Does Rwanda deserve development assistance?

Does Rwanda deserve development assistance?

11th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

The violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has led to renewed debate about the wisdom of providing Rwanda with developmental assistance.

Although Rwanda is involved in the violence, the central African country can still count on around 230 million euros in foreign aid a year.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame was one of the participants in Friday's summit on the crisis in the DRC. Proponents of continued aid to Rwanda believe that he took part in the talks because the aid is an inducement to taking a more conciliatory role.
Opponents, on the other hand, say that since Rwanda is part of the problem in the DRC, aid should be suspended.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda meeting with President Bush - photo quintanaScoundrel
The Netherlands is one of the donor countries. Arend Jan Boekestijn, MP for the conservative opposition VVD party in the Dutch parliament, gets angry when speaking about the fact that the Netherlands gives more than 17 million euros in aid to Rwanda every year.
He says the Rwandan president is a "scoundrel" and it is quite clear that Rwanda is directly involved in the renewed violence in the eastern DRC.

"Mr Kagame supports rebel leader General Nkunda, who is responsible for an enormous amount of misery."
Extremist Hutus
Paul Hoebink, who teaches developmental studies at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, says the extent of Kagame's involvement is difficult to prove. However, even supporters of continued aid admit that Rwanda is involved in the violence in DRC. Rwanda has invaded the DRC twice.
Rwanda children - photo by-mrflip
Rwanda says it did so in order to defend itself from extremist Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide who fled to neighbouring DRC. It says the government of DRC has failed to keep its promise to disarm them. Some critics say Rwanda is just looking for an excuse to illegally exploit its neighbour's mineral resources. Various statistics show that Rwanda exports raw materials that it does not even possess.
Dutch Labour MEP Thijs Berman admits that Kagame is a leader who has made many mistakes. However, he still does not think that aid to Rwanda should be cut off. He says that because of the large amount of aid Rwanda has received over the past 15 years it has made an enormous amount of progress.

"The progress made in this country deserves considerable respect."

Paul Hoebink also agrees that aid to Rwanda should continue. "How is a land which has had 800,000 of its people massacred to recover otherwise?" Hoebink says that local organisations also give him the impression that the human rights situation has improved.

"Things are moving slowly but they are going in the right direction. Who knows, maybe Rwanda might be looting even more of the DRC's resources if it wasn't getting developmental assistance?"

Where 11 Belgian soldiers were ambushed in 1994 in Kigalithe - photo dillylama

Good governance
Proponents of aid say that by giving money donors can pressure the regime. For instance, they can demand that President Kagame take part in the summit over the Congo crisis. The Dutch ministry of development cooperation prefers to call it "a critical dialogue". The Dutch funds are used mainly towards promoting peace and security in the region and good governance. VVD MP Boekestijn says this is nonsense.

"We are not capable of exporting good governance. We are helping a horrid regime stay in power."

Pieternel Gruppen

Radio Netherlands


Photo credit: quintana; mrflip; dillylama

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