The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Blair, Howard Buffet - Rwanda?s Aid Cut Unfair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Howard Graham Buffett, an American philanthropist, have condemned the manner in which development partners suspended aid to Rwanda based on the conclusions of a highly contentious UN experts report.

Last year, the UN Group of Experts on DRC first accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels in an addendum to an interim report to the UN Sanctions Committee on June 21, 2012, after which Rwanda presented its rebuttal to the UN Sanctions Committee.

Since then several development partners have suspended or cut their aid to Rwanda, following the release of the Group of Experts report.

In an article authored by Blair and Buffett, titled "Stand with Rwanda" they criticise the international aid cut to Rwanda as a wrong approach that does nothing to address the underlying issues driving conflict in the region.

The article appeared in Foreign Policy magazine.

"We believe this is the wrong approach. Slashing international support to Rwanda ignores the complexity of the problem within DRC's own borders and the history and circumstances that have led to current regional dynamics," Blair and Buffet wrote in the op-ed.

"Cutting aid does nothing to address the underlying issues driving conflict in the region, it only ensures that the Rwandan people will suffer-and risks further destabilising an already troubled region."

They say cutting aid to Rwanda also risks undoing one of Africa's great success stories.

In the last five years, Rwanda has lifted one million people out of poverty, created one million new jobs, and is poised to meet most of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

"It (Rwanda) has safe streets, functioning Internet and communications, and is building roads and schools at an astonishing rate -- all without the benefit of natural resource wealth or access to the sea. Much of this has been accomplished with the help of Western aid."

Blair and Buffet further state that Rwanda frequently cited by the World Bank as one of the most effective investors of aid in the world.

Last year, the Britain's Bilateral Aid Review acknowledged that aid to Rwanda "offers the best value for taxpayers' money in the world."

In their article, Blair and Buffet argued that the international community should continue to work with Rwanda while strengthening its support to the DRC particularly in the area of governance instead of cutting aid.

"At the same time, it should support proposals currently being agreed to through the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region and the current peace negotiations underway between M23 and the DRC government in Kampala," the duo wrote.

They call upon the international community to support the three regional governments-DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda in their efforts to reach a sustainable solution to the conflict.

"Such a solution will need to account for the enormous complexity of the situation in eastern Congo. First, there is the simple geographical challenge of securing a region separated from the capital, Kinshasa, by a dense jungle roughly the size of Western Europe. To guarantee security and rule of law in the eastern Kivu region will require a significant strengthening of the DRC state."

"The international community should instead focus its support on African-led solutions to security, ideally through an African Union-led security force similar to AMISOM in Somalia," they said.

They observed that as the international community take action and make policy around the DRC, it's important that these decisions are fully informed with a clear understanding of the context and the consequences they will have on millions of Congolese.

"We cannot afford to get this wrong or maintain the status quo. It is time to end conflict and suffering and promote peace and prosperity. This requires a new approach and a focus on addressing the fundamental failures in the region."

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