13 November 2012

Rwanda: DFID Minister Defends British Aid to Rwanda

Britain's international development secretary Justine Greening said Tuesday that the decision on the future of aid to Rwanda will be taken based on many other benchmarks, and not only UN reports alleging Rwanda's backing for Congolese rebels.

Appearing before a parliamentary inquiry, Greening said "all options were on the table". She said the UK's support for Rwanda had been "very successful".

"We are confident that our money is getting to the right people in Rwanda, not as it often happens elsewhere...Rwanda has been successful at tackling very serious development issues," said the minister.

Several countries have cut back on their development support packages for Rwanda after leaked UN reports linked Rwanda's government to M23 rebels in eastern DRC. The UK did hold back on releasing its quarterly package, but then later did, prompting a barrage of criticism.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell appeared before the UK parliamentary committee last week and laid out a spirited defense of his decision. Mitchell said his government had set out three conditions for Rwanda over the DRC conflict, which had been significantly met.

"I am not going to disagree with Andrew Mitchell. I think it is very difficult for me to agree or disagree with him," said Greening.

"DRC-led solution" is preferable

Under grueling questioning, Justine Greening dismissed the leaked UN documents, saying that technically a UN report linking Rwanda to conflict in east DRC "doesn't exist" because no official report is out yet. She said several meetings are ongoing in the UN sanctions committee to ascertain the allegations against Rwanda.

Following the leaked documents, Rwanda submitted a rebuttal of each of the aspects supposedly raised by the UN experts. There is no indication as to when the final UN investigation will be released.

Greening said as a result of engagement from regional governments including Rwanda and Uganda, fighting had reduced in eastern DRC. However, the UK minister said that "ultimately a DRC-led solution" was the preferred options where by the Kinshasa government works out a political settlement with the rebels.

Asked whether the UK government will consult with other donor countries when determining future aid for Rwanda, the minister said Britain's decision would not be influenced by others.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, the chair of the international development committee which is conducting the inquiry announced they would decide next week whether to release the inquiry report before the government decides on the December tranche, or after.

Project Umubano "extremely worthwhile"

In comments extending full support to Rwanda's government, Sir Malcolm Bruce said it was doing a "fantastic job" on poverty. The committee asked minister Justine Greening to submit a "written note" detailing the successes of Rwanda's anti-poverty programs funded by British tax payers. The note will be added onto the final report.

"The committee has seen excellent poverty reduction programs and a remarkable land registration system," said Sir Malcolm Bruce, as he concluded the hearing.

"Rwanda does a good fantastic job with the money and I don't think anybody should dispute that."

The conservative party, UK's governing coalition partner headed by Prime Minister David Cameron has had a massive rural development program in Rwanda for more than five years, and has been looking at ways of expanding to other countries. The scheme is named "Project Umubano", which has built schools, brought English teachers and extended services to rural communities.

Mr Cameron himself was in Rwanda before becoming Prime Minister, and every year, dozens of conservative party lawmakers come to Rwanda during holidays to take part in the project.

Commenting about "Project Umubano", minister Greening told the committee today that she had been to Rwanda with the project in 2008 and found it "extremely worthwhile".

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