Two major European donors have announced suspension or delay of aid disbursements to the government of Rwanda, marking the first financial indication that Rwanda may be losing some of its European allies. The Dutch government announced today its suspension of 5 million euros, or approximately $6.18 million, in aid to Rwanda. The United Kingdom has also decided to delay 16 million pounds, or approximately $25.16 million, originally earmarked for Kigali, pending a decision about whether Rwanda has met aid conditions.
The U.K’s general budget support aid is being delayed while the government evaluates “whether the expectations associated with the strict partnership principles surrounding the disbursement of aid are being met.” The U.K. has historically been an enthusiastic ally of the Kagame regime, with a projected aid budget to Rwanda for 2012-2012 at approximately $118 million.
A spokeswoman for the Dutch government said that the suspended aid had been allocated to the Rwandan judicial system, but the Netherlands will continue to fund the NGOs it currently supports. Moreover, the Dutch are said to be coordinating with other European governments to discuss possible avenues for further action regarding Rwanda.
These decisions come on the heels of a U.N. report documenting high-level Rwandan support of the M23 rebellion in neighboring Congo. The moves by the Netherlands and the U.K. echo a similar decision taken over the weekend by the U.S. government to cut $200,000 in military aid.
A senior U.N. official confirmed to the BBC that defecting rebels have said they were recruited in Rwanda. They also use weapons, uniforms, and tactics, such as night attacks, uncharacteristic of Congolese-trained troops. Many defecting rebels speak English, which is more commonly spoken in Rwanda than in the primarily francophone Congo.
The decisions by the Dutch and British have sparked harsh rebuttals from the government in Kigali, which still vehemently denies any connection to the M23 rebellion, despite mounting evidence and condemnation. President Kagame has even taken to his personal Twitter account lambasting recent comments by the head of the U.S. Office of Global Criminal Justice warning Kagame of potential war crimes charges, as “laughable.”
Despite the fact that many key donor nations and NGOs find the U.N. report well researched and the accusations credible, Kigali continues to question its validity. The Rwandan ambassador to The Hague claimed that the U.N. is “infecting the world with what they claim is true.” However, the U.S. government has stated that the report documenting high-level Rwanda support for the rebellion in eastern Congo “is quite comprehensive and quite concerning.”
**Update: Over the weekend, Germany's government also announced that it will suspend $26 million in aid to Rwanda, which was planned for this year through 2015.
Photo: Soldiers from the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo show off weapons captured from government troops who fled to neighboring Uganda as the rebel group took control of the border town of Bunagana, Congo, July 7, 2012. (AP/Marc Hofer)