DR Congo unrest: Rwanda ‘recruiting for M23 rebels’

31 Jul

31 July 2013

The M23 denies receiving weapons from Rwanda

Four Rwandans have told the BBC the army forcibly recruited them to fight for the M23 rebel group in neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The four said they were seeking asylum in Uganda after fleeing the fighting.

The Rwandan army dismissed their claim, saying they must have made up their stories to get asylum.

Last week, the US called on Rwanda to stop backing the M23. UN experts and DR Congo officials say Rwanda has been sending troops to support the rebels.

‘Kagame implicated’

Some 800,000 people have been displaced in resource-rich eastern DR Congo since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012.

Like Rwanda’s leadership, the group mostly comes from the Tutsi community.

But Rwanda denies backing the rebels.

The UN has given residents of the main city in eastern DR Congo, Goma, until 1400 GMT on Thursday to disarm, warning force will be used if they fail to do so.

A new 3,000-strong UN intervention brigade is in the area to tackle various rebels, including the M23.

The four deserters, who included a man who described himself a captain in the Rwandan army, spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity.

He deserted after seeing many innocent people die, the man said.

He described Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame as the commander-in-chief of the M23.

“Whatever he says has to be done,” he said.

Mr Kagame has repeatedly denied backing the rebels.

Another deserter, who described himself as a medical student, told the BBC he was “kidnapped” by soldiers in the border town of Gisenyi in August 2012, and taken across the border where he treated more than 300 fellow recruits wounded in fighting.

“They took them to the frontline before finishing their training,” he said.

Rwandan military spokesman Joseph Nzabamwita said he could only comment if the BBC divulged the names of their sources, adding the men must have manufactured the stories to claim asylum.

Source: BBC

RWANDA: THE LEAST CORRUPT NATION IN THE WORLD, OR THE MOST TACTFUL CITIZENS FOR SURVIVAL?

18 Jul

By David Himbara, July 12, 2013

When Seremani Mukundabantu asked me to comment on how and why Rwanda is painted to be corruption-free in the latest Transparency International’s (TI)2013 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB), I initially thought it would be a waste of time. But on second thoughts, I am glad Seremani asked. On deeper analysis of GCB, I find it may indicate survival instincts among Rwandans as opposed to absence of corruption – something I wish to share here.

The main reason why I was not initially keen on analysing GCB is that I find these kinds of reports to be simplistic in their definition of corruption. They concentrate on such things as bribing to access public service for example in the judiciary, police, registry/licencing, education and health sectors. I call this type of corruption “routine.”

But by concentrating on “routine” corruption, the most devastating forms of corruption are left out, including what I may term high-level and systemic institutional corruption that give advantage to ruling elites. Some of the practices used in the systemic institutional corruption do not readily appear to be “illegal” but they have immoral and disastrous impact on societies especially in poor countries. An example in Rwanda is the widespread practices where the RPF government awards tenders and contracts to RPF companies; where the RPF government rents luxurious executive jets from an RPF firm to transport the president; where Rwandan social security funds finance RPF company-formations. Such widespread or high-level systemic malpractices that are embedded in national institutions rather than individual corruption do not feature in Transparency International and its Global Corruption Barometer (GCB).

WHAT 2013 GLOBAL CORRUPTION BAROMETER CLAIMS ABOUT CORRUPTION IN RWANDA COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES

The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer is based on its survey that involved 114,000 people in 107 countries, including Rwanda.

But here is what is most revealing. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer is unlike previous Transparency International’s corruption index. While the corruption index relied on expert analysis, the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer relies on opinions from the general public on corruption. In other words, the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer does not pretend to be “scientific” but a collection of opinions of 114,000 people in 107 countries, including Rwanda. In Rwanda face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1,000 people for this exercise.
The findings in Rwanda are amazing and amusing. One of the questions the respondents had to answer was:

* “To what extent do you see the following categories to be affected by corruption in your country? Please answer on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 means ‘not at all corrupt’ and 5 means ‘extremely corrupt.'” http://www.transparency.org/gcb2013

A. Political parties
B. Parliament/legislature
C. Military
D. NGOs
E. Media
F. Religious bodies
G. Business/private sector
H. Education system
I. Judiciary
J. Medical/health services
K. Police
L. Public officials/civil servants

Here are the Rwandan averages for each category:

A. Political parties: 1.2
B. Parliament/legislature: 1.2
C. Military: 1.1
D. NGOs: 1.6
E. Media: 1.3
F. Religious bodies: 1.3
G. Business/private sector: 1.7
H. Education system: 1.4
I. Judiciary: 2.0
J. Medical/health services: 1.3
K. Police: 2.1
L. Public officials/civil servants: 1.7

Let us look at the case of Canada, Germany and Switzerland for a comparison with Rwanda.

Here are the Canadian averages for each category:

A. Political parties: 3.8
B. Parliament/legislature: 3.4
C. Military: 2.6
D. NGOs: 2.7
E. Media: 3.2
F. Religious bodies: 3.0
G. Business/private sector: 3.4
H. Education system: 2.7
I. Judiciary: 2.8
J. Medical/health services: 2.7
K. Police: 2.9
L. Public officials/civil servants: 3.2

Here are the German averages for each category:

A. Political parties: 3.8
B. Parliament/legislature: 3.4
C. Military: 2.9
D. NGOs: 3.0
E. Media: 3.6
F. Religious bodies: 3.1
G. Business/private sector: 3.7
H. Education system: 2.7
I. Judiciary: 2.6
J. Medical/health services: 3.4
K. Police: 2.7
L. Public officials/civil servants: 3.4

Here are the Swiss averages for each category:

A. Political parties: 3.3
B. Parliament/legislature: 2.8
C. Military: 2.6
D. NGOs: 2.5
E. Media: 3.1
F. Religious bodies: 2.7
G. Business/private sector: 3.1
H. Education system: 2.7
I. Judiciary: 2.2
J. Medical/health services: 2.6
K. Police: 2.3
L. Public officials/civil servants: 2.7

What is the meaning of all this? According to the 1,000 Rwandans interviewed for the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, there is almost no corruption in Rwanda. When we compare Rwandan to Canadian, German and Swiss public opinions, therefore, Rwanda is heaven on earth. Canada, Germany and Switzerland are way too corrupt when compared to squeaky-clean Rwanda!

RWANDA: THE LEAST CORRUPT NATION IN THE WORLD, OR TACTFUL CITIZENS?

If you believe the above Rwandan public opinion, you need urgent medical help. Get real!

If for example you are in Rwanda today, and you are asked to give an opinion on the levels of corruption in political parties, unless you are suicidal, you will not dare touch such issue. Who would dare discuss openly the fact that RPF owns the largest chunk of the Rwandan economy based on insider information where the RPF government routinely contracts RPF firms in the broad daylight? In any event, what other political parties are there in Rwanda, except those run by RPF stooges?

Which sane Rwanda would dare to frankly discuss corruption in the military?

Which sane Rwandan would have the nerve to give the interviewer the true picture of Rwandan Public officials and civil servants in terms of corruption or delivery?

Rwandans know they live in “the North Korea of the thousand hills” and therefore have developed tactics to survive day-to-day state repression and domination. The citizens tell the regime what it wants to hear. Likewise, Rwandans will share flattering comments about how great and clean the regime is with any visitor who wishes to listen. Yes indeed, Rwandans will tactfully say anything to live another day. And that is exactly what the results of the global corruption barometer tell us – how Rwandans survive an iron-fisted regime.

Source: David Himbara

Rwanda complains to U.N. about new Congo brigade

15 Jul

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:02am EDT

(Reuters) – Rwanda is accusing the United Nations’ new intervention brigade in eastern Congo of discussing collaboration with Hutu rebels linked to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, thereby jeopardizing regional peace efforts.

In a letter to U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo in her role as this month’s president of the U.N. Security Council that was released on Monday, Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said MONUSCO intervention brigade commanders have met with FDLR rebels, the remnants of Hutu killers who carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

U.N. peacekeeping troops have been in mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than a decade. The world body’s MONUSCO force there is currently 17,000 strong, the largest force of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the world.

The complex conflict has dragged on, killing millions of people through violence, famine and disease since the 1990s. That has led the United Nations to create a new “intervention brigade” – part of the MONUSCO force but assigned the task of not merely peacekeeping but taking active steps to neutralize rebel groups.

The force, comprised of troops from South Africa and Tanzania as well as soldiers from Malawi due in Congo later this month or in August, has already begun patrolling and is approaching full strength.

“Rwanda has credible, reliable and detailed information that various forms of tactical and strategic collaboration with the FDLR were discussed during those meetings,” Gasana said in the letter.

“Their actions, implicating senior United Nations commanders picking sides among the very armed groups whose military activities they are meant to deter, are of serious concern,” he wrote.

Gasana also supported an allegation contained in the latest report by the U.N. Group of Experts that units of the Congolese army (FARDC) have been cooperating with the FDLR.

‘GRATUITOUS ACCUSATIONS’

The Congolese government disputed Gasana’s claims.

“These are allegations which are not backed up by any proof,” Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told a news conference in Kinshasa. “Rwanda is making gratuitous accusations to justify the attacks they are carrying out at the moment.”

Mende said Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels who clashed with the Congolese army at Mutaho on Sunday. Fighting continued on Monday.

Gasana said FARDC-FDLR collaboration often occurs with the knowledge – or even support – of MONUSCO intervention brigade contingents.

“We have reliable information that indicates several instances of FDLR units or commanders being integrated in FARDC commando units near the border with Rwanda,” the Rwandan envoy said. “In some instances, certain Force Intervention Brigade commanders are aware and supportive of such instances.”

The Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions for Congo, also said in its interim report that M23 rebels in Congo continue to recruit fighters in neighboring Rwanda with the aid of sympathetic Rwandan military officers. Rwanda has denied the group’s allegations, accusing it of bias.

Gasana said that “there are increased patterns of large quantities of weapons and ammunition being delivered to FDLR by FARDC officers, which have taken place with the knowledge and support of (MONUSCO) Force Intervention Brigade commanders.”

“The above-mentioned activities and patterns are developments that my government takes seriously, as they constitute a serious threat to the security of my country but also put into question the credibility of MONUSCO and its peacekeeping operations,” he said.

Gasana added that “any hidden agenda driven by political and/or economic interests” would undermine the push for peace in the region.

The U.N. peacekeeping department declined to comment.

Separately, the head of U.N. peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, told Reuters on Sunday in an interview in Paris that MONUSCO will soon have unarmed surveillance drones to monitor developments on the ground in eastern Congo.

(Additional reporting by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya in Kinshasa; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: Reuters Africa

Paul Kagame: I asked America to kill Congo rebel leader with drone

19 May

Sunday 19 May 2013

In an exclusive interview with Chris McGreal in Kigali, Rwanda’s president denies backing an accused Congolese war criminal and says challenge to senior US official proves his innocence

M23 rebels train in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A new M23 recruit demonstrates his martial arts skills in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week. Rwanda denies aiding them. Photograph: James Akena/Reuters

Rwanda‘s president, Paul Kagame, has rejected accusations from Washington that he was supporting a rebel leader and accused war criminal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by challenging a senior US official to send a drone to kill the wanted man.

In an interview with the Observer Magazine, Kagame said that on a visit to Washington in March he came under pressure from the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnnie Carson, to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, leader of the M23 rebels, who was wanted by the international criminal court (ICC). The US administration was increasing pressure on Kagame following a UN report claiming to have uncovered evidence showing that the Rwandan military provided weapons and other support to Ntaganda, whose forces briefly seized control of the region’s main city, Goma.

“I told him: ‘Assistant secretary of state, you support [the UN peacekeeping force] in the Congo. Such a big force, so much money. Have you failed to use that force to arrest whoever you want to arrest in Congo? Now you are turning to me, you are turning to Rwanda?'” he said. “I said that, since you are used to sending drones and gunning people down, why don’t you send a drone and get rid of him and stop this nonsense? And he just laughed. I told him: ‘I’m serious’.”

Kagame said that, after he returned to Rwanda, Carson kept up the pressure with a letter demanding that he act against Ntaganda. Days later, the M23 leader appeared at the US embassy in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, saying that he wanted to surrender to the ICC. He was transferred to The Hague. The Rwandan leadership denies any prior knowledge of Ntaganda’s decision to hand himself over. It suggests he was facing a rebellion within M23 and feared for his safety.

But Kagame’s confrontation with Carson reflects how much relationships with even close allies have deteriorated over allegations that Rwanda continues to play a part in the bloodletting in Congo. The US and Britain, Rwanda’s largest bilateral aid donors, withheld financial assistance, as did the EU, prompting accusations of betrayal by Rwandan officials. The political impact added impetus to a government campaign to condition the population to become more self-reliant.

Kagame is angered by the moves and criticisms of his human rights record in Rwanda, including allegations that he blocks opponents by misusing laws banning hate speech to accuse them of promoting genocide and suppresses press criticism. The Rwandan president is also embittered that countries, led by the US and UK, that blocked intervention to stop the 1994 genocide, and France which sided with the Hutu extremist regime that led the killings, are now judging him on human rights.

“We don’t live our lives or we don’t deal with our affairs more from the dictates from outside than from the dictates of our own situation and conditions,” Kagame said. “The outside viewpoint, sometimes you don’t know what it is. It keeps changing. They tell you they want you to respect this or fight this and you are doing it and they say you’re not doing it the right way. They keep shifting goalposts and interpreting things about us or what we are doing to suit the moment.”

He is agitated about what he sees as Rwanda being held responsible for all the ills of Congo, when Kigali’s military intervention began in 1996 to clear out Hutu extremists using UN-funded refugee camps for raids to murder Tutsis. Kagame said that Rwanda was not responsible for the situation after decades of western colonisation and backing for the Mobutu dictatorship.

The Rwandan leader denies supporting M23 and said he has been falsely accused because Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, needs someone to blame because his army cannot fight. “To defeat these fellows doesn’t take bravery because they don’t go to fight. They just hear bullets and are on the loose running anywhere, looting, raping and doing anything. That’s what happened,” he said.

“President Kabila and the government had made statements about how this issue is going to be contained. They had to look for an explanation for how they were being defeated. They said we are not fighting [Ntaganda], we’re actually fighting Rwanda.”

SOurce: The Guardian

 

Oxford University’s business school faces protests over visit by Rwanda president Paul Kagame

17 May

FRIDAY 17 MAY 2013

There are plans to present him with a student award despite continuing controversy over his regime’s human rights record

Oxford University’s prestigious business school has been dragged into a row over plans to present the president of Rwanda with a student award for his country’s economic development despite continuing controversy over his regime’s human rights record.

Paul Kagame, the one-time poster boy of development whose reputation has been dulled by accusations of authoritarianism and fomenting conflict in Congo, will be greeted by protesters when he attends the Said Business School tomorrow to give a keynote conference speech.

A coalition of campaigners, including Congolese refugees and a prominent Oxford academic, are  backing calls for the university to cancel the invitation, saying it amounts to a vote of confidence in Mr Kagame at a time when he is under pressure over human rights violations.

The clash is the latest controversy to surround the Rwandan leader, who last year saw Britain suspend £16m of direct budgetary support to his government over “credible” reports that it was supporting the M23 rebel group responsible for atrocities in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The continuing dispute has done little to dent enthusiasm in financial and political circles for Rwanda’s continued economic growth, which will reach eight per cent this year. The country’s first ever sale of Eurobonds this month, securing $400m in funding for infrastructure and investment projects, was over-subscribed.

In a sign of thawing relations with Britain, which remains Rwanda’s largest single aid donor, the country’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, met the foreign secretary William Hague on Thursday as part of the visit to London by a sizable Rwandan delegation.

But critics said the decision by the Oxford Business Network for Africa, a student organisation within the business school, to make Mr Kagame the first recipient of its Distinction of Honour for African Growth risked tainting the university.

A petition calling on the student group and the business school to cancel the award had yesterday reached nearly 5,500 signatures. A counter-petition, applauding the award, had collected 2,300 signatures.

In a letter to the dean of the school, Professor Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding director of the university’s respected Refugee Studies Centre, said: “Bestowing any honour upon Mr Kagame at a time when he and his government are becoming increasingly isolated in the face of mounting evidence of their gross human rights violations represents a serious error of judgment.

“It positions the conference organizers and the University of Oxford against international efforts to pressure Mr Kagame to end his abuses and play a more constructive role in the achievement of African peace and development.”

A spokesman for a coalition of Congolese and Rwandan opposition groups, including Liberation, a Congolese women’s rights group, added: “It would be a disgrace for any university of Oxford’s calibre to ignore all the information in the public domain about Kagame’s crimes both on his people and abroad, and roll out a red carpet for him.”

The business school, ranked in the top ten outside the United States, underlined that the award was the decision of the student group but said it was allowing today’s event to go ahead because of its commitment to freedom of speech.

In a statement, the school said: “We prize open discussion and … we have not sought to prevent the students from extending this invitation. President Kagame’s presence in the Saïd Business School does not imply any endorsement by the school or the university of his views or actions. We are aware that President Kagame is considered by some to be a controversial figure.”

The student group defended its award, saying it was “in recognition of [Mr Kagame’s] work in opening and developing Rwanda’s economy” and there would be an opportunity for those critical of his government to raise questions.

The Rwandan High Commission in London did not respond to requests from The Independent to comment on the criticisms of Mr Kagame, who will also attend a Rwanda Day celebration for hundreds of members of the Rwandan diaspora while in London.

Rwanda has strongly denied any involvement in M23 and condemned a United Nations report chronicling links between the group and senior members of the Rwandan military. Critics have also accused Mr Kagame of trampling on media and political freedoms, maintaining a hostile environment for opposition politicians.

The Independent revealed that Scotland Yard also served notices on two UK-based dissidents  in 2011 warning them of “reliable intelligence” that their lives were under threat from assassins sent by the Rwandan authorities.

Britain earlier this year reinstated aid to Rwanda after halting direct budgetary support to the country last November because of the activities of M23. The £16m will be distributed in the form of direct payments to impoverished Rwandans and textbooks for schoolchildren.

The Independent understands there are no immediate plans to reinstate direct aid payments to the Rwandan government.

Source: The Indepandant

Open letter against Kagame at the University of Oxford

15 May

Originally posted on Rising Continent:

To Professor Peter Tufano, Dean of Said Business School at the University of Oxford

Paul Kagame and Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University - photo/Jimmy Ushkurnis

Paul Kagame and Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University – photo/Jimmy Ushkurnis

A letter dated May 7th signed by a number of political and civil society organizations of British citizens of Rwandan and Congolese origin was sent to the Dean of Said Business School at the University of Oxford to oppose that school hosting the Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

Signatories of the letter include representatives of these organisations and political parties:

High Council Resistence of Congolese
International Congolese Rights
Liberation – Congolese Women’s Group
Organising for Africa
Rwanda National Congress
United Democratic Front – Inkingi

In order to read the full content of the letter, please click here.

View original 248 more words

Controversy over visit of Rwandan President

9 May

09/05/2013

By News Team

Unease has been expressed concerning g a scheduled visit of Rwandan president Paul Kagame to the Säid Business School, in light of numerous allegations accusing him of human rights violations.

Mr Kagame is due to arrive in Oxford on Friday 18thMay, when he will deliver a keynote address in the Oxford Africa Business Conference as well as being awarded the inaugural Distinction of Honour for African Growth Award.

The decision to give Mr Kagame this award in light the recent allegations has been questioned by a number of academics and students, who have started a campaign calling for the Säid Business School to cancel their engagement with him.

The Oxford Africa Business Conference is a student led organization and the decision to award Kagame the honour was taken by students of the Business School.

Salvator Cusimano, an M.Sc candidate in Refugee studies and leader of the campaign against Mr Kagame’s visit, commented: “As it stands, the University will appear to condone Mr. Kagame’s actions at a time when even the governments of the United States and the UK – Rwanda’s staunchest allies – have distanced themselves from Mr. Kagame and his government.

“As members of the Oxford community, we have a responsibility to use our influence to reverse the Business School’s serious error of judgment.

“We have a unique opportunity to promote human rights and defend our University’s reputation, and we must act. “

The campaign has sent a letter to the Dean of the Business School, the Vice-Chancellor of the University as well as the head of the African Studies Centre detailing why the visit should be cancelled, and has started an e-petition which has received over 260 signatures in its first 24 hours.

The Säid Business School has commented “We prize open discussion and in line with the University’s Freedom of Speech policy the students have invited President Kagame to speak and there will be the opportunity for those present to challenge him as appropriate.

“We are aware that President Kagame is a controversial figure and his presence here implies no endorsement of his views or actions. We have taken the view that it’s appropriate to ask him to address any issues that are put to him from a platform in Oxford.”

The controversy surrounding Kagame stems from the accusation that he has silenced opposition politicians and journalists support for rebels in DMC including the paramilitary M23 movement, and illegal exploitation of Congolese resources.

Dominic Burridge, a DPhil Candidate from Oriel College, commented: “The proposal from the Säid Business School to give a Distinction of Honor for African Growth Award to Paul Kagame cannot fall under the criticism of endorsing human rights violations per se because it is making an economic assessment only.

“In this way, the decision errs on the side of a greater tragedy. It is a categorical statement that, in Africa, economics should matter more than society and ethics, and that those who have been accused of brutalising regions through natural resource greed should be decorated as economic leaders.”

The conference website has ignored the controversies surrounding Kagame, and instead focused on some of the successes of his presidency, including the reconciliation after the Rwandan genocide and relatively strong growth in GDP.

As a result they have feted that Kagame’s presidency has “set Rwanda on its current course towards reconciliation, nation building and socioeconomic development.”

A letter delivered to the Säid Business School the campaign has argued: “Mr. Kagame’s Rwanda bears several disturbing similarities to Rwanda under the genocidal government.

“Reconciliation appears superficial: despite a law prohibiting speech with ethnic content – known as genocide ideology – the ethnic tensions that fuelled genocide in 1994 seem alive beneath the surface.”

Amongst the supporters of the campaign are a number of academics and students.  One academic said that is “concerning” that the conference organisers  have invited Kagame to the Säid Business School given the ongoing dispute concerning his human rights record in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.

Mr Kagame took office in 2000, after spending six years as Vice President in the years immediately after the Rwandan genocide, before winning democratic elections for the presidency in 2003 and 2010.

Source: The Oxford Student

Rwanda’s Junk-Bond ‘Dash for Trash’

30 Apr

By Matthew C. Klein Apr 29, 2013

Although low interest rates haven’t conquered unemployment in the rich world, they’re having a big impact elsewhere. Junk spreads are exceptionally low and the issuance of bonds with weak underwriting standards has soared. Yield-starved investors are gobbling up new “covenant lite,” “payment in kind” and “dividend recapitalization” bonds at a faster pace than during the credit bubble.

One recent beneficiary of this “dash for trash” is the small landlocked country of Rwanda. Last week, the government of Rwanda sold $400 million in dollar-denominated 10-year bonds at an annual yield of just 6.875 percent and a bid-to-cover ratio of nearly 10. (Typical U.S. sovereign debt auctions have a bid-to-cover ratio between 2 and 3.)

It’s the first time Rwanda has borrowed in the international capital markets. This might turn out well, but it could end badly both for the investors who bought the bonds and the nation that issued them.

Make no mistake: Rwanda has an enviable and hard-earned economic record. Output has grown at an average annualized pace of more than 8 percent since the beginning of 2004. This is despite having few natural resources available for export.

One reason is the quality of the country’s institutions. President Paul Kagame has consciously tried to turn Rwanda into “the Singapore of Africa.” According to the World Bank, Rwanda is an easier place to start a business than the U.S., a better place to borrow money than Sweden, a safer place to invest than France and a simpler place to pay taxes than the Netherlands.

Rwanda plans to use the money it has raised from the bond issuance to repay some existing bank loans and invest in infrastructure. This will save the government money if the interest rate on the bank loans is higher than the yield of the bonds.

Strikingly, Rwanda declined to borrow enough ($500 million) to have its debt included in JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s index of dollar-denominated emerging market bonds, which could have led to lower borrowing costs.

According to the Financial Times, someone close to the deal explained that the Rwandan government was more concerned with being “prudent” than being “index tourists.” (Still, the deal is equivalent to about 6 percent of Rwanda’s GDP.) The government wants to make it clear that Rwanda is a serious country worthy of investment.

Although the bull case is compelling, investors have plenty of reasons to be wary. Despite years of rapid growth, Rwanda is still very poor. About half of the population lives below the poverty line, while 90 percent of the workforce is engaged in what is mostly subsistence agriculture.

As a result, the country is heavily dependent on foreign aid, which covers about 10 percent of gross domestic product. This income stream isn’t dependable. Last summer, several Western donors withheld promised aid because of concerns that the Rwandan government was supporting rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The biggest problem of all is that Rwanda is borrowing in a currency it cannot print. Many countries in the euro area have had unpleasant firsthand experience with this over the past few years. Since the Rwandan franc has been declining against the U.S. dollar for years, the real burden of the dollar debt could rise far faster than Rwanda’s capacity to service it. At any point in time, lenders could panic about Rwanda’s ability to pay and pull their money out. That in turn could strangle business investment and consumer spending, plunging the economy into depression.

Rwanda does earn some hard currency by exporting coffee and tea. The prices of those commodities are very volatile, however. Moreover, any global downturn that affected the willingness of international investors to commit capital to Rwanda could coincide with declining demand for those exports. Ideally, Rwanda would hedge this exposure by indexing the coupon payments on its bonds to the prices of these commodities, as Michael Pettis suggested in his brilliant book “The Volatility Machine.”

The broader question is whether this money is flowing to Rwanda for the right reasons. As Pettis noted in that book, the flows of capital between rich and poor countries are generally determined by the domestic conditions in the rich countries, rather than the quality of the investment opportunities in the poor ones.

Right now, liquidity in the rich world is abundant, just as it was in the 1970s and early 1990s. While Rwanda may turn out to be a brilliant success story deserving of foreign investment, it should be wary of those earlier episodes.

Moreover, Rwanda is far from unique in its ability to borrow at very low cost for extremely long maturities. Panama has issued dollar-denominated bonds that won’t mature for 40 years, yielding less than 5 percent. Lebanon, which may soon have to deal with spillovers from the ongoing turmoil in Syria, has sold more than $1 billion in debt lasting 10 to 15 years at a lower interest rate than Rwanda.

Despite this seemingly headlong rush into anything with a positive real yield, there are still some lines that investors will not cross. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Sallie Mae failed to sell bonds backed by particularly dubious student loans at the price that it wanted.

(Matthew C. Klein is a contributor to the Ticker. Follow him on Twitter.)

Source: Bloomberg.com

Link

Prevent the the cessation of refugee status for Rwandans fearing return

30 Apr

Prevent the the cessation of refugee status for Rwandans fearing return

Why this is important

In July 2013, UNHCR plans to invoke the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees who fled events occurring in the country between 1959 and 1998. If states follow this recommendation, international protection of those refugees who fled Rwanda during this period will end. The guidelines surrounding the Cessation Clause state that it should only be invoked when fundamental, durable and positive changes have taken place that mean that a well founded fear of persecution no longer exist in a particular country. Invoking the Cessation Clause thus suggests that reasons for being a refugee have ceased to exist in Rwanda. However in stating that those who fled after 1998 still have a well founded fear of persecution, UNHCR contradicts the idea that real changes have occurred in Rwanda, instead demonstrating that it is not a safe country.
Link

2012 Human Rights Reports: Rwanda

29 Apr

2012 Human Rights Reports: Rwanda

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leads a coalition that includes six smaller parties. In August 2010 voters elected President Paul Kagame to a second seven-year term with 93 percent of the vote. Three other registered political parties participated in elections. Senate elections took place in September 2011, with RPF candidates winning the majority of seats by wide margins. International observers reported the senate elections met generally recognized standards of free and fair elections in most respects but noted concerns regarding the independence of voters’ decisions. State security forces (SSF) generally reported to civilian authorities, although there were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.

The most important human rights problems in the country remained the government’s targeting of journalists, political opponents, and human rights advocates for harassment, arrest, and abuse; disregard for the rule of law among security forces and the judiciary; restrictions on civil liberties; and support of rebel groups in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings, both within the country and abroad; disappearances; torture; harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; executive interference in the judiciary; and government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights. The government restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and to a lesser extent, religion. Security for refugees and asylum seekers was inadequate. Corruption was a problem, and the government restricted and harassed local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Violence and discrimination against women and children occurred, including the recruitment by the M23 armed group of Rwandan and refugee minors as child soldiers. There was a small but growing incidence of trafficking in persons. Discrimination and occasional violence against persons with disabilities and the Twa minority occurred. The government restricted labor rights, and forced labor, including by children, and child labor were problems.

The government generally took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere, but impunity involving civilian officials and SSF was a problem.

During the year the government provided material, logistical, and strategic support to the M23 armed group in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which committed summary executions and forcibly recruited adults and minors. The government strongly denied providing any support to the M23. SSF remained complicit in the illegal smuggling of conflict minerals from the DRC.

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