4 December 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Foreign Interests Ruin Chances for Peace in DRC

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN
Weapons retrieved from rebels by the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo being destroyed.(file photo).

Government officials and legislators Tuesday blamed foreign interests for the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

MPs and ministers Louise Mushikiwabo of foreign affairs, James Kabarebe of Defence and John Rwangombwa of Finance held a consultative session in parliament on the latest DRC crisis, the "false" accusations linking Rwanda to the M23 rebellion, and the impact of the subsequent aid freeze to the country.

Mushikiwabo said that those scrambling for business gains in DRC prefer acrimonious relations between Rwanda and her western neighbour.

"Those who continue to connect the problem of the M23 group with Rwanda are many," she said, citing European countries, the controversial UN Group of Experts on DRC and Human Rights Watch.

Minister Rwangombwa said that recent decisions by some donors, especially the UK, to suspend aid to Rwanda raise a fundamental question on the rationale for the aid in the first place.

These unilateral decisions are contrary to the Paris Declaration and the bilateral partnership agreements between Rwanda and donors with regard to the funds channelled through the general budget, he said.

"What we have reiterated with different people is that halting aid to Rwanda cannot be a solution to the problem in the DRC. Another issue that I think we should examine is that this issue is probably beyond the Congo problem."

Rwangombwa told MPs that a remaining Rwf155 billion that might come or might not, from all other donors, "is no cause for alarm at all."

The country's budget for this year is Rwf1, 385 billion. According to the minister, the amount that has been delayed is Rwf155 billion, which reflects about 12 per cent of total budget.

"A shortfall of 12 per cent of our budget would really not hamper government development programmes in such a big way," he said, dismissing as false speculation that government would cut public service salaries or even lay off workers in the wake of frozen aid.

"This is not going to happen," he said.

The budget for salaries in the 2012/13 budget amount to Rwf204 billion.

"Domestic funding is Rwf645 billion. This is three times the money we spend on salaries," the minister noted.

But the aid cuts mean the country will not grow by 7.4 per cent, this year, as previously projected; instead it will grow by 6 per cent.

"This only means that growth will slow a bit because public expenditure has a significant impact on economic growth. This requires us to use our money more efficiently," Rwangombwa added.

The minister also warned against speculation in the foreign exchange market.

He said: "We have enough time to prepare mitigating factors but what is now very important is that we all understand this issue very well. Rwandans need to understand that there is no cause for alarm."

Kabarebe said recent attacks by the Congo-based FDLR militia on Rwanda were intended to provoke Rwanda into pursuing them into the Congo so that the country could be accused of invading its neighbour.

"We have no intentions to pursue them beyond our borders, but we are prepared enough to deal with them on our territory," the Defence minister said.

FDLR, composed of remnants of the army and militia responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, attacked Rwanda twice last week and killed two civilians before crossing back to the Congo, where they have been holed for 18 years.

MP Constance Mukayuhi, the Chairperson of the Chamber of Deputies' standing committee on Budget and National Patrimony, said efforts must be made to unravel "the international conspiracy" against Rwanda.

Speaker Rose Mukantabana urged the government to continue exercising restraint in the wake of renewed attacks from the Congo-based FDLR militias.

"We are all concerned that an organisation that we all belong to - the UN - continues to uphold and spread fabricated lies against Rwanda."

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