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Rwanda-UK: Mitchell in eight trips to Rwanda before £16m aid handout: Friendship with leader Kagame of hardline regime revealed

Mitchell in eight trips to Rwanda before £16m aid handout: Friendship with leader of hardline regime revealed

  • Mr Mitchell criticised for lifting freeze on £16million of British aid to President Kagame’s regime on final day as International Development Secretary
  • Mr Mitchell is thought to have visited Rwanda at least eight times in six years


Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame and his friend UK Minister Andrew Mitchell

All smiles: Paul Kagame and Andrew Mitchell shake hands in 2009

The depth of the relationship between Andrew Mitchell and Rwanda’s hardline leader was revealed yesterday as it emerged the senior Tory has visited the African state eight times in the past six years.

Mr Mitchell has been criticised by human rights groups for lifting a freeze on £16million of British aid to President Paul Kagame’s regime on his final day as International Development Secretary last month.

Documents released by the Department for International Development suggest Mr Mitchell  had promised Kagame he would continue pumping in aid money despite concerns about the regime’s dire human rights record.

Most of the visits related to Project Umabano, the voluntary project set up by Mr Mitchell and David Cameron in 2007 to help ‘detoxify’ their party’s uncaring image

Mr Mitchell – now the Tory Chief Whip and recently in the spotlight over his alleged ‘plebs’ rant at No 10 police – is thought to have visited Rwanda at least eight times in six years, meeting Kagame and his ministers on several occasions.

Most of the visits related to Project Umubano, the voluntary project set up by Mr Mitchell and David Cameron in 2007 to help ‘detoxify’ their party’s uncaring image.

The revelations will focus fresh attention on the unlikely friendship between Mr Mitchell and Kagame, whose regime is accused of repression against political opponents at home and arming a murderous rebellion in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Internal DFID documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that in a phone call in February 2011 the men discussed Mr Mitchell’s decision to increase aid to Rwanda from £60million a year to £90million, much of it poured into the Kagame regime’s coffers as ‘budget support’.

A memo recorded: ‘Secretary of State said this reflected the UK’s long-term support to Rwanda (including from the PM, who had visited as leader of the Opposition in 2006).President Kagame was very grateful.’

Two months earlier Mr Mitchell had flown to Rwanda to see Kagame for a ‘90-minute tete-a-tete followed by lunch’ in which they had ‘friendly but robust’ exchanges.

That meeting followed Kagame’s controversial re-election with 93 per cent of the vote.

Mr Mitchell reluctantly froze the £16million aid payment to Rwanda after a devastating UN report on the regime’s support for the bloody rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other major donors, including the US and Germany, have continued their aid bans.

But, in his final act as International Development Secretary, Mr Mitchell released the money.

A senior Foreign Office source called the decision a ‘mistake’.


October 9, 2012   No Comments

Rwanda-UK: Andrew Mitchell’s last minute secret scandal to back Kagame’s regime

Andrew Mitchell’s secret scandal

By Ian Dunt.

Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame and his friend UK Minister Andrew Mitchell

Oct. 8, 2012 – On September 4th, during his last day as international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell did something disgraceful. It was fifteen days before his expletive-filled outburst outside Downing Street, when he repeatedly called policemen “f***ing plebs” and became embroiled in a row which would poison his tenure as Tory chief whip before it even started. But the decision Mitchell made on September 4th was far, far worse.

It would stain Whitehall’s reputation for international development and show the UK was willing to funnel taxpayer funds to human rights abusers in Africa, if they were fortunate enough to enjoy pleasant personal relationships with a British secretary of state.

Against the advice of his civil servants and the Foreign Office, Mitchell used his last act as international development secretary to reverse a £16 million cut to the Rwandan aid budget. Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s regime is accused by human rights groups of imprisoning journalists, allowing the torture and disappearance of undesirables, fuelling civil war in central Africa and plotting assassinations on British soil. But fortunately for Kagame, he also gets on well with Mitchell. It is not something he struggles with. Western leaders are usually very impressed by his professional manner and free-trade ideology.

In July, with a minimum of fuss during the Olympic Opening Ceremony, the UK cut its aid budget to Rwanda. Just 53 days later, Mitchell reversed it. Then he closed the door of the Department of International Development behind him for the last time.

Today, an Amnesty International report into Rwandashows what happens in the regime Mitchell helps to prop up. After two years of research, the human rights group found  criminal suspects were subject to electric shocks, severe beatings and sensory deprivation.

“I was taken to another office,” one man told report’s authors. “Everyone was there when they put this electric thing on my back. When I got to the point of dying, I told them to bring me a piece of paper [to sign], but they continued to torture me.”

Another said: “There are other rooms where they put you and you lose your memory. They ask you a question and when you find yourself again they ask you a question. When you return to normal, they sting you. The electric thing they use is like a pen and they put it under your arms. It is like charcoal. When they sting you, all your body is electrolyzed and the entire body is paralyzed.”

Throughout the interrogations – often lasting several months – families and friends are told nothing of the whereabouts of their loved one. They are also denied access to lawyers or medical treatment. When they arrive in court, many try to explain the treatment they received, but in contravention of international law judges typically asked them to prove the torture rather than ensure the allegations were investigated.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the M23 mutiny saw rebel forces challenge the government, reportedly under the leadership of General Bosco Ntaganda, also known as ‘The Terminator’. Ntaganda, who has been charged with war crimes for conscripting children under the age of 15 as child soldiers, is reliant on Rwanda for weapons, ammunition and young Rwandan recruits. An unreleased UN Group of Experts report laying the blame on Rwanda was distributed to members of the Security Council.

Rwanda also appears to be trying to use death squads to carry out assassinations in London itself. ‘Threat to life’ notices from the Met to vulnerable Rwandans,seen by the New Statesman, suggest they are in danger of being killed by the Kagame government. “Reliable intelligence states that the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life,” the notices read. “The threat could come in any form. You should be aware of other high profile cases where action such as this has been conducted in the past. Conventional and unconventional means have been used.”

This is the regime Mitchell went out of his way to hand millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money to, while waxing lyrical about the need for spending cuts at home on TV and radio broadcasts. His loyalty to the Rwanadan regime is such that he even justifies threats against young women to their own fathers.

In August 2009, a 21-year-old woman doing work experience for a national newspaper went to one of Mitchell’s Rwandan operations, which goes under the campaign name of Project Umubano. The plan was for staff to give Rwandan teachers English lessons. She praised the project and the attitudes of those who were conducting it, but offered some modest criticism of the Rwandan Ministry of Education’s failure to pay the teachers a stipend to cover their costs, despite the 15 kilometre walk they had to undertake to reach the classes and their lack of money for food once they got there.

Once they saw the article Mitchell’s aides suddenly became aggressive. “Unbeknown to me Mr Mitchell had phoned my father, a friend from his Cambridge University days, while he was on holiday in Thailand to vent his anger,” she wrote in the Telegraph. “He even sent him a text which said: ‘They are threatening her with physical violence and I can’t say I blame them.’

“Then one of his male aides emerged in tears. He told me again that I had betrayed the party, the trip, the group, and that it didn’t matter anyway because I was going to get sued. Instead I went to sleep knowing that I would have to leave, and desperately thinking what I would do for the week until my flight home. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be woken up in the morning by a member of the group telling me that I should leave that very moment, because the group was threatening physical violence against me.”

The Foreign Office has not been as loyal to Rwanda as Mitchell. But it’s an African state, so the Department for International Development was given the lead. Eventually, enough was enough. The torture and human rights abuses at home, the funding of civil war in Africa and the threats against the lives of Rwandans living in London suggested something had to be done. Britain’s aid partners overseas were outraged the UK should still be Rwanda’s largest bilateral aid donor. None of this convinced Mitchell, who went out of his way to reverse the action the British government reluctantly took.

The continuation of the Rwandan aid budget is a stain on Britain’s reputation overseas, but it should also shame us at home. While we have spent weeks talking about Mitchell’s revealing class-war outburst outside Downing Street, we have let him off the hook as he funnels British taxpayer money towards a despicable regime which kills its opponents and destabilises central Africa. The most grotesque aspect of British relations with Rwanda is that he’s been allowed to get away with it.

The opinions in’s Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.


October 9, 2012   No Comments