacing, raping and killing thousands in a neighboring country. This is only pure logic.”

CIAfrica editor concludes his long reply saying this,

“I would like to stress again that Rwandan and pro-Rwandan press should better stick to the constructed and debatable arguments that appear in the official Rwandan reply to the GoE report. All parallel PR moves such as this article contain recuperation of arguments placed out of their context. This gives the impression that Rwanda is trying to drown the fish, which is not a good sign for a country that says to be in his right by claiming it does not support M23 or other rebel groups in the East.”

Though not a proponent of aid as a policy for development I consider that arguments raised, following Rwandan involvement in supporting M23 and donor community’s reaction by cutting aid, constitute interesting case studies for redefining the purpose of aid to development, for those in the North and South who believe in its usefulness.

The Rising Continent