Saturday, October 20, 2012

UK decision to unfreeze aid to Rwanda could be reversed

Kigali: Controversy surrounding the UK’s decision to unfreeze millions in aid to Rwanda continued this week after Justine Greening, who recently replaced Andrew Mitchell as the UK’s International Development Secretary, said she would take a ‘critical look’ at her predecessor’s decision.
Mitchell’s move to unfreeze aid to Rwanda on his final day on the job has prompted an outcry and sparked a row between the UK’s Foreign Office and other donor countries, which have been pressing Britain to take a tough stance against the administration in Kigali.

David Cameron appointment Mitchell as his party’s chief whip in a cabinet reshuffle on Sept. 4. 
Rwanda has already received half of the money released by Mitchell. The remaining £8million (Rwf. 8 billion) is due to be paid in December.

Greening is mulling over the future of the entire £37 million (Rwf. 37 billion) in general budget support the UK gives to Rwanda. A £21 million payment due at the end of this year could be axed.

In another damning report critical of the Rwandan government, Amnesty International published a damaging report this week on Rwanda’s human rights record. The report said Rwandan security forces had ‘illegally held scores of civilians in military detention without charge or trial amid credible claims of torture.’

The United Nations has also accused the country of supporting a rebel group in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has displaced over 250,000 people. 

The Rwandan government has repeatedly denied any support to the M23 rebels in the eastern DR Congo and has provided a strong rebuttal disapproving the allegations.

The Daily Mail reports that concerns have been raised about Mitchell’s friendship with Kagame, who played a role in helping to ‘detoxify’ the Tory party’s uncaring image. 

According to the Daily Mail, Kigame helped Mitchell establish a project for Tory volunteers in Rwanda. Mitchell is thought to have visited the country at least eight times in six years.

Since Greening has taken over the portfolio she has pledged a ‘new approach’ on the wider aid programme, including starting talks with the Indian government on winding down its £280million a year in aid. 

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Monday, she pledged to take a tougher approach to aid spending, with a greater focus on helping the world’s poorest.

‘I’m going to take a new approach to ensure that every pound we spend has the biggest possible impact,’ she was quoted saying. 

‘And yes, that will mean stopping some programmes where I don’t think they are working.’ 
Greening insisted there would be no retreat on the Prime Minister’s pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of Britain’s income on aid, which will see the aid budget rise from £8billion to £12billion.


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