Tag Archives: Kagame President

Open letter against Kagame at the University of Oxford

15 May

Rising Continent

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

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 post 248 more words

Advertisements

UK stops £21m aid payment to Rwanda

30 Nov

30 November 2012

The UK has suspended aid to Rwanda, amid concerns about the country’s role in the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has drawn international condemnation

Violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has drawn international condemnation

Ministers said the UK would not now release a payment worth £21m.

An aid payment of £16m was paid to Rwanda in September despite question marks over its alleged support for the M23 militia in DR Congo.

The government also said it would give a further £18m for immediate humanitarian needs in the DR Congo.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the money, which was due to be handed over next month, would not be released because President Paul Kagame’s regime had breached agreements.

‘Credible and compelling’

It follows a controversial decision by Ms Greening’s predecessor, Andrew Mitchell, to authorise payment of £16m to the country on his last day in the job in September.

Mr Mitchell, who had previously frozen aid to the country, cited progress at international talks as the reason for making the payment.

President Kagame’s regime has been praised for improving the economic and social conditions in the east African country, in which it is estimated more than 800,000 people were killed in ethnic violence during 1994.

But Mr Kagame, in power since 2000, has come under fierce criticism recently for allegedly funding the M23 rebel group in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A United Nations document says Rwanda’s defence minister is effectively commanding the rebellion.

The violence has drawn international condemnation and the US and some European countries have withheld aid from the Kagame regime.

The BBC has uncovered evidence Rwandan support for the rebels may be more widespread than previously believed.

Ms Greening said: “The government has already set out its concerns over credible and compelling reports of Rwandan involvement with M23 in DRC.

“This evidence constitutes a breach of the partnership principles set out in the memorandum of Understanding, and as a result I have decided not to release the next payment of budget support to Rwanda.

“We are committed to finding lasting solutions to the conflict in this region and will work with the governments of Rwanda and DRC to secure a peaceful resolution to the situation in eastern DRC.”

Source: BBC

US urges Rwanda to encourage DR Congo rebels’ retreat

20 Nov

NOVEMBER 20, 2012

Congolese army has been taking place in the past days near Goma, Congo, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Rebels believed to be backed by Rwanda fired mortars and machine guns Monday in a village on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Goma and threatened to attack the city which is protected by ragtag Congolese government troops backed by United Nations peacekeepers. The gunfire and explosions erupted in the early afternoon, hours after the M23 rebels said they were halting fighting in order to negotiate with the government of Congo. (AP Photo/Melanie Gouby)

WASHINGTON — The United States Tuesday condemned Congolese rebels’ takeover of the key eastern city of Goma and urged Rwanda, which it suspects of backing them, to encourage them to pull back.

“We condemn the ongoing violent assault of M23 and the fact that it’s now taken Goma in violation of the sovereignty of the DRC,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, referring to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the DR Congo, locals cheered and applauded two vehicles full of rebels as they drove around Goma’s city center after fighters of the M23 movement marched into the city facing little resistance.

Witnesses reported that rebel chief Sultani Makenga had arrived in the capital of mineral-rich North Kivu province, capping a week-long advance by the M23.

The rebels have been blamed for hundreds of deaths since they launched their uprising in April. UN experts have accused neighboring Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23, a charge both countries deny.

The UN has around 1,500 “quick reaction” peacekeepers in Goma, part of some 6,700 troops in North Kivu province, backing government forces against the rebels.

Nuland said the United States was working on the situation at UN headquarters in New York.

“We are working, as you know, in New York today on a UN Security Council resolution that would also call for an immediate ceasefire, that would call for a pullback of M23 forces to their July lines,” she said.

The M23, formed by former members of an ethnic Tutsi rebel group, mutinied in April after the failure of a 2009 peace deal that integrated them into the regular army.

The Tutsis are the minority ethnic group of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the target of the 1994 genocide in that country that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives.

Source: AFP

DR Congo: US Should Urge Rwanda to End M23 Support

20 Nov

 

Hrw logo.svg

NOVEMBER 20, 2012

Sanction Rwandan Officials Backing Abusive Congolese Rebels

Displaced people cross the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into Rwanda, as seen from Gisenyi, November 20, 2012, as M23 rebels advance on Goma.
© 2012 Reuters

(Washington) – The United States government should publicly support sanctions against Rwandan officials backing the armed group M23, which has been responsible for widespread war crimes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. M23 rebels, whose commanders have been implicated in serious abuses, captured the city of Goma on November 20, 2012.

“The US government’s silence on Rwandan military support to the M23 rebels can no longer be justified given the overwhelming evidence of Rwanda’s role and the imminent threat to civilians around Goma,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “The US government should support urgent sanctions against Rwandan officials who are backing M23 fighters responsible for serious abuses.”

Rwandan military support for the M23 rebels has been evident in their offensive that began on November 15, Human Rights Watch said. Several civilians living near the Rwandan border told Human Rights Watch that they saw hundreds of Rwandan army soldiers crossing the border from Rwanda into Congo at Njerima hill, Kasizi, and Kabuhanga in apparent support of M23 fighters. Human Rights Watch has also documented several incidents in which Rwandan and Congolese soldiers fired across the border from either side between November 16 and 20.

A draft of the final report of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, soon to be published, alleges that the Rwandan government has provided “direct military support to M23 rebels” and that the “M23’s de facto chain of command includes General Bosco Ntaganda and culminates with the Rwandan Minister of Defense General James Kabarebe.” Ntaganda is on the UN sanctions list and is sought on arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Watch has independently established that the Rwandan army has regularlyprovided significant military support to the M23, including overseeing operational planning, providing weapons and ammunition, recruiting at least 600 people in Rwanda to fight for the M23, training new recruits, and deploying Rwandan army troops to eastern Congo in direct support of M23 rebels.

Over the past seven months, Human Rights Watch has documented widespread war crimes by M23 rebels in eastern Congo, including summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment, including of children. Rwandan officials may be complicit in war crimes through their military assistance to M23 forces throughout this period, Human Rights Watch said.

The draft UN Group of Experts’ report says that, “Rwandan officials coordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations” and “provided military support to M23 through permanent troop reinforcement and clandestine support by RDF [Rwandan Defence Forces] special units.” The Group of Experts found that “RDF commanders operated alongside M23 and provided logistical support during the July 2012 operations which enabled the capture of Bunagana, Rutshuru, Kiwanja and Rumangabo.” During these operations, “the rebels killed one [UN] peacekeeper at Bunagana and fired on the [UN peacekeeping] base at Kiwanja,” the report states.

The Group of Experts also documented support to the M23 by commanders of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force. While stating that “Rwandan officials exercise overall command and strategic planning for M23,” they note that “senior Government of Uganda officials have also provided support to M23 in the form of direct troop reinforcement in DRC territory, weapons deliveries, [and] technical assistance.”

“The fall of Goma to the M23 magnifies the security risks to civilians in eastern Congo,” Malinowski said. “As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US should press for sanctions that target not only the M23 but the foreign officials backing their atrocities.”

The Group of Experts has recommended individual sanctions against several Rwandan and Ugandan officials named in its report.

The M23’s latest offensive began on November 15 with M23 rebels fighting UN peacekeepers and Congolese army forces as the rebels progressed toward Goma. By the early afternoon of November 20, after heavy fighting in and around Goma, the M23 had taken control of key areas of Goma. Congolese army soldiers had fled the town, while UN peacekeepers were still present.

Human Rights Watch has received reports of at least 11 civilians killed and dozens of others wounded during the fighting in and around Goma since November 15. An estimated 80,000 people are newly displaced in the area around Goma, including an estimated 60,000 who were in a displacement camp about 10 kilometers outside Goma, according to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

“The US should endorse all measures that would enable UN sanctions against Rwandan officials who are assisting the M23,” Malinowski said. “All parties to the conflict should take urgent measures to protect civilians and stop abuses.”

Background on the M23
The M23 is largely made up of soldiers who took part in a mutiny from the Congolese army between late March and May 2012. Many were previously members of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a former Rwanda-backed rebel group that integrated into the Congolese army in January 2009. Bosco Ntaganda, who was then a general in the Congolese army, initially led the mutiny. In May, Col. Sultani Makenga, a former colleague of Ntaganda in the CNDP, announced he was beginning a separate mutiny. In the days that followed, Ntaganda and his forces joined Makenga. The new armed group called itself the M23. The M23 claimed the mutiny was to protest the Congolese government’s failure to fully implement the March 23, 2009 peace agreement (hence the name M23), which had integrated them into the Congolese army.

Some of the M23’s senior commanders have well-known histories of serious abuses, committed over the past decade in eastern Congo as they moved from one armed group to another. They have been responsible for ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions, and torture. Before the mutinies, at least five of the M23 leaders were on a UN black list of people with whom the UN would not collaborate due to their human rights records.

Ntaganda has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2006 for recruiting and using child soldiers in Ituri district in northeastern Congo in 2002 and 2003. In July, the court issued a second warrant against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity, namely murder, persecution based on ethnic grounds, rape, sexual slavery, and pillaging, also in connection with his activities in Ituri.

Human Rights Watch has documented numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity by troops under Ntaganda’s command, as well as by other M23 commanders, including Col. Makenga, Col. Innocent Zimurinda, Col. Baudouin Ngaruye, and Col. Innocent Kayna.

On November 12, 2012, the UN Security Council added Makenga to its list of individuals under sanctions, including an asset freeze and a travel ban. On November 13, the US imposed sanctions on Makenga, which includes an asset freeze and forbids American citizens from undertaking any transactions with him.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Paul Kagame’s Rwanda: African success story or authoritarian state?

10 Oct

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have heaped praise on the Rwandan president, but his halo is starting to slip

Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

A hi-tech fingerprint scanner unlocks the entrance to Jean Gatabazi’s offices at the hospital in the Rwandan town of Nyamata. Gatabazi says the past five years have brought a tarmac road, street lighting and thriving businesses to the site of one of the worst massacres of the 1994 genocide. And he knows whom he credits for the transformation. “Paul Kagame is an excellent man,” he says proudly. “Hero is the right word.”

President Kagame has similarly mesmerised Tony Blair (who called him a “visionary leader”), Bill Clinton (“one of the greatest leaders of our time”), Clare Short (“such a sweetie”) and Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, who was persuaded to invest here. Such idolatry raises the question, what spell does this flinty statesman with bookish, even nerdy looks, with no obvious charisma, cast over western leaders – and why is it now wearing thin?

Everything in Rwanda must be seen through the prism of the genocide, a hundred apocalyptic days that wiped out 800,000 men, women, children and babies and left no family unscarred. As a guerrilla commander who marched from the bush to the capital, Kigali, it was Kagame who ended the nightmare and, his champions say, tilted the scales more towards reconciliation than revenge. “I’m not sure Rwanda would exist if not for him right now,” one expat businessman said.

At first glance, it is not hard to see why visitors are seduced by Kagame’s Rwanda. Whatever post-traumatic disorders have been buried in the collective unconscious over 18 years, on the surface, life is orderly, pavements are clean and roads are free from the potholes that curse much of Africa. Kigali is nurturing a reputation as the safest city on the continent. American aid workers, entrepreneurs and tourists have poured in to a version of Africa that is both user-friendly and authentic.

In the past decade, primary school attendance has trebled, child mortality has halved and parliament has achieved the highest proportion of female members in the world. Last week saw the opening of thecountry’s first public library, its generous windows looking out directly on the US embassy. Kagame’s wife, Jeannette, took a tour of the airy $3.5m (£2.2m) building and heard from articulate 12-year-olds enjoying the fastest growing One Laptop Per Child project in Africa.

It is no wonder that Rwanda is held up as a prime example of how donor support can work, proving a handy riposte to the aid sceptics who would slash the department for international development’s budget. Kagame, 54, has been seen as a visionary, the face of a new, self-confident, economically vibrant African narrative that buries the passivity and victimhood of the past.

In addition, some say, this might go some way to paying off western guilt over failing to intervene during the genocide. “Clinton and Blair may be looking back to their time in the 90s and thinking, ‘What could we have done differently, how can we put it right?'” one observer remarked.

But in recent years, there has been a slow, sickening realisation that the west’s favourite African leader comes with a sinister edge. Kagame’s Rwanda, say critics, is an authoritarian state where democracy and human rights are trampled upon and dissenters are hunted down. When Kagame won the 2010 election with 93% of the vote, for example, three major opposition parties were excluded from the ballot. Two of their leaders were jailed and still languish there today.

The third, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green party, was also arrested briefly then went into exile after his deputy, André Kagwa Rwisereka, was found dead, nearly decapitated. “It broke our hearts,” recalled Habineza, who returned home last month after two years in Sweden. “He was a man who came to our house to share a meal and was close to my family. It was a terrible death. I went to the mortuary to dress him for the burial. It was an intimate moment. It shattered us but we have to pull ourselves together.”

Habineza, who received death threats after breaking away from Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), feels frustrated at international donors’ failure to push for genuine democracy. “I requested Britain and others to take action regarding political space in Rwanda, but what they are doing, I don’t understand. If the international community took a stand on political space and democracy, that would be the most helpful to us.”

Habineza welcomed the work of Blair’s African Governance Initiative in Rwanda, but added: “I ask him to always request President Kagame to look at these issues: democracy and economic development go hand in hand. We are saying Rwanda is ready for democracy. Tony Blair should tell him this. There cannot be democracy in a country where there is no opposition party and no freedom of expression.”

In the past few years, several journalists have been arrested or killed, an exiled general survived a shooting in Johannesburg, and Scotland Yard warned two Rwandans living in Britain that “the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life”. A report this week by Amnesty International identified a series of unlawful detentions and torture including electric shocks. Coincidence? Kagame’s government insists the incidents must be examined one by one. His critics join the dots and find a pattern that includes state-sponsored death squads.

Jean Baptiste Icyitonderwa, general secretary of Social Party Imberakuri, claims its leader has been tortured in jail. “As a person in an opposition party, you can’t trust your own security,” he said. “Many times you hear some leader of the opposition parties got arrested, killed and some others disappeared, others are persecuted. That means no one who belongs to an opposition party can feel safe.”

Boniface Twagirimana, vice-president of the United Democratic Forces party, whose leader is also behind bars, said: “President Kagame is a dictator. He’s operating like he’s still in the forest as a rebel. He’s not a president for the whole country, only RPF members. He doesn’t want to open the political space to allow freedom of expression.”

Kagame has pledged to step down in 2017, the end of his second term. But Twagirimana is doubtful. “Maybe they will change the constitution so he can continue. I think he would like to rule for 20, 30, 50 years like Robert Mugabe.”

Some observers argue that the RPF government is torn between a faction of military hardliners, who regard repression as a small price to pay for post-genocide peace between Hutus and Tutsis, and a more liberal wing sensitive to democratic concerns. Kagame, the military man turned statesman, faces a constant battle to balance the two.

He recently responded to critics of restrictions on free speech by invoking Holocaust denialism. “They are mainly talking about laws related to genocide ideology, which I am more than happy to defend,” he told the US Metro newspaper. “Rwandans will not tolerate voices that promote a return to the ethnic divisionism that precipitated the genocide 18 years ago. To that extent, we place limits on freedom of expression in a similar way to how much of Europe has made it a crime to deny the Holocaust. Aside from that, Rwanda is a very open and free country.”

Kagame’s government claims the west should not impose its own notions of democracy on Africa. His supporters include Gerald Mpyisi, managing director of the Institute of Management and Leadership, who said: “The president is running the country like a CEO of a company who ensures that every director is accountable for their department. That is why, despite the lack of resources, you still find things happening.

“I believe for a country in the third world to develop there has to be a certain element of organising the population. The west tries to use its standards in the developing world and it isn’t fair.”

If Rwanda had remained a kind of African Singapore, the west might have continued to turn a blind eye. But this year, it seems, the mask has finally slipped. In June, UN monitors accused Kagame of meddling in his mineral-rich neighbour the Democratic Republic of the Congo, supporting a rebellion led by a war crimes suspect and blamed for atrocities including mass rapes. Evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch supports the claim, which Rwanda fiercely denies.

International donors finally had no choice but to rap Kagame on the knuckles. His domestic opponents now want them to go further. Twagirimana said: “The money given by the UK should be stopped. It is being used to run the army and fund the campaign in Congo. In a country without a democratic system, it is not difficult to use the money how you want. That is why the money is being used to kill people in Congo and Britain should stop its support.”

Human Rights Watch is a constant thorn in Kagame’s side. Its researcher Carina Tertsakian was in effect expelled from Rwanda before the last election. “Paul Kagame is a figure that seems to fascinate people,” she said. “He’s been very clever and western governments have been very gullible in buying it and ignoring the violations and abuses. But by 2010 even the British government had to acknowledge things were not quite right. We are now seeing the Rwandan PR machine come unstuck.”

 

Source: The Guardian

Britain under pressure to end all aid to Rwandan government

6 Oct

By , Investigations Editor

9:00PM BST 06 Oct 2012

Britain is under mounting international pressure to stop all aid to the Rwandan government.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Britain’s Minister for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni talk in Kigali Photo: REUTERS

The United Nations and the European Union wants the UK to withhold millions of pounds it is due to hand to President Paul Kagame’s government as part of an international campaign to choke his regime of funds.

Rwanda is accused of arming rebels responsible for atrocities, including mass rape, in the neighbouring Democrat Republic of Congo.

They hope that Britain will fall in line after David Cameron replaced Andrew Mitchell as international development secretary in his Cabinet reshuffle last month.

Britain initially agreed to go along with international condemnation of Rwandan involvement and to cancel £83 million it gives it in aid each year.

But Mr Mitchell’s last act in the job, before he was moved to the role of Chief Whip, had been to restore about £8m aid to the regime, with another £8m to follow later this year, apparently against the advice of officials in his department and from the Foreign Office.

He based the decision on personal assurances from the Rwandan president and on his own experiences running a small Conservative “charity” project in the country.

Officials were told his personal experience with Project Umubano outweighed evidence from a group of experts from the UN, Human Rights Watch observers and Foreign Office officials.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the UN and EU privately expressed their “disappointment” with Mr Mitchell’s decision at a hastily convened international contact group meeting at the Foreign Office last month.

A source at the meeting said there were “obvious differences” between Foreign Office officials and “between different officials in the Department for International Development”.

Mr Mitchell apparently also ignored police intelligence reports that suggest Rwandan dissidents living in exile in Britain are being targeted by the regime.

Last year the Metropolitan Police took the unusual step of issuing the Rwandan exiles with formal warning notices stating that “the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life”.

The United Nations and Europe have both accused President Kagame of giving support and weapons to the so-called 23 March Movement (known as M23) in the Democrat Republic of Congo, accusing it of attacking civilians and “acts of sexual violence”.

At a meeting at the UN in New York last week the EU directly accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels. President Kagame and senior figures in his regime may now face sanctions over their links to the group and human rights abuses it has carried out.

Two new confidential reports on Rwanda’s involvement with the M23 rebels were presented to Security Council officials last week and are likely to lead to further action being taken against the regime at the UN in the next few weeks.

A UN source said: “Britain’s position has come as a bit of a disappointment to those who are trying to alter the position on the ground. Everyone else is united in putting pressure on Rwanda.”

Britain is Rwanda’s largest aid contributor and the source said its involvement in bring pressure to bear on President Kagame was “vitally important”.

Internal documents from DfID, released under the Freedlom of Information Act, reveal that in a February 2011 telephone conversation, Mr Mitchell had promised the Rwandan president that Britain would increase its aid from £60m to £90m by 2015. Two months earlier, he had flown to Rwanda for a “90-minute tete-a-tete followed by lunch” with the newly re-elected president.

But the memos also reveal doubts within the department about the “political risk” in Rwanda. Mr Mitchell’s ministerial colleague, Stephen O’Brien, highlighted international concern about human rights in Rwanda.

Justine Greening, the new International Development Secretary, must now decide whether Rwanda should receive the second tranche of the money promised by Mr Mitchell. Her office did not respond to requests for comment last night.

It is understood that Mr Mitchell based his decision to continue aiding Rwanda on “personal assurances” from Mr Kagame who had previously attended the Conservative conference and lavished praise on Project Umubano calling it an “unprecedented” example of aid. He is also understood to claim, though, that the decision was later agreed by Downing Street.

The Conservatives’ Rwanda project was Mr Mitchell’s personal brainchild but was designed to show the caring side of Mr Cameron’s Party when it was in opposition.

Now also working in Sierra Leone, the project has seen more than 200 Tory supporters, including Mr Mitchell, his wife Sharon and their daughter Rosie, fly to Rwanda for two-week stints to help as the country slowly recovers from the genocide which saw an estimated 800,000 people murdered there in 1994.

Mrs Mitchell, a GP, has also spent several months working as a doctor in Rwanda.

The Prime Minister praised the project as “the first time that any British political party had engaged in a social action project in the developing world”.

He said he and Mr Mitchell had set it up “to raise awareness of global poverty and play a small part in tackling it on the front line”.

Yesterday a Conservative spokeswoman said the project, which includes an annual Tories versus locals cricket match, had “provided English lessons to over 3,000 Rwandan primary school teachers, renovated a school, established a small medical library and built a community centre”.

Conservative volunteers, including ministers, MPs, Parliamentary candidates and local councillors, pay their own airfares, but much of the start up money for the project came from a wealthy widow from Hove, Helena Frost.

Despite having little interest in politics, according to her family, Mr Mitchell personally persuaded Mrs Frost to provide the funding. Electoral Commission files show that before her death last November, she gave the party £250,000 in donations – £200,000 of which went to fund Mr Mitchell’s office in opposition and £50,000 directly to the Rwanda project.

Last night, Mrs Frost’s nephew Mark, who was close to his aunt and often accompanied her to charitable events, said he was “slightly taken aback” that she gave so much.

He said: “It would appear Mr Mitchell (was) very charming and very persuasive. It was quite a large sum which doesn’t necessarily seem to fit with the amounts she ordinarily gave to the many other charities she supported.

“She was not one to meddle in politics at all and was convinced the money was going to help the poor. She would have not have given money to politicians for political use or gain, she had understood that she was helping the poor in Rwanda.”

He added: “This was a private matter and she was reticent about this particular charitable donation.

“She was a wonderful woman who had a great passion for certain causes and for many people. I can only imagine that this may have been the case on this particular case for her to have contributed such large sums to a single cause.”

He said Mr Mitchell had been introduced to her through another charity that he was involved with and to which Mrs Frost, who had a considerable personal fortune and had also set up a £6 million charitable foundation in the name of her late husband Patrick, had contributed large sums.

 

Source: The Telegraph

 

Memos reveal how Andrew Mitchell ignored advice on Rwandan aid

6 Oct

SATURDAY 06 OCTOBER 2012

Embattled minister overruled department to help controversial leader Paul Kagame

The embattled Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell gave a personal promise to Rwanda’s controversial leader that Britain would continue its multi-million-pound aid payments to the regime despite growing concerns within his department, according to documents obtained by The Independent.

The former International Development Secretary has been lambasted for his decision last month – hours before he moved jobs in the Cabinet reshuffle – to re-instate £16m of British aid to be spent by Paul Kagame’s government, which is facing accusations of fomenting conflict in neighbouring Congo.

Officials insisted there was nothing improper about the decision to remove the block put on the funds earlier this summer as part of an international aid freeze. Mr Mitchell, now David Cameron’s chief whip, has been accused of overruling advice from the Foreign Office and his own civil servants when he ordered the payment.

Internal documents from the Department for International Development, released under the Freedom of Information Act, underline the warmth of the relationship between Mr Mitchell and President Kagame, a one-time darling of the West following Rwanda’s 1994 genocide but now accused of increasing authoritarianism.

In a note made by civil servants of a telephone conversation between Mr Mitchell and Mr Kagame in February 2011, the Cabinet minister announced Britain was increasing its aid from £60m to £90m by 2015, much of it to be provided as “general budget support” paid direct to the Rwandan government.

The memo states: “SofS [Mr Mitchell]… recalled how they had recently discussed that Rwanda is an excellent development and delivers results… We will continue to provide a significant proportion of the UK’s aid as budget support. We will continue to provide high levels of general budget support (of £37m annually).”

Two months earlier he had flown out to Rwanda to see Mr Kagame for a “90-minute tête-à-tête followed by lunch” in which they had “friendly but robust” exchanges. That meeting followed Mr Kagame’s re-election amid accusations that he suppressed the opposition and gagged the media.

The meeting followed Mr Kagame’s re-election earlier that year amid accusations that he had suppressed the opposition and gagged the media.

It was this general budget support which Mr Mitchell unexpectedly re-instated last month, ordering £8m to be released immediately with a further £8m in December for education and food security. Labour has demanded Mr Mitchell publish the advice he received over the funding release.

During the telephone conversation, Mr Mitchell emphasised the personal links between the upper echelons of the Conservative Party and the Rwandan regime, dating from the period in opposition during which senior Tories intent on detoxifying their image visited the country to carry out aid work.

The memo continued: “Secretary of State said this reflected the UK’s long-term support to Rwanda (including from the PM, who had visited as leader of the Opposition in 2006). Pres Kagame was very grateful.”

The internal DfID memos underline the growing qualms within the ministry about the “political risk” in Rwanda with Mr Mitchell’s ministerial colleague, Stephen O’Brien, highlighting international concern about the human rights situation in the country.

In October last year, a senior DfID official warned that a joint monitoring scheme with Rwanda had stalled and suggested the use of general budget support would have to be re-visited.

Mr Mitchell’s successor, former Transport Secretary Justine Greening, is reportedly preparing to reverse Mr Mitchell’s decision, bringing Britain back into line with other countries – including the Netherlands, the US and Germany – who have continued to freeze aid following the findings of a UN report that Rwanda was supporting rebels from the M23 movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda has strongly denied the allegation.

The Cabinet Office said Mr Mitchell had not shied from raising difficult questions  with Mr Kagame. In a statement, a spokesman said: “The former secretary of state had a candid relationship with the government of Rwanda and frequently delivered tough messages on issues of concern.”

A DFID spokesman said: “The Secretary of State will consider the issue of budget support to Rwanda carefully before our next decision in December.”

Minister’s messages: What was said

* Minutes of 90-minute “tête-à-tête followed by lunch” between Andrew Mitchell and President Kagame, December 2010: “The International Development Secretary raised a number of sensitive issues in candid terms, including the damage done to Rwanda’s reputation by the events around the August [presidential] elections, the need to open up political space and media freedom.”

* Telephone conversation between Andrew Mitchell and President Kagame, 24 February 2011: “SofS [Mr Mitchell]… recalled how they had recently discussed that Rwanda is an excellent development and delivers results… UK aid in Rwanda will grow from £60m this year to £90m in 2014-5. We will continue to provide a significant proportion of the UK’s aid as budget support. We will continue to provide high levels of general budget support (of £37m annually)… Pres Kagame was very grateful – this outcome showed the value of the partnership between Rwanda and the UK.

Source: The Independent

Rwanda’s Kagame defiant over accusations of backing Congo rebels

4 Oct

Thu Oct 4, 2012 4:49pm GMT

* Western “bullies” are “dead wrong” -President Kagame

* Says freezing aid an injustice, will make Rwandans defiant

* Rwandan, Congo leaders fail to resolve row at UN meeting

* Rebel crisis fuels tension in Africa’s most volatile region

By Jenny Clover

KIGALI, Oct 4 (Reuters) – President Paul Kagame said on Thursday Western governments were “dead wrong” in blaming Rwanda for the rebellion in neighbouring eastern Congo and threatening Kigali with aid cuts, and he pledged to stand firm against his accusers.

The United States urged Rwanda on Monday to publicly condemn rebels who have seized parts of Congo’s east, an appeal that highlighted U.S. frustration over Kigali’s alleged involvement.

Kagame has not openly denounced the M23 insurgency, and instead told parliament that wanton killings were being carried out in the Congo “in broad daylight” but not being condemned by that country’s government or by the West.

“Even with these threats every day, threats of aid, threats of what, whatever it is you have, you are just dead wrong … The attitude of the bullies must be challenged, that’s what we live for, some of us,” he said.

Kagame said those responsible for Congo’s bloodshed were indigenous to tiny Rwanda’s giant central African neighbour.

“There is a bigger territory where worse things are happening … So if you ask me to condemn people or to blame them for anything, I know where to start from.”

Rwanda has denied having any links with rebels, including the M23 group, who have been fighting Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government soldiers in North Kivu province since April, displacing some 470,000 civilians.

PUNITIVE AID CUTBACKS

Donors, including the United States, one of Kigali’s closest allies, have slashed aid to the tiny central African nation as the result of a U.N. report that concluded Rwandan officials were supplying the rebels with weapons and logistics.

“This persecution of people even at an international level is just unbecoming,” Kagame said to applause by members of parliament in front of ambassadors who were in the assembly.

“Freeze aid to Rwanda, freeze, freeze … This injustice does not make us compliant, this injustice makes us defiant.”

The EU said this week in Kigali that although existing projects would continue, a decision on additional budget support would be delayed until Rwanda’s role in Congo was clarified.

Countries including the United, Sweden and the Netherlands have suspended aid to Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget. But Britain unblocked part of its aid earlier this month, saying the Rwandans had constructively engaging in the search for peace in Congo.

Kagame has launched a so-called “dignity fund” to help wean Rwanda off its dependence on outside help.

Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last week to discuss the fighting in the Congo, but no breakthrough was made.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met both leaders to push for a solution, only for Kabila to allude to Rwanda’s alleged support for M23 in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly last Tuesday.

Observers have lauded Rwanda’s economic progress since the 1994 genocide but say lack of political freedom and media curbs have hampered reforms. Kagame has rejected the accusations.

Kagame said Kigali should not be blamed for Congo’s woes.

“For over a decade you keep blaming Rwanda for the problems of Congo. Why don’t they have enough courage to blame themselves and take part of the responsibility?” he said.

“What is this blackmail about? Aid? .. They give you aid so that forever you glorify them and depend on them. And they keep using it as a tool of control and management.” (Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: Reuters

Mitchell insisted on handout to dictator: £16m aid ‘a parting favour’ for his friend in Rwanda

3 Oct
  • New chief whip said to have made the decision in his final hours as International Development Secretary
  • Senior Foreign Office source tells the Mail it was a ‘mistake’ and that Mitchell overruled civil servants
  • Rwandan president Paul Kagame accused of backing  militia leading a bloody uprising in neighbouring Congo

By JASON GROVES

PUBLISHED: 00:33, 3 October 2012 | UPDATED: 00:33, 3 October 2012

‘Parting favour’: One of Andrew Mitchell’s final decisions as International Development minister was to unfreeze aid to Rwanda

Andrew Mitchell overruled Foreign Office advice to hand £16million of British aid money to a controversial African dictator accused of fuelling a bloody civil war.

A senior Foreign Office source told the Daily Mail that Mr Mitchell’s decision to lift the freeze on aid to Paul Kagame’s Rwandan regime was a ‘mistake’ which would damage Britain’s reputation for standing up against human rights abuses.

Mr Mitchell, now David Cameron’s chief whip, is reported to have overruled his own civil servants by making the decision in his final hours as International Development Secretary last month.

Half of the money will go directly into the Rwandan government’s coffers – despite fears that it will be used to fund a murderous rebellion in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

One human rights campaigner yesterday described the move as a ‘parting favour’ to President Kagame, a personal friend of Mr Mitchell.

The revelations will pile pressure on the chief whip, who is already fighting to save his job after being accused of hurling foul-mouthed abuse at police officers who stopped him riding his bike through the gates of Downing Street.

Labour yesterday called for the publication of the civil service advice received by Mr Mitchell. Shadow International Development Ivan Lewis accused him of putting ‘personal friendship above proper foreign policy considerations’.

The Department for International Development insisted his decision had been ‘based on advice from policy officials within the department’, but refused to detail the advice.

In June, a United Nations report produced detailed evidence showing that Rwanda is backing the notorious M23 militia which is leading a bloody uprising in the DRC.

Dictator: Rwandan president Paul Kagame (pictured with David Cameron in 2007) is accused of backing a murderous militia operating in neighbouring Congo

The militia, led by alleged war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, is accused of widespread murder and rape and has driven 470,000 people from their homes in recent months. Kagame, who was re-elected in 2010 with 93 per cent of the vote, has also been accused of suppressing political opponents and journalists in his own country.

A senior Foreign Office source said: ‘The evidence against Kagame’s regime is absolutely overwhelming. The UN experts’ report found incontrovertible evidence that there had been support from Rwanda to the M23 rebels in terms of supplying weapons, uniforms, tactical advice and command and control assistance. There was also evidence of Rwanda fomenting strife in the area.

‘Most people in the Foreign Office think the time has come to take a really tough stand.’

Sources close to the new International Development Secretary Justine Greening have indicated she is also unhappy about the decision and will review it when the next aid payment to Rwanda is due in December.

Congolese troops and tanks hunt for M23 rebels in the east of Congo: The UN found evidence of support from Rwanda to the M23 rebels in terms of supplying weapons, uniforms, tactical advice and command and control assistance

Foreign aid accounts for more than 40 per cent of the Rwandan government’s income, and Britain is the country’s single biggest donor, giving £75million this year. A £16million aid payment was frozen at the end of July following the publication of the UN report. It was released just six weeks later on Mr Mitchell’s last day in office.

Aid freezes imposed by the United States, Germany, Holland and others remain in place.

In a statement last month Mr Mitchell said he was releasing the cash because Britain had a ‘responsibility to protect the poor’ in Rwanda. He said he had ‘sought assurances’ from Kagame that he was not abusing human rights.

 
Source: DailyMail.co.uk

U.S. tells Rwanda to denounce Congo M23 rebels

1 Oct

By Richard Lough

NAIROBI | Mon Oct 1, 2012 2:43pm EDT

(Reuters) – The United States on Monday called on Rwanda to publicly denounce rebels who have seized swathes of eastern Congo in an appeal that highlighted its frustration over Kigali’s alleged role in its neighbor’s conflict.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied supporting the M23 rebel movement in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, blaming Kinshasa and major world powers for failing to tackle the problems that led to the uprising.

But it has not so far publicly condemned the M23 movement and donors, including the United States, one of Kigali’s closest allies, have slashed aid to the tiny central African nation as the result of a United Nations report which concluded Rwandan officials were supplying the rebels with weapons and logistics.

“It is not and should not be too much to ask the government of Rwanda to denounce a rebel group that is preying on the lives of people or undermining the stability of a neighbor,” Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in a teleconference on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes by fighting since the M23, which has links to Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, took up arms in April.

“The M23 is led by individuals who are ICC indictees, is led by people who carried out serious human rights violations so it should not be too much to ask the government of Rwanda to do this,” said Carson.

The rebels say they are fighting to try to ensure full implementation of a 2009 peace deal that ended a previous rebellion which U.N. experts said was also backed by Rwanda.

Contacted for reaction after Carson’s comments, a Rwandan foreign ministry official directed Reuters to comments from President Paul Kagame denying accusations his country backed the rebels made during a U.N. meeting in New York last week.

Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly but no breakthrough was made.

Kagame last week said that “solving the crisis will be impossible if the international community continues to define the issue erroneously.”

A proposed African force that would be neutral and tasked with eliminating all rebels operating in eastern Congo has not yet materialized.

Carson said Kabila also had a duty to ensure peace and stability in his own country but Western nations have lined up to punish Rwanda, whose army fought two wars in Congo during the 1990s, for meddling in its neighbor’s latest conflict.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Reuters