Rwanda’s backer UK complicit in bankrolling Congo conflict
by Dr Alexander Betts.
As the Guardian reported last week, a 600-page report by the UN high commissioner for human rights was leaked, documenting the role of Rwanda in possible genocide in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the late 1990s (Leaked UN report accuses Rwanda of possible genocide in Congo, 27 August). This has seismic implications for British foreign and development policy towards Rwanda, which the present government needs to take extremely seriously.
Since the 1990s the Paul Kagame regime has represented itself as the progressive and modernising “Singapore of Africa”, courting international support and legitimacy in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Yet, alongside the suppression of human rights domestically, it has continued to play a direct and indirect military role in North Kivu, both in pursuit of Hutus who fled Rwanda in 1994 and natural resources that have bankrolled Rwanda’s “economic miracle”.
All the while, the British government has continued to unquestioningly back Kagame, being Rwanda’s largest source of overseas development aid. It has failed to recognise the complicity of Britain in effectively bankrolling a conflict in the Congo that has lead to millions of deaths.
The argument is simple:
1) More people have died in the conflict in the eastern Congo than in any war since the second world war;
2) The UN report provides evidence that Rwanda and Paul Kagame are directly and inextricably implicated, not only in fuelling that conflict, but in possibly carrying out the most serious crime in international human rights and humanitarian law – genocide;
3) The UK – its taxpayers and voters – are Kagame and Rwanda’s biggest international supporters, largely unconditionally, and David Cameron and his colleagues continue to take annual Conservative party summer holidays to promote Rwanda’s international reputation.
Dr Alexander Betts
University of Oxford