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While the world’s attention has been focused on Israel and Gaza, rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have captured a city inhabited by a million people. The scale of the victory stands in stark contrast to the amount of attention that it actually gets from the Western media. Part of the tragedy of the Congo War is how easily it has been ignored, and it’s a tragedy compounded by the lavish praise heaped by developed nations on one of its combatants – Rwanda. Never in history
has a state so deserved the adjective “rogue.”
The origins of the Congo War lie in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the Hutu government of Rwanda attempted to exterminate its Tutsi minority. The Tutsi leader Paul Kagame commanded an insurrection that took control of Rwanda and sparked an exodus of Hutu militants in to the eastern portion of what was then called Zaire. Rwandan policy thereafter became to try to assert control of those parts of Zaire that align its border, which just happen to be awash with minerals.
When the Zairian kleptocracy of Joseph Mobutu crumbled in 1997, Rwanda sponsored a revolution led by Laurent Kabila that created the modern day DRC. But Kabila proved a fickle and incompetent ally. Rwanda and Uganda sponsored a new rebellion in the east, while Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe came to the aid of their old Cold War comrade in the west. Kabila himself was assassinated in 2001. Although the war officially came to an end in 2003, fighting in the east has continued – kept alive in by countless army rebellions, including the M23 Movement that just captured Goma. Millions have died, many of them children. Rape has become an instrument of war. One study calculatedthat 1,152 women are raped every day in the DRC, equivalent to 48 every hour.
Rwanda and the DRC are a tale of two countries. The DRC is beset by corruption and constant threats of secession. Election results are commonly disputed; civil war never seems far off. By contrast, Rwanda seems to be a model of development. This Guardian report highlights the good things: “Life is orderly, pavements are clean and roads are free from the potholes that curse much of Africa … Primary school attendance has trebled, child mortality has halved and parliament has achieved the highest proportion of female members in the world.” Kagame’s praises are routinely sung by Anglosphere leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. In 2009, Rwanda was invited to join the Commonwealth. Its membership is an implied snub to the Francophone alliance – a detail that is no mere coincidence.
In France, you’ll find a different interpretation of Kagame. While he is undoubtedly the man who delivered Rwanda from a genocidal Hell, his leadership has evolved into a brilliantly marketed neo-authoritarianism. Some accuse him of using guilt about the West’s failure to defend his fellow Tutsis to discourage criticism of his own crimes. Journalists have been arrested and some killed. Kagame won the 2010 election with an implausibly high 93 per cent of the vote; three major opposition parties were excluded from the ballot. The Guardian picks up the story: “Two [of the opposition’s] leaders were jailed and still languish there today. The third, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party, was also arrested briefly then went into exile after his deputy, Andrew Kagwa, was found dead, nearly decapitated.”
Moreover, if the DRC is a failed state, then it’s partly because Rwanda is a rogue state. In June 2012, UN monitors directly accused Kagame of involvement in the DRC’s civil war (and for a sense of Rwanda’s proximity to the conflict, consider that Goma is effectively contiguous with the Rwandan town of Gisenyi). This is not a war in the traditional sense of violence pursued for political goals – it amounts to criminality on an unimaginable scale. Traders are subject to extortion, women are raped and property stolen. In April, rebels robbed the International Bank of Africa in Goma – twice. The first time, they walked off with $1 million. The second time, they could only recover $50,000 from the vault. The main reason why the M23 movement started was that the DRC’s government tried to bring criminal acts carried out by its soldiers under control – there are very few good guys in this war. But be in no doubt: M23 is a violent, barbaric organisation that exists only to exploit the very people it claims to be liberating. If his critics are right, it is being supported by the “excellent” Mr Kagame.
Central Africa might be a complex and distant region, but that’s not to stop the West making more discriminating moral choices about its engagement there. Rwanda’s membership of the Commonwealth was a big mistake. It is true that membership of the Commonwealth can help a government to work towards democracy, but that model ordinarily applies to former parts of the empire that effectively “inherited” their membership. In the case of Rwanda, a country that has no historic link to Britain, which is not truly democratic and which is accused of sabotaging a neighboring state was invited to join despite showing only the most superficial commitment to peace or liberalization. It was a bizarre choice informed more by political fashion than good sense. It needs to be revisited.
Dr Tim Stanley is a historian of the United States. His biography of Pat Buchanan is out now. His personal website is www.timothystanley.co.ukand you can follow him on Twitter @timothy_stanley.
Britain has frozen £16m of aid to Rwanda pending an investigation into its alleged role in fuelling a deadly regional conflict, the most significant blow yet to a country that has long been a darling of western donors.
The decision follows similar steps by the US and Netherlands to censure president Paul Kagame after a UN report accused Rwanda of arming rebels responsible for atrocities in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UK, the biggest bilateral donor to Rwanda, has previously been seen as less willing to criticise Kagame, championed by Tony Blair as a “visionary leader” despite concerns over internal repression. The UN’s findings appear to have persuaded London to halt its latest payment – the first reprimand of its kind since efforts to rebuild the tiny east African nation began following the 1994 genocide.
The Department for International Development (Dfid) said it had decided that the disbursement of £16m of UK aid, due this month, should be delayed. This was the first of two general budget support payments due in the financial year 2012-2013. The last such payment was made in December 2011.
A Dfid source said all Britain’s aid recipients must adhere to four strict “partnership principles”, including human rights and other international obligations, good governance, transparency, fighting corruption and domestic accountability.
“The Rwanda general budget support payment has been delayed while we consider whether these expectations are still being met,” the source added, without giving details of the timespan involved.
In the financial year 2012-2013, UK general budget support for Rwanda is £37m, Dfid added. Total budget support to Rwanda is £50.5m, while total UK aid to the country is £75m.
The UN group of experts report accused Rwandan officials of violating a UN arms embargo by supplying weapons, ammunition and fighters to a group called M23, responsible for the worst outbreak of fighting in eastern Congo for several years. Clashes between the Congolese army and M23 have forced thousands to flee their homes this week, adding to some 260,000 people already displaced since April.
On Thursday the Netherlands suspended €5m (£3.92m) in aid to Rwanda. A spokeswoman for the Dutch foreign ministry said the suspended aid was to have been used for improving Rwanda’s judicial system and that support to non-governmental organisations would continue.
The Dutch government would discuss future aid to Rwanda with other EU governments and resumption would require an immediate end to Rwandan backing for rebels in Congo, she added.
Last weekend the United States announced a $200,000 (£127,198) cut in military aid to show it was “deeply concerned about the evidence” . This is also seen as a significant shift in policy given that Washington has stood by Rwanda despite its long history of involvement in wars in Congo since the genocide.
The widening international stand was applauded by Human Rights Watch. Carina Tertsakian, its senior researcher on Rwanda, said: “We welcome the fact that first the US then the Netherlands have sent a clear message to the Rwandan government that they are no longer prepared to provide unconditional support while Rwanda stokes violent conflict in neighbouring Congo.
“We hope this signals a broader shift in international policy and that Rwanda’s friends and allies will begin insisting on respect for human rights, inside Rwanda as well as in Congo.”
She added: “The recent report that Dfid is delaying disbursement of some of its budget support could also be very significant in light of the fact that the UK is the largest bilateral donor to Rwanda and has been reluctant to take a strong public stand on Rwanda’s human rights record.”
Rwanda, which depends on foreign aid for more than a third of its budget, has repeatedly denied the UN’s findings. Its foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, expressed regret at “hasty decisions based on flimsy evidence” made by donor partners.
“We have just concluded discussions with the [UN] group of experts and comprehensively rebutted every one of the allegations, with conclusive documentary evidence,” she said.
“Once we share this with development partners, we believe this will provide them the reassurance they seek in light of an orchestrated media and political campaign to blame Rwanda for this crisis.”
Speaking to the Guardian this week,, the head of the US war crimes office warned Kagame and other Rwandan leaders that they could face prosecution at the international criminal court (ICC) for “aiding and abetting” crimes against humanity in a neighbouring country.
But Mushikiwabo shrugged off the report. “Let’s just take the wildest guess and say that the US government actually does believe that,” she told Reuters. “They wouldn’t announce it through a journalist. That’s not how the US government functions.
“Not only is there no truth to that, but it also shows how people are just going wild with this whole Congo thing.”
The M23 rebellion takes its name from a 2009 peace accord the rebels say was violated by the Congolese government. It has been swelled by hundreds of defectors from the Congolese army who walked into the bush in support of fugitive Congolese general Bosco Ntaganda, dubbed “The Terminator” and wanted by the ICC on war crimes charges.
• This article was amended on 28 July 2012. A mistake in the editing process resulted in Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan foreign minister, being referred to as “he” instead of “she”.
The Government is right to increase aid to fragile and conflict-affected states, such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but it must be prepared suspend or even cancel a programme if a Government flouts agreements or refuses to engage in efforts to increase transparency and accountability, MPs on the International Development Committee argue in a new report.
- Report: Working effectively in fragile & conflict-affected states: DRC & Rwanda
- Inquiry: Working effectively in fragile & conflict-affected states: DRC & Rwanda
- International Development Committee
The Department for International Development (DFID) is increasing its focus on fragile states and will spend 30% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) – approximately £3,414 million – in these states by 2015.
DFID is investing £790 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2010-15. There is a long history of mineral wealth being used to fund and perpetuate conflict and criminality in the DRC. The Government of DRC has taken some measures to regulate the industry; however, it is clear that these remain insufficient. The committee calls on DFID to set out clearly for the Government of the DRC what the UK expects in terms of transparency and accountability in the mineral sector and withdraw assistance if these expectations are not met.
The Government of DRC has continued to permit secret sales of assets and First Quantum has as yet had no redress. The risks of not properly managing this sector are that development gains made elsewhere will be forgone. DFID must set out clearly for the Government of the DRC what it expects in terms of transparency and accountability in the mineral sector and withdraw assistance if these expectations are not met. Kabila is putting the aid relationship at risk by signing secret mining deals and with allegations of election fraud.
Many of the fragile countries where DFID is increasing its funding achieved low scores on the Transparency International Perception of Corruption Index. In countries where fraud and corruption are rife, it is not convincing to argue that DFID’s programmes are unaffected.
Comments from the Chair
Chair of the committee, the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce, said:
“There are obvious benefits of providing aid to fragile states. It is, after all, cheaper to prevent conflicts, than to deal with wars and their aftermath.
Nevertheless, there are considerable risks in spending aid money in conflict scarred states and the Government must be frank and open about this if it wants to convince the public that its approach is the right one, both morally and politically.
In countries where fraud and corruption are rife , DFID will not always be able to mitigate against this adequately – especially where it sub-contracts delivery of its programmes to third parties.
This means it may not be able to guarantee value for money for every pound it spends.”
DFID already allocates a significant part of its assistance to improving governance in fragile and conflict-affected states. However, the reports sets out a number of recommendations for improvement. The MPs urge DFID to set out specific governance conditions under which it will provide direct budget support to fragile states, and any under which it will be withdrawn and apply these consistently. They also recommend that DFID invest more in community-led local initiatives which respond to community priorities and give communities more confidence to hold their governments to account.
Case study: Rwanda
Rwanda is heavily dependent on aid which provides 45% of government expenditure. The UK will provide £90 million to Rwanda in 2014-15. While Rwanda has made progress in reducing poverty, concerns have been expressed about its human rights record and the lack of political pluralism.
The committee urges the UK Government to use its position as the largest bilateral donor to Rwanda to insist on improvements to the country’s governance. The report recommends that DFID set out clear benchmarks for the period up to 2015 requiring improvements in areas such as freedom of speech and association. For example, ensuring human rights organisations can operate without censure and improving freedom of the press.
Malcolm Bruce MP added:
“Ministers should use the UK’s leverage as a major donor to encourage the Rwandan Government to increase political freedoms.”
Case study: the Democratic Republic of Congo
The committee expressed concerns about high levels of violence against women and girls in the DRC. It says that DFID should give greater priority to tackling this in its programme and include the reduction of violence against women in its results framework for the DRC.
Mr Bruce said:
“DFID rightly focuses on women and girls in its programmes. In the DRC it should set up stand alone programmes for violence against women and girls including care for survivors and programmes promoting behavioural change. We want to see improved outcomes reflected in DFID’s results.”
The UN peacekeeping force in the East, MONUSCO, has faced formidable challenges since it began operations in 1999. However the committee asks whether the mandate for the force is still appropriate. In particular it recommends a more mobile and agile force which can quickly respond to incidents and take a more proactive approach to apprehending perpetrators of violence.
Rwandan president’s $20,000-a-night hotel
NEW YORK — The president of Rwanda, one of the world’s poorest countries, faced criticism on Thursday night after he was reported to be staying in a $20,000-a-night hotel room in New York.
Paul Kagame, whose country receives more than millions of dollars in foreign aid, is said to have been based in the Mandarin Oriental’s presidential suite while attending the UN General Assembly. A receptionist at the hotel said on Thursday that the standard nightly rate for the suite, including taxes and charges, totalled $20,664.50.
The average Rwandan would need to work for 18 years just to be able to afford one night in the “luxurious two-bedroom suite”, which boasts “panoramic views of Central Park and the city skyline”.
According to the hotel, it “is the perfect retreat with large living and dining area and separate wood panelled study”.
Spokesmen for Mr Kagame and the hotel declined to confirm he was staying there. Sixbert Musangamfura, a spokesman for the United Democratic Forces (UDF), the Rwandan opposition coalition, told The Daily Telegraph: “It is a scandal. Rwanda is not a country that can afford to pay this much for hotels. People who have to survive on 40 cents a day will be disgusted.”
The president typically travels with dozens of bodyguards and aides, who would also have been housed in hotel rooms with access to the UN headquarters. Most of New York’s classiest hotel suites were packed with world leaders this week. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is thought to have been housed in a $2,800-a-night room at the UN Millennium hotel.
But Mr Kagame’s reported room rate was extraordinarily high even for the busiest week of the year in Manhattan.
David Cameron stayed at the Barclay Intercontinental in a room with an adjoining office. Aides said the price was “certainly not in the territory” of Mr Kagame’s, but declined to give a figure.
Britain is Rwanda’s biggest direct aid donor. Labour party figures last month called for aid to be withdrawn amid reports that exiles in Britain had received death threats. The Rwandan High Commissioner in London dismissed the allegations as “bogus”.
© Copyright (c) The Daily Telegraph
The BBC has learned at least three exiled Rwandans have been told their lives are at risk from the Rwandan government.
The UK is Rwanda’s biggest direct aid donor, giving £83m a year.
The Rwandan High Commissioner in London has dismissed the allegations as “bogus”.
Earlier this year two Rwandans living in London received warnings from the Metropolitan Police that the Rwandan government posed an imminent threat to their lives.
Jonathan Musonera is a founding member of the Rwanda National Congress, an organisation launched last year in opposition to President Kagame’s government, which is accused of carrying out human rights abuses, and suppressing political freedom.
The BBC has now identified a third UK resident who has also been notified of a similar threat. This third man, Noble Marara, says he is aware of two others who have also been warned of danger, suggesting at least five Rwandans may be at risk.
Mr Marara believes he is in danger because he gave evidence to a French judicial enquiry that was detrimental to Mr Kagame.
Since arriving in the UK in 2005, Mr Marara has moved house more than seven times, and changed his car three times. He will not eat in restaurants for fear of being poisoned.
“I stay away from the Rwandese community,” he says. “I may speak to them, but not meet them or show my address, and I cook for myself because I cannot trust anybody – that’s for sure.
“Many people have been poisoned.”
Since receiving the warning that his life is in danger, Jonathan Musonera has doubled the locks on his door, changed his daily routine, and forbidden his wife and daughter to leave the house unaccompanied.
“I was very scared. The Rwandan government, they can use anything, they can use anyone.”
The British government is a strong supporter of Rwanda, and one of its biggest direct aid donors – giving the country £83m a year.
Network of spiesBut former Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells, who was head of the Intelligence and Security Committee until last year, says President Kagame is becoming increasingly autocratic.
He argues these death threats are the latest in a series of events that raise a question mark over Britain’s continued support: “If there’s any hint at all that these people are threatening people whether they’re British citizens or residents, then we must say to them ‘I’m sorry this aid is going to be cut off immediately’, and that’s a threat they certainly could not afford to ignore.”
Paul Rusesabagina of Hotel Rwanda fame was honoured for sheltering more than 1,000 Rwandans during the genocide.
Now living in exile, he has become one of President Kagame’s most high-profile critics. While he welcomes the humanitarian aid provided by the international community, he argues that Britain is wrong to give the Rwandan government direct financial support:
“My message to the British people, the British administration would be to stop what they call direct aid, this money injected into nation’s budgets.
“Since the UK is among the few nations which are giving cash to today’s Rwandan government, I would advise [them] to stop”.
The BBC understands that British ministers are taking the death threats extremely seriously and they called in the Rwandan High Commissioner in London, Ernest Rwamucyo, to give an explanation.
The Foreign Office refused to comment on the outcome of those discussions, but made it clear that the UK does not tolerate such activity.
However, Mr Rwamucyo told the BBC: “We were really quite shocked and found the Metropolitan Police warnings are bogus, baseless and absolutely untrue.”
“There’s no way Rwanda would ever think of doing such a thing, and of all places, in the UK. We have such a strong relationship, one of confidence and trust, with the UK. We don’t have any reason whatsoever to even think of doing such a thing.”
Despite those denials, many of those File on 4 spoke to believe there is a network of spies at the heart of the Rwandan refugee community in Britain, and claim it includes students, asylum seekers and former Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers.
Mr Mugenzi used to work for a refugee organisation in London and says he has seen the documents of individuals who claim to be fleeing the Rwandan government but then become fervent supporters.
‘Candid relationship’He is convinced the Rwandan government furnishes its spies with documents to help prove the case for asylum in the UK.
Rwandan High Commissioner Ernest Rwamucyo dismisses these allegations as pure nonsense: “There’s no basis for that. Whoever is making those allegations should bring the evidence.”
The International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell declined to speak to File on 4.
In a statement, the Department for International Development stressed the strength of Britain’s commitment to Rwanda, pointing out that the aid given will help many of the country’s poorest people.
The statement adds: “The UK-Rwanda relationship is a candid one and we raise issues where we have concerns on a regular basis and at senior levels.
“We take every opportunity to raise with the Rwandan government our concerns over political space, media freedom and extra-judicial killings.
“We continue to urge the government of Rwanda to address these issues and to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14217337
By Ian Birrell
He told them he would give them food and then send them home.
But he now admits he was lying and says: ‘We took them instead into the forest and killed them with a small hatchet.’
Kamanzi despatched scores with a blow to the back of the skull. As the bloodbath went on, his soldiers’ methods became cruder. ‘We could kill more than 100 a day,’ he said.
‘We used ropes – it was the fastest way and we didn’t spill blood. Two of us would place a guy on the ground, wrap a rope around his neck once, then pull hard.
The reason this young commander in an elite unit and father of two young children carried out these horrific massacres of Congolese is simple.
In a chilling refrain, so familiar from the darkest deeds in history, he says: ‘We were ordered to do it.’
Kamanzi’s story should be heard by all Western apologists for the suspected architect of these atrocities, Rwanda’s brutal autocratic ruler, President Kagame.
This includes Britain’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell.
For while world leaders and the aid lobby fawn over Kagame the reality of his repressive regime is becoming clearer by the day.
Papy Kamanzi’s death squad was operating in the Congolese jungle, where it was guilty of acts of genocide.
His story is told in Dancing In The Glory Of Monsters, a brilliant new book about the collapse of the Congo by an American author who has spent ten years in the country.
A United Nations investigation found Kagame’s army and its allies killed tens of thousands of innocent refugees.
This is a terrible indictment of the Rwandan president who came to power by ending his own country’s bloody civil war in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis.
Following the slaughter of a staggering one million mainly Tutsi civilians in less than a year, Kagame led the army which overthrew the Hutu militias responsible for the genocide and seized power.
At the time he was seen as a liberator. Ever since, he has skilfully exploited international sympathy for Rwanda’s tragic recent history to stifle dissent at home and win friends, influence and money abroad.
As huge amounts of foreign aid poured in, he has overseen impressive economic growth, promoted the interests of women and eradicated corruption.
This is the Rwanda that so beguiles visiting Western politicians and aid agencies – the lush land of a thousand hills, of gourmet coffee, gorilla tourism and hi-tech ambitions.
They believe this nation’s ‘success story’ could be the answer the swelling chorus of critics who question what has been achieved for all the billions of aid money.
But this desperate desire for good news out of Africa has ensured that for too long, too many people who should know better have ignored grotesque human rights abuses. The whiff of hypocrisy hangs heavy in the air.
First and foremost on the charge sheet is Rwanda’s long involvement in neighbouring Congo. It has twice invaded, fought proxy wars with brutal militias and profited from the proceeds of stolen minerals.
Mass rape was commonplace. The gruesome lexicon now includes words such as ‘re-rape’ – for women who have been repeatedly raped – and ‘auto-cannibalism’ – where victims are forced to eat their own flesh.
President Kagame should no longer be able to avoid blame despite protestations that his regime was merely tracking down remnants of mass-murdering Hutu militias.
Kagame has created what one observer calls ‘a well-managed ethnic, social and economic dictatorship’. People speak of a climate of fear, where the wrong words can lead to incarceration – or worse.
Last year’s election was a sham, with the regime jailing political rivals and closing newspapers, using institutions shamefully funded by British aid to win with 93 per cent of the vote.
One opponent was beheaded shortly before the election.
As for the Tories, they invited Kagame to address their party conference four years ago after Mr Mitchell had taken a group of party volunteers to Rwanda.
Now, as international development minister, he remains among the regime’s most fervent supporters.
What makes Mr Mitchell’s visit so shocking is that it comes just weeks after Scotland Yard warned two Rwandan dissidents living in Britain that their lives were in danger from hit squads sent by Kagame’s government.
One of those targets is Rene Mugenzi, a Liberal Democrat activist. He says the Rwandan government ‘wants to kill’ him and he feels betrayed because the British government both refuses to condemn the threat to his life and continues to send aid.
‘Now Mr Mitchell goes out there as if nothing has happened,’ he says.
Meanwhile, there have been persistent reports of murders and assassination attempts of people who have fallen out with Kagame.
Paul Rusesabagina, a heroic Rwandan hotel manager who saved 1,268 people amid the hell of genocide, is one of those who has been declared ‘an enemy of the state’.
He says: ‘I’ll continue to speak out about the need for genuine reconciliation and real peace in our country.’
Brave words that shame Andrew Mitchell as he is the guest of a man accused of sending death squads to kill British citizens.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2019187/Monster-genocide-rape-squads.html