Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Europe divided over cutting aid to Rwanda

By RNA Reporters
December 8,  2010

Kigali: Debate is raging in European capitals as to whether continuing to give millions of Euros in annual aid to Rwanda helps or undermines European democratic values. As RNA and Dutch public radio RNW report, Britain and the Scandinavian countries do not agree on the way forward. The other EU members have preferred to keep quiet.

President Kagame is back to Kigali from attending the European Development Days which was largely overshadowed by protests in Brussels where the events were held since Saturday.

Reports say Belgian police on Monday battled demonstrators kicking against the presence of President Kagame at the fifth European Development Days (EDD) programme. Demonstrators reportedly carried placards denouncing President Kagame, supported by vocal European campaign groups.

Belgium is holding the EU presidency, but on Monday, President Kagame skipped several meetings with Belgian government and European officials. The President did also not deliver the keynote address at the conference – leaving Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo to do the job.

The official visit also came as European governments grappled with what to do with the aid they have been giving Rwanda. Sweden and the Netherlands are yet to decide to resume budget support.

The general message coming out of Brussels has been that the block is proud of the progress Rwanda has made since the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. During the European Development Days in a heavily secured congress centre, Mushikiwabo, spoke of the equality of men and women in her country.

Buying influence

Away from the conference rooms and the behind-the-scenes maneuvers, European lawmakers – who ultimately decide whether the European Commission aid package continues, were wondering what has to be done next.

“In Brussels the idea exists that we wield influence if we support Rwanda”, said Dutch MP of the European Parliament, Hans van Baalen, in interviews with RNW. “Even now, after the recent accusations stated in a UN report.”

The Dutch lawmaker was referring to the contested UN report released October 01 – alleging Rwandan troops committed Genocide in DR Congo against Rwandan civilians.

Mr Van Baalen thinks this conviction will be proven false. The Dutch government is said to feel the same about it. The Netherlands won’t send direct financial aid to Rwanda in 2011, as different political parties battle out on the best way forward.

“The government doesn’t want to donate money to a country in which human rights are being violated and where there is a lack of democracy,” said Mr Van Baalen.

Publicly when they have come to Rwanda, Dutch officials have kept the tempers down. But behind closed doors, they have repeatedly pressed President Kagame on jailed opposition politician Ingabire Victoire, who lived in the Scandinavian country for more than a decade.
Even as Sweden and the Netherlands stand firm to their decisions, a British member of the European parliament, Michael Cashman, thinks they are wrong.

“Where is the evidence? We’ll have to be careful with accusing Rwanda”, he told RWN.

Netherlands stands alone

“The word ‘genocide’ is being used far to easily in Eastern Congo. Rwanda has known a genocide and wants to prevent that it will happen ever again,” added Cashman, who actually also headed the EU election observer mission during the September 2008 parliamentary polls.

Therefore Brussels should keep on supporting Rwanda, is the opinion of most politicians in the European capital.

Mr Van Ballen admits that the Netherlands stands alone in its opinion: “The Netherlands has taken a clear stance. But it is hard to find support in Brussels. I’m going to talk about the issue with the commission of Foreign Affairs and European parliament.”

To Radio Netherlands Minister Mushikwabo says: “We respect the decision of the Netherlands to stop direct aid for Rwanda. But our relationship with the European Union remains very friendly.”

For, however, the politics behind EU relationship with Rwanda is being driven Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, as the other heavyweights Germany and France stay in the cold. The latter two are just recovering from a frosty four years – which left them with no ambassadors for sometime.

Related Materials:
Victoire Ingabire Wins First Political Battle: Dutch Block Budget support

President Kagame Fails to Sell His Development Style to Europeans

Kagame vient dʼessuyer un fiasco diplomatique à Bruxelles

Belgium: Alert to European Citizens During Kagame's Presence in Brussels

Belgium: General Kagame's Show in Brussels Clouds EU's Image

JED: absence remarquée du président rwandais Paul Kagame lors d'un débat public

Manifestation contre KAGAME à Bruxelles

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