Why has Rwanda fallen out with Western allies?

M23 rebels patrol one of the border towns under their command. Rwanda has been accused of aiding the rebels to topple the DRC government. PHOTO BY JOHN NJOROGE

Remarks by Rwanda government in response to the latest aid cut to the Kigali regime has not come as a surprise to those who know what is going on behind the scenes.
For a long time, accusations that Rwanda is aiding a rebellion in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo has been withstanding but the latest suggests otherwise. And the questions are what has really happened between the friendship and ties Rwanda Patriotic Front used to enjoy in the Western capitals?

Are the utterances by President Paul Kagame that he was going to reveal those Western powers believed to be behind the coup in Congo a problem? Early this week, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo accused the Western governments of treating her country like a child adding that her country deserved minimum respect. She went on to say the aid cut was never unsolicited for and therefore, those countries had the right to do what they wanted.
This is after the US government announced it will cut military aid to Rwanda for this year; citing evidence that Kigali is supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The US cut $200,000 in planned military aid. While the Netherlands said it was suspending 5 million euros ($6.1 million) promised to improve Rwanda’s judicial sector. And Britain, Rwanda’s biggest donor, said it was delaying a budget support payment scheduled last month. Germany said it is withholding its aid.

Rwanda has denied reports by United Nations experts and rights groups that it is backing eastern Congolese rebels, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu province in a war that has displaced over 260,000 people since April.

Some security sources in Uganda whom this paper talked to but preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitive of the matter said Western powers are against the idea of President Kagame coming back for the third term, and that they prefer the Burundi type of leadership in Rwanda in order to address the past mistakes based on ethnicity leadership that resulted into the 1994 genocide.

Another issue that is deemed critical by the west is allegations that the Kigali regime harasses opponents both within and abroad with the intention to eliminating them. They cite examples of the harassment of former head of state, Pasteur Bizimungu whom the regime has kept under house arrest and the detention of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire whose crime seems to have been her declaration to contest against President Kagame in the last elections.
“Off course, it is not official that Rwanda sends troops to Congo or another country within the region with the sole purpose of plundering or causing war but some individual soldiers could be doing it illegally. However, Western powers do not want the 1994 incident to recur and that is why they are against a third term for Kagame,” said the expert on security matters of the great lakes.

A former Ugandan minister and another expert on the great lakes region concurs with the above argument but said the major agenda the M23 and Bosco Ntaganda had was the creation of the Banyamulenge Republic out of the present Congo. To him, since this is not possible, they have decided to create confusion in Congo to be ungovernable. He said in addition, the presence of Hutu rebels in Eastern Congo makes the Tutsi vulnerable.

According to this analyst, the allegations that Rwanda is training rebels is just a justification to antagonize Kigali by Western powers so that Kagame who is perceived independent minded and whose latest threat to spill secrets about some countries intention to carry out a coup in Congo hasn’t impressed the powers that be. Last week, UK’s Guardian newspaper carried a story titled “US support for Rwanda wanes amid concern over violence in Congo”. The article says it is hard for the US to just lament about Rwanda in regards to what is going on Congo.

“At no point in the last 18 years has the United States and Rwanda’s other allies responded as strongly to evidence of wrongdoing by the Kagame government,” the paper quoted Mr Tom Malinowski, a former member of President Bill Clinton’s national security staff and now Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

“At some point people get sick of being lied to. This administration, like past administrations, has gone out of its way to give the Rwanda government the benefit of the doubt and the ability to respond to critics when they’ve been charged with this kind of behaviour, and to explain themselves.”

Mr Malinowski added “But when the evidence is this clear and the government continues to categorically deny what the US government knows to be true, it’s very difficult to maintain patience. What we’re seeing now is patience dissolving.”
Mr Malinowski, who was a state department official before working at the White House, said that for many years Kigali was given considerable leeway because western inaction at the beginning of the 1994 genocide had contributed to the slaughter of about 800,000 Tutsis. It also helped that Kagame is admired in Washington and London for leading the reconstruction of Rwanda and overseeing a thriving economy even if doubts crept in about his tight control of politics which left little space for real opposition.

Awful experience
“We all went through that awful searing experience and the sense of guilt that President Clinton expressed many times about the international community’s failure to help Rwanda in that moment of need. Unfortunately, President Kagame has played on that guilt over the years to mask additional crimes that frankly we should also feel a little bit guilty about not having confronted,” he said.

Rwanda’s Ambassador to Uganda, Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambagye dismissed the allegations against his country as baseless with unfounded truth in it. “These are the same useless reports we keep getting, accusing us year in year out. I am not surprised they are the same and there is nothing new. Congo should solve its internal problems without drawing others into their affairs as decided by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region passed in Arusha last month,” Amb. Mugambagye told this paper last week.

However, the Kampala regime intends to hold a summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region next week to discuss the security situation in Eastern Congo.
According to Acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Okello Oryem, Uganda will use its capacity as chair of the conference to enable leaders to discuss in depth what is happening Congo and find lasting solutions.

“It will be recalled that during an Extra ordinary summit held in Addis Ababa on July 15, 2012 on the sidelines of the African Union, it was decided, among others that another summit meeting be held in Kampala to enable heads of States have a further in depth discussion of the situation” Minister Oryem told the news conference at the media centre on Friday.
According Mr Oryem, US secretary of State Hilary Clinton will also discuss the issue of peace and security in the region with President Museveni.


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