United Kingdom – Rwanda: Funding or no funding?News
In light of a UN interim report which suggested that Rwanda supported the M23 rebel group, a recent decision by UK development secretary Andrew Mitchell to release £8 million of funding to the Rwandan government has been met with criticism.
Thursday the 8th November, Andrew Mitchell –former UK international development secretary, faced critics and accusers before the International development committee where he stated that he “absolutely stood” by his decision to release £8 million in budget support to Rwanda just hours before he was set to resign as chief whip. The funds, which were part of a wider £16 Million funding budget, had been held back in light of a recent UN report regarding the alleged support by the Rwandan government of the rebel M23 party operating in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The M23 is formed of former members of the National Congress for the Defense of People (CNDP). They have been documented as committing abuses against civilians including rape, murder and abductions. Its leaders, which include General Bosco Ntaganda (who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC)), have been described by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights as “among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC or in the world.”
Human Rights Watch believes that the M23 rebels receive direct support from Rwanda through the deployment of army soldiers for battle in in Congo. However, James Kabarebe, the Rwandan defence minister, denies that Rwanda gives theM23 support and dismissed any suggestions of the possibility that the “well-disciplined” Rwandan army could harbour uncontrolled soldiers acting in support of the M23.
The UN report resulted in a decision by the UK government as well as some European countries including Germany and the Netherlands to suspend financial support to Rwanda. However, despite the strong suggestions of the interim report, the UK government agreed to resume funding, contingent upon Rwanda meeting three specified conditions. After a visit to Rwanda, Mitchell wrote that he felt that Rwanda had significantly engaged with the peace process and funding should be resumed.
The UK stands as Rwanda’s biggest bilateral donor; a statistic which Mitchell used to defend his decision (which in itself has also raised suspicions due to its hurried nature). Further, Mitchell stated he felt that holding back the funds would only hinder Rwanda’s progress in development which he termed to have been impressive. Regarding the implications that the Rwandan government may be supporting the M23 rebels, Mitchell specified he felt in no position to comment on this aspect of Rwandan politics. Mitchell’s post hearing comments that withholding funding “would have no effect on the elite in Kigali, but it would, bluntly, take girls out of school elsewhere in that country” are likely to draw cynicism from groups which see the Rwandan government as supporting those who are committing rape on young girls in eastern DRC.
Indeed his decision has been the subject of intense criticism particularly with Human Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch which sees no indications of Rwanda’s engagement with the peace process, particularly as they are yet to condemn the M23.