Political majority in the Netherlands in favor of cutting Dutch aid to Rwanda
Cutting Dutch aid clear signal to Rwanda
A growing majority of Dutch political parties is calling upon the Netherlands to cut its aid to Rwanda, several MP’s have confirmed to Radio Netherlands. VVD, the biggest party in the Dutch lower House and a member of the ruling coalition, wants cut back on the amount of money that flows directly into the Rwandan national budget. Other parties want to continue the freeze on this direct budget support that has been in place since 2008.
By Sophie van Leeuwen and Ruben Koops
The damning UN report on Rwandan activity in east Congo and the arrest of Victoire Ingabire are examples of how Rwanda is suffering from a bad news cycle with no end in sight. Meanwhile the Dutch parliament is preparing for a final round of budget talks and representatives are doing the math. A political majority appears to be in favour of cutting back on Rwandan development aid and giving president Kagame’s government a strong warning at the same time.
Klaas Dijkhoff, MP for VVD and spokesperson on development aid for his party, considers the current political situation in Rwanda as worrisome. “I can’t support the things that are happening in Rwanda right now. We support the development of a professional justice system in Rwanda, but at the same time opposition leader Victoire Ingabire is locked up!”
According to Dijkhoff, Ingabire is not receiving a fair trial in Rwanda. “They put her in jail, placed her under house arrest, released her and then locked her up again without any substantial evidence! When you ask me, it looks like a political trial.”
Joël Voordewind, who is an MP for the Christian Union uses even stronger language. “Right now, we support the construction of jails by directly funding the Rwandan justice department.” Voordewind says: “As we speak those jails are being used to lock up political prisoners, and I don’t want us to be responsible for these policies.” Voordewind calls upon the minister of foreign affairs to end the direct government support the Netherlands is giving to Rwanda, a proposition that is likely to gain broad support during the foreign ministry budget negotiations.
There has been more criticism regarding the Dutch aid to Rwanda. The Netherlands is an important donor country to Rwanda with a proposed aid budget of 44 million euros for 2011. The part that flows directly to the Rwandan government has been frozen since 2008, because of the alleged Rwandan involvement in violence in east Congo.
Kathleen Ferrier, an MP for the Christian-democratic People’s Party, was responsible for suspending the direct budget aid to Rwanda in 2008. “I don’t see any immediate reason to resume our funding to the Rwandan budget”, Ferrier says. “I still have loads of questions, but I am willing to be convinced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
However, the Rwandese senator Aloysia Inyumba who is visiting the Netherlands calls the criticism and the possible cancellation of direct budget support “hysterical” and “very unfair.”
Immaculee Uwanyiligira, the Rwandan ambassador to the Netherlands is worried about the tilting view amongst Dutch officials. “When Rwanda needed a friend after the ’94 genocide, the Netherlands was there for us”, she explains during a press briefing at the embassy in The Hague. “If the Netherlands had to redraw its budget support because of belt tightening, we’d understand. But we hope that it doesn’t happen because of Victoire Ingabire, because that is a non-issue.”
Labour MP Sjoera Dikkers is concerned about the outcome of the budget negotiations. “I think cancelling aid is a tough decision, because President Kagame is still the man who got Rwanda back on its feet after the genocide.” According to Dikkers, ethnic Hutu’s provide most of the criticism on the current situation in Rwanda. “It’s the Hutu agenda that I receive most pressure from, and I find it hard to just agree with that” says Dikkers.
Tuesday the Dutch House committee on Foreign Affairs will meet with a Rwandan delegation, the ambassador and Senator Inyumba. A final decision on Rwandan support will be made during the foreign affairs budget hearings in mid-December.