The New Times (Kigali)

19 June 2010

Rwanda: Environmental NGOs Disown Frank Habineza

Kigali — The Nile Basin Discourse Forum Rwanda (NBDF) and the Rwandan Environment Conservation Organisation (RECOR), have moved to distance themselves from the founder of the yet-to be registered Green Party of Rwanda, Frank Habineza and his activities.

This follows revelations that some Non Governmental Organisations had deviated from their original missions to venture into subversive and political activities.

Another NGO, Rwanda Forum on Water, Sanitation and Environment (RWASEF) which had also been linked to Habineza, also revealed that at the end of 2009, it had issued a disclaimer which was copied to several ministries and authorities in the country distancing itself from Habineza.

Last week The New Times reported how a number of NGOs risked the wrath of the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) following a report which exposed a number of sham organisations that hide behind humanitarian and environmental work to engage in illegal political activities.

The report names Habineza as one of the people behind briefcase NGO's that fleece donors out of their money under the pretext of engaging in environmental conservation but divert the money into subversive political work which is against the law.

According to the report, Habineza, oversees or influences five of the named organisations, but three of the NGOs have since distanced themselves from him and his political group.

NBDF heads have said that Habineza at one point worked with the forum as an employee, but resigned last year from his position as the National Coordinator.

RECOR and RWASEF on the other hand admit that Habineza was indeed at one time the president founding member of the two organisations, but they claimed to have distanced themselves from him ever since he ventured into politics.

According to Jean Baptiste Habiyaremye, the vice chairman of NBDF-Rwanda, when the organisation was formed, Habineza applied like any other person and he passed an interview and was appointed the national coordinator of the forum.

"In 2006, when the process to begin operations was completed, we advertised vacancies and Habineza applied and passed the interview in April. In May 2009 he tendered in his resignation but asked to be maintained as a senior technical advisor-a request that we turned down," said Habiyaremye

"NBDF also denied allegations that Habineza was behind its creation.

According to Habiyaremye, the forum was formed by Civil Society Organisations in the country to become a working platform on the issues of the Nile Basin, and that Habineza was not among the people who started the idea.

He said that all countries which share the Nile have this forum, whose aim is to involve the CSO's in the Nile negotiations and each country's forum operates independently.

The report had noted that NBDF-Rwanda had registered as a local NGO yet it had its headquarters in Entebbe, Uganda, but according to Habiyaremye, the Entebbe office is a coordination office which all countries agreed to set up to harmonise the activities of all Nile Basin forums but it is not the head office.

He added that the authors of the report could have been misinformed adding that the NGO is registered by MINALOC and is fully recognised as a partner by the Environment and Lands Ministry.

He added that the forum has conducted its duties in a transparent and accountable manner and that NBDF Rwanda has emerged as the best performing NBDF.

According to Chrysostome Sehene, the Executive Secretary of RECOR, Habineza resigned as president of the organisation in 2009 and was replaced by Jean Bosco Habyarimana, a lecturer at the National University of Rwanda.

"We don't engage in politics, we have evidence to show of our activities, and the accountability of the $24,000 we received from NBI is available. We submitted our report to MINALOC which were approved," Sehene said.

The president of RWASEF, Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, said that on December 17 last year, members of RWASEF wrote to Habineza disassociating themselves from him and dully replaced him at the top after he started engaging in political activities

"We would like to communicate to you that the decision to start a political party, taken by our former president, Mr. Frank Habineza, was of an individual nature and is not representative of the Rwanda NGOs Forum on Water, Sanitation and Environment. RWASEF is neither involved nor affiliated to this political movement."

"We are happy to mention that Mr. Habineza has since resigned and is not allowed to conduct any business for, or on behalf of RWASEF," reads the letter in part.

RWASEF is a civil society forum of over 23 non-governmental, non-political, and independent organizations working in Water, Sanitation and Environment.

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