Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rwanda: Rights abuses a “non-issue” for donors

By Léandre Karangwa and Olivier Niyibizi
March 17th, 2011

Human rights abuses are definitely tolerable when it comes to Rwanda. Indeed, despite the publication of a damning UN report accusing Rwanda of atrocities committed in eastern DRC and the fact that the Kigali regime is increasingly becoming repressive, donors’ money continues to flow almost unconditionally into Rwanda.

For instance, last month the World Bank approved a financial aid stimulus of $104.4 million to the government of Rwanda, in support of its Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS). Early this month, the United Kingdom committed £330 million to Rwanda as financial support for the next four years. The Netherlands have now drafted Rwanda on a shortened list of countries that will continue to receive development aid on grounds of much needed help in fulfilling the UN Millennium Development Goals. In contradiction to this stance, the Netherlands cancelled their direct budget support to Rwanda last December, in response to increasing criticisms from their parliament.

According to Elizabeth Carriere, Head of the British Department for International Development (DfID), “Providing general and sector budget support is a vote of confidence to Rwanda to be able to use the money effectively, efficiently and accountably”. In general, donors hold Rwanda in high regard for its ability to show results when it comes to implementing Western backed development programs and minimizing corruption. This also is evident in the fact that foreign aid accounts for more than half the national budget, at more than $500 million every year. As the increasingly authoritarian and despotic nature of President Paul Kagame’s regime continues to go unchecked, it is becoming obvious that Rwanda is an exception to the generally accepted notion that democracy goes hand in hand with progress.

Dutch minister Ben Knapen and Rwandan président Paul Kagame

Apparently, donors are mostly interested in preserving diplomatic ties with strategic partners regardless whether this may mean ignoring their poor records on fundamental human and political rights and freedoms. During a working visit to the DRC and Rwanda last month, Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation, Ben Knapen, praised President Paul Kagame for his country’s economic and development achievements. Although the minister discussed “security and stability at the borders in the region and strengthening the rule of law” with the president, nothing was mentioned about the UN Mapping Exercise Report, released in October last year. Even though, the report blames Rwanda for violating human rights and international humanitarian law in eastern DRC, it did not draw much attention during Knapen’s official visit to the war torn region of Central Africa. However, it is important to mention that Mr. Knapen brought forward the Netherlands’ concern about a “fair and transparent” trial for the imprisoned Ms. Victoire Ingabire and the political situation in Rwanda.

In its annual report published in January this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticizes the increasing use of soft measures by western democracies towards repressive regimes. According to HRW Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, “‘Dialogue’ and ‘cooperation’ with repressive governments is too often an excuse for doing nothing about human rights”. The international community is neglecting the need for necessary democratic reforms in the small Central African state, partly because of a general feeling of guilt and responsibility for not having prevented or intervened to stop the 1994 Genocide. However, donors may also feel reluctant to scrutinize the African country that is showing to the world how intensive development aid coupled with a capable government may achieve the economic turnaround any devastated country needs.

The UN Mapping Exercise Report speaks loud that the world is aware of the still ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in eastern DRC and Rwanda’s role herein. It is quite astonishing, however, to see how countries such as the Netherlands and the UK, considered as guarantors of the respect for human rights, continue to turn a consensual blind eye to despicable war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by their allies in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Such a deafening silence becomes even more alarming when one of these donor countries is home to internationally recognized institutions against impunity such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY – TPIY) and is a former host of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Related Materrials:
DR Congo: UN Report Exposes Grave Crimes

Rights body warns UK on repressive tendencies in Rwanda

World Bank Approves US$104.4 Million in Poverty Reduction Support Financing for Rwanda

UK commits £330m financial support to Rwanda

Knapen meets Kagame

DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003

Case Victoire Ingabire: The prosecutor’s evidence was fake

Rwanda: Violence and Political Oppression Escalating in Months before August Elections

Rights group says democracies ignore abuses


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