Britain is withholding £21m of aid to Rwanda amid concerns that the state is supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it was announced today.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the money, due to be handed over next month, would not be released because the regime of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s had breached agreements.
“The government has already set out its concerns over credible and compelling reports of Rwandan involvement with M23 in DRC,” she said.
“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.”
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Violence in DRC has been spiralling, with reports of summary executions by the rebel M23 group and growing numbers of refugees.
The UK suspended the last tranche of £16m of aid in July after an interim UN report highlighted Rwanda’s role in backing the insurgents.
However, Ms Greening’s predecessor, Andrew Mitchell, controversially reinstated the aid on his last day in the job. He authorised £8m as direct budgetary support, and diverted the other half to specific development programmes.
Pressure to halt the aid payments again intensified earlier this month when UN experts presented more evidence of Rwanda’s involvement in fuelling the conflict.
Ms Greening also said today that DfID will provide a further £18m of immediate humanitarian support in DRC, providing emergency food for 100,000 people, clean water and education.
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The prime minister’s spokesman denied that the decision to reinstate aid in September had been a mistake.
“We stand by the decision that we made to release the last tranche of funding,” he said.
“This is our approach to the aid budget. We keep decisions under review.”
The spokesman said Mr Mitchell had taken the decision to hand over the previous tranche, but stressed that other ministers agreed.
“It was his decision but it was also a government decision,” he said.
Mr Cameron raised concerns with Mr Kagame when he spoke to him by telephone a few weeks ago, according to No. 10.
Asked if the premier stood by his previous praise of Rwanda as a “success story”, the spokesman said: “There has been progress made in that country. This decision is about aid spending.”