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British aid to Rwanda “under review”

Kigali – The 46million pound annual British aid to Rwanda could be on the way to coming with strict conditions attached should an ongoing review of the package bare fruit – following massive pressure on the new UK government.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary was in Rwanda for the past two weeks working on a major humanitarian project of the Conservative Party parliamentary group. However, it looks like he was not in Rwanda for just charity.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said Mitchell met with several Rwandan officials including government and civil society.

“Andrew Mitchell has met the High Commission in Rwanda, NGOs and Human Rights Watch to discuss aid and other matters, including these crimes that we have been hearing about,” the spokesman told The Independent.

“It’s something he is taking a close personal interest in. We have got this review of bilateral aid, and we will report later in the year. Human rights will play a part.”

Rwanda Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo has also been in European and American capitals since the election period started in late July. Details emerging also suggest that despite her offensive against Rwanda critics, she has also come under scrutiny behind close doors of the capitals she has visited.

In London, where Mushikiwabo spend most of last and this week, she has had to assure the new generous British government that her government is not headed for a clump-down on political freedoms.

Critics including Human Right Watch, OXFAM and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) accuse Kigali of various repression crimes. Re-elected President Kagame and his government have fired back accusing these groups and foreign media of making up a crisis that is non-existent. Mushikiwabo calls this election hype.

Mushikiwabo confirmed to The Independent that British officials have raised their concerns. She said: “The UK Government wants to know what is going on and wants to be reassured that they will not happen again.” But she also said she expected British aid to continue, and to be “upscaled”.

Last year, the ex-British government committed the UK to providing £46m a year in aid to Rwanda, making Britain the biggest international donor to the Kagame government, almost half of whose budget comes from foreign aid. But that aid came with conditions that committed Rwanda to “poverty reduction and sound financial management; good governance and respect for human rights”.

However, critics say this condition is not sufficient enough, demanding that the UK uses this money purse to pressure Rwanda to change course.

British aid to Rwanda is currently “under review”, but officials privately admitted to the British newspaper that they are in a quandary, reluctant to penalise the poor – in a country where more than half the population lives on less than 25p a day – for alleged abuses by their rulers.

Rwanda’s government is recognised as generally free of financial corruption. The country featured prominently in PM David Cameron’s campaign to change the image of the Conservative Party when in opposition. Conservative Party volunteers have gone to Rwanda every summer as part of its social aid programme.

Though the UK government may be shouting behind closed doors, publicly, British officials have put on a brave face. The British High Commissioner in Kigali Nicholas Cannon told RNA late last year that his government was not into megaphone diplomacy in its dealing with Rwanda.

Tony Blair, another Rwanda cheerleader, visited the country in June as patron of a charity that promotes good governance in Africa.

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