Published on 22 Nov 2012

Suddenly, the British government changes policy on Rwanda

Until now, the Foreign Office has been reluctant to blame the government of its ally President Paul Kagame (pictured below) for the surge in fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This week two things changed. First, the M23 rebels, who are backed by Rwanda, seized the town of Goma. Then the UN came out with a report which alleges not only that Rwanda supports M23, but that its minister of defence, James Kabarebe, actually commands them.

“We judge the overall body of evidence of Rwandan involvement with M23 in the DRC to be credible and compelling.

“We will be studying the implications of this report in full, but these allegations will necessarily be a key factor in future aid decisions to the government of Rwanda,” said a statement signed by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Development Secretary Justine Greening.

It’s a big departure. In a much criticised decision, the former Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell signed off on £8m in aid to Rwanda on the last day of his tenure at the department. A further £21m due in December now looks in doubt.

Rwanda has grown at 7 per cent per year for the last decade and DFID loves the government’s efficiency.  “By 2020, the government of Rwanda aims to complete the country’s transformation from a poor, post-conflict nation to a thriving, middle income, regional trade and investment hub,” says the DFID website.

“Rwanda uses aid very well, both in terms of the results it achieves and accounting for its use.”

All of which is true, but Rwanda’s success is partly built on DR Congo’s failure. The Rwandan exchequer benefits from minerals which have been illegally mined in DRC and smuggled over the border.

After Hutus who had taken part in the genocide of Tutsis in 1994 fled into Kivu, the Rwandan Patriotic Front government has seen the eastern DRC as its legitimate zone of influence, and a security buffer. “The de facto annexation of north Kivu is well underway,” said an international aid official in Goma.

The Rwandan government says the UN has a campaign against them, which started when UN troops failed to stop the genocide of 1994. They accuse their accusers of bad faith or bias, and deny all involvement with M23. The west, they say, is to blame for what’s happening in Congo. But now even Rwandans who support the RPF are beginning to ask questions.

“I tired of defending arrests of journalists, of jailing opposition leaders because you disagree with them,” wrote Rama Isibo, a Rwandan journalist who has always supported the government. “I tired of defending our right to attack Congo, knowing the millions who suffer as a result.

“I tired of explaining to my western expat friends why no independent opinions were allowed on public media. I tired of explaining that fear that is unspoken, the looking over your shoulder when you speak.”

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7 reader comments

  1. j.semwanga@hotmail.fr says:

    We should watch very carefully at the next steps of KAGAME AND museveni in their dream of building a big Tutsi Land.by occupying assasinating raping and torturing what ever isnot Hamite in Congo.if we don’t patya attention the big Lake region might become a new Palestine or oyther wise a new AUSCHWITZ.it’s never good to tuckles with racial matters for the big challenge of aminority.SO watch THE sayings of those two brothers.

  2. Eric says:

    Shame on Britain for having lent its support to a despot! The guilt of genocide should not blind rational decision making. Kagame has clearly used aid money from Britain and the US for military purposes, principally the destabilisation of its mineral-rich neighbour DRC. DR Congo was doing well economically, with growth of more than 6%. It seem as if whenever the country’s economy advance a little it is followed by war coming from the same region, Eastern Congo. Britain should rethink with whom they want association with. Kagame is despot, a wanted war criminal and I think democratic Britain should express its disappointment and disapproval of Kagame’s killing regime.

  3. Chuks Okoro says:

    Britain supports this ‘despot’ for the strategic reason of expanding long held ambitions to expand their influence in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa and oust French, Belgians etc economic influence. They have reasoned correctly that riding on the US war machine helps them achieve this. Millions can and will be sacrificed as long as Britain’s economic interests are secured – this is called British imperialism. It is deceitful to claim ‘democractic’ Britain ‘express disappointment and disapproval’. Kagame is doing exactly what the UK (and US) want him to do.

  4. PEPSI says:

    Anyone who is against Paul Kagame and Rwanda is evil. Just because there is an African country that is doing progressively well like Rwanda, someone somehow wants to create a resson to sabotage and destroy it. westerners always have evil intentions on Africa, Its long overdue for the world economic power to shift from west to east, Asians have proved to be better friends and fairer partners when dealing with Africans and others.

  5. Marie J says:

    The truth is coming out! Let’s go back to why in the first instance war started in Rwanda in 1990 and culminated in genocide in 1994! It was and still is a well planned and orchestrated move to take over the resources rich Zaire/DRC! Rwanda was used as a gateway now the real reason why millions of people died , are dying and are still to die is revealed : the riches that DRC harbour! The world is watching, the UN is no longer a protective organ, it is time an other association is born to protect civilians !
    How many children of Africa have to die ? How much suffering mother have to endure?

  6. Nsengiyumva says:

    Africans have to sort out the mes themselves
    As long as Africa has leaders who are ready to be hired to plunder the resources of the neighbouring countries Africa will be in trouble for a long time. It is not fundamentally different from the time of slavery when afican chiefs were paid to attck other tribes to get and sell slaves.

    on the 4th of October 2012 at a swearing in ceremony for judges, President Paul Kagame expressed his bewilderement as to what western interest he had blocked to deserve recent aid cuts. He asked in his native language ” they talk aboui interest, can you tell me which interest i have blocked? Have I put a roadblock in my country to stop the wealth they are getting from the DRC”. And to add ” the DRC government, the M23 and the Internatiional community are bankrupt. He sems to have forgotten his job description.

  7. anon says:

    Corruption in Africa? Is that new? I do not think so. Perhaps aid should be given with the country donating overseeing expenditure. A return to colonialism ? Perhaps in part. but possibly countries like The Congo would then still have some of the infrastructure such as railways remaining. I have heard many stories of aid being diverted away from the needy to the despots and military. We certainly should not be supporting regimes such as described. Cut the aid we cannot afford it at this time. Neither can the US or other European countries. We certainly should not be supporting military coups etc,

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