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Kagame Urges Rwandans to Lower their Expectations about Foreign Aid

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame says it is about time Rwandans think about coming up with their own solutions for resolving the country's problems instead of depending on foreign aid. President Kagame urged Rwandans to work hard to be self-reliant following a decision by the Netherlands to suspend aid to Rwanda. In a recent press release the Dutch government said it was suspending aid to Kigali after a widely contested UN report released last week alleged that Rwanda was complicit in providing support to rebels loyal to the Democratic Republic of Congo's renegade army general Laurent Nkunda. But President Kagame's government dismissed the accusation as unfounded.

Meanwhile, Sweden has also suspended its support of Rwanda's budget, citing the same UN report on the escalating Congo violence. Jean Bosco Gasasira is the editor of the Umuvugizi Independent Newspaper. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital Kigali that Rwandans are shocked over the suspension of aid to their country.

"What I can tell you is that this happened so shockingly, and so Rwandans didn't expect it at all. But during the president's press conference and during the national dialogue on Thursday, President Kagame called on Rwandans to stand on their own and work hard without any foreign aid. He told Rwandans that the situation they are in may worsen, but that Rwandans should learn to work to develop the country without foreign aid. He added that that they should not always expect foreign aid," Gasasira pointed out.

He said Rwanda's role in the escalation of violence in the DRC's restive North Kivu province may have played a part in the Dutch suspension of aid to Kigali.

"On the 15th of December, the Dutch government issued a press statement explaining why it suspended its support to Rwanda's budget. According to their minister of the Dutch development corporation in Rwanda, Rwanda had an upper hand in both financial and logistical support to the renegade army General Laurent Nkunda, and was giving him arms despite the United Nations embargo," he said.

Gasasira said Kigali sharply denies providing support for the Congolese rebel leader.

"President Paul Kagame on Thursday denied the accusation saying that neither his government nor himself has ever communicated with the renegade army general Nkunda. He also denies having any role to play in the ongoing clashes between the Congolese national army and the rebels. But President Kagame accused some European countries of being behind the conflict in the DRC, saying that some of them have been supporting the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and not doing anything to stop the conflict," Gasasira noted.

He said President Kagame is seeking advice from Rwandans about how to move the country forward after both Sweden and the Netherlands suspended aid.

"After the Netherlands and the Swedish governments' suspended aid to Rwanda's budget, President Kagame called Rwandans into the national dialogue which is taking place and would continue today. He called on all government leaders and people in the private sector to study to find ways of advising him as to how the government can be driven to move forward without foreign support and also come up with ways and means how Rwanda would continue developing without foreign aid," he said.

President Kagame accused the donors of using the controversial reports that are published for their convenience, adding that before they cut the aid, they first influence the reports to form a basis for their withdrawal of the aid. He gave an example of a similar report that said that officers in the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) were involved in raping and exchanging arms for minerals.

Kagame also condemned the international community for what he described as its complacency in dealing with the genocidal forces grouped under the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who he said freely move out of their countries to the DRC where they have bases.

A UN report of experts released findings last week that accused Rwanda of working with the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), which is led by General Nkunda.