News / Europe

Britain Criticized For Rwanda Aid Donation

Henry Ridgwell
Human rights groups have criticized Britain for handing the Rwandan government $26 million in aid, after most international donors had frozen payments because of allegations that Rwanda was supporting a rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The British donation has been caught up in a political scandal in London. 
Rebels from the March 23 Movement, known as the M23, in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Tutsi militia continues to fight DRC government troops - and staged a deadly attack on United Nations peacekeepers in July.
A United Nations report leaked earlier this month concluded that the Tutsi-led Rwandan government was supporting the M23 rebellion - and even sending its own soldiers to help.  The report states that 
Rwanda’s defense minister is the group's effective commander.
Carina Tertsakian is from the African division of Human Rights Watch.
“We’ve documented many serious abuses by the M23 against the civilian population in the areas they control.  These include deliberate killings of civilians, summary executions - particularly of people who have tried to escape.  There have also been numerous cases of rape of women and even young girls, as young as eight," she said. 
Rwanda and the M23 rebels both deny the militia is supported by Kigali.
But the accusations of involvement led many donors to suspend aid donations to Rwanda earlier this year. 
Then in early September, Britain decided to unfreeze $26 million of its aid.
“The reason it had been suspended was because of Rwandan support to the M23.  And in the intervening period that support had continued throughout August and early September . So it’s very difficult to understand the rationale for this resumption of aid," said Tertsakian. 
The then-British secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell, moved to another government office the day after signing off the aid.  He has since been forced to resign from the government after swearing at a policeman.
The British parliament will now investigate the Rwanda donation.  Ivan Lewis is the opposition shadow secretary of state for international development.
“One has to reach the conclusion that the close friendships and links that exist between [British Prime Minister] David Cameron, Andrew Mitchell, the (ruling) Conservative party and the government of Rwanda, played a significant part in this decision," he said. 
In written evidence to parliament at the time, Andrew Mitchell said ”Rwanda has engaged constructively with the peace process.”
No one was available to interview from the Department of International Development, but they did give this statement:
"The International Development Secretary will be looking extremely closely at the issue of budget support to Rwanda before our next decision in December."
“Britain should not stand apart and make unilateral decisions from the international community.  We should send a united strong message to the government of Rwanda: we are serious, no more interference in DRC, otherwise there will be consequences," said opposition lawmaker Ivan Lewis. 
Britain is Rwanda’s biggest bilateral donor, allocating $130 million this year.  Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron praised Rwanda as proof that the ‘cycle of poverty’ can be broken. 

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