UK Aid to Rwanda - International Development Committee Contents

2  Aid to Rwanda and the UN Reports

DFID's aid programme in Rwanda

7. Rwanda is dependent on donors for approximately 40% of its budget. The UK is the second largest bilateral donor after the USA. Over the period 2011-2015, UK aid to Rwanda will increase by 24%, relative to the previous four-year period, to reach £97 million in 2015.[10]

8. General budget support is the provision of funds directly to the Exchequer of the recipient country. The funds can be distributed according to the priorities of the recipient government. Sector budget support, in contrast, is the provision of funds directly to a specific ministry in the recipient country. In Rwanda budget support represents 65% of the UK's programme over the four year period, with 45% of funds provided through general budget support and 20% through sector budget support in health, education and agriculture.[11]

9. Mr Mitchell emphasised to us the importance, for development objectives, of ensuring continuity in the provision of general budget support:

In changing the conditions of budget support, you endanger very important poverty programmes. I think that 6.5% of the budget support goes to support the Rwandan Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General's office. That is very important work and it shows the extent to which a large chunk of budget support is being used to build systems in Rwanda that are very important indeed in tackling corruption and promoting accountability. If you change budget support, you have to recognise the danger that you will not have an impact on the elite but you will degrade or damage very important poverty programmes.[12]

10. Rwanda has made significant progress in poverty reduction since 1994. DFID says:

Rwanda has achieved tremendous progress since the devastating genocide of 1994. By 2020, the Government of Rwanda aims to complete the country's transformation from a poor, post-conflict nation to a thriving, middle income, regional trade and investment hub. Rwanda uses aid very well, both in terms of the results it achieves and accounting for its use.[13]

And, Mr Mitchell told us that Rwanda was a reliable aid partner:

In terms of development and doing what they say with our taxpayers' money, and enabling us to follow the money and ensure that for a pound of British taxpayers' money we are getting 100 pence of development, Rwanda is probably one of the best in the world. Over the last five years Rwanda has lifted more than 1 million people out of poverty. There is no question about that. Budget support is the best way if you trust the systems. We can trust the systems in Rwanda: Rwanda does exactly what they say they will do with our taxpayers' money.[14]

11. Underpinning DFID's programme in Rwanda is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 1999, and updated in September 2012. The MoU sets out, among other things, the commitments the Government of Rwanda must make in order for the UK to provide budget support to the country—the partnership principles. These are:

  • A focus on poverty reduction and the MDGs;
  • respecting human rights and other international obligations;
  • improving public financial management, promoting good governance and transparency and fighting corruption; and
  • strengthening domestic accountability.

Both Mr Mitchell and the Secretary of State stressed the important role these principles played in the relationship between the UK and Rwanda.[15]

The interim UN Report and donor responses

12. The interim UN Report raised questions about whether Rwanda had breached the partnership principles. The interim Report says:

Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group has gathered evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations committed by the Rwandan Government. These violations consist of the provision of material and financial support to armed groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the recently established M23, in contravention of paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 1807 (2008). The arms embargo and sanctions regimes violations include the following:

  • Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory;
  • Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23;
  • Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23;
  • Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23;
  • Direct Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23;
  • Support to several other armed groups as well as Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) mutinies in the eastern Congo;
  • Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals.[16]

The Government of Rwanda has denied these claims.[17] Dr Phil Clark, from the University of London, has raised concerns about the methodology of the research.[18]

13. As noted, the UK delayed making a decision about its £16 million general budget support payment due in July, but continued other aspects of its aid programme. Some other donors also responded to the allegations by withholding or delaying decisions on aid disbursements to Rwanda. For example, the USA suspended $200,000 in military aid, but continued its $160 million development aid programme; Germany suspended €18 million in budget support; the Netherlands suspended €5 million in aid; Sweden froze aid pending further details; and the African Development Bank and the World Bank both delayed decisions about aid funding.

14. Mr Mitchell told the Committee that his decision to delay £16 million in general budget support due in July was based, in part, on the Government's assessment that Rwanda had not met two of the four partnership principles. These were respecting human rights and other international obligations, and strengthening domestic accountability in relation to political space. Mr Mitchell told us:

Those were the four conditions that we set, against which we judged whether or not budget support should be disbursed in Rwanda. The judgment of officials, with which I completely concurred, was that on two of those principles Rwanda was doing very well and on two of them they were standing still and not doing so well. It was because of that judgment against those principles, which we published—again as a result of the changes the Coalition Government have made to budget support—that the decision was made.[19]

The decision to reinstate budget support

15. While the decision to delay the payment was not controversial, the decision in September, as Mr Mitchell left office, to reinstate £8 million in general budget support to Rwanda, was. The media, and some NGOs, accused Mr Mitchell of ignoring the advice of officials in DFID and the FCO and of breaking ranks with other donors because of his relationship with President Kagame.[20]

16. We asked Mr Mitchell about the process: what consultations he had had and whether he was acting as a "rogue" minister? He said there had been extensive consultation with officials in DFID, and the FCO, and with the Prime Minister and that both himself and the Foreign Secretary had had discussions with the President, members and officials of the Government of Rwanda before the decision was made.[21] We also asked about discussions with other donors. Mr Mitchell assured us that officials talked all the time, but that this was a UK decision reflecting UK positions.[22] Mr Mitchell was clear that he had followed due process, and the new Secretary of State confirmed this in her evidence to us.[23]

The Prime Minister's conditions

17. Mr Mitchell explained that as part of his discussions with Number 10, the Prime Minister had set down three conditions which must be met before budget support could be reinstated.[24] The conditions, which are consistent with the partnership principles, were:

  • the Government of Rwanda should engage constructively in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) peace talks chaired by President Museveni of Uganda;
  • the Government of Rwanda should publicly condemn the M23 Group; and,
  • there should be continuing ceasefire in the Kivus and practical support to the M23 should end.[25]

18. In August, following consultation with the Foreign Secretary, and taking into account reports from the region, Mr Mitchell judged that "two of the three conditions the Prime Minister had set had seen progress".[26] He added, "The British Government's judgement was that they [the Government of Rwanda] met conditions one and three in part, but they had not met condition two".[27] On the basis of this assessment, the decision was made to provide half of the due funding in direct budget support and the other half in sector budget support for the education and agricultural sectors.

19. This judgement has been questioned by some NGOs. Christian Aid, for example, said:

There has been no evidence of the Government of Rwanda ceasing support to M23 and other armed groups; regional discussions at the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region have failed to provide tangible results; and local reports indicate increasing concerns about the protection of civilians in conflict affected region.[28]

Human Rights Watch concurs, saying:

On the basis of on the ground events in Rwanda and eastern DRC, there appears to have been no objective rationale for the decision to resume UK aid to Rwanda in the absence of progress on the very criterion which had triggered the decision to delay the aid in the first place.[29]

20. Both Andrew Mitchell, and subsequently the new Secretary of State, said in relation to the second condition, that they could not comment on whether or not Rwanda had been involved in funding or backing M23 and that the final UN Report due to be made public at the end of November, would shed light on this.[30]

21. Nevertheless it is clear that elements of the UK Government did consider the allegations to be credible. For example, on 13 November the Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Warsi said:

We are aware that the embargoed report by the UN Group of Experts has been leaked. It is not government policy to comment on leaked documents. However, we have consistently made it clear to the Rwandan Government, at the most senior levels, that we find the existing body of evidence for Rwandan involvement with the M23 credible and compelling. And that all such support must stop.[31]

22. None of the above appears to back up the claims that the former Secretary of State was a "rogue" minister acting without the knowledge of the Foreign Secretary or the approval of the Prime Minister. However, the former Secretary of State told us he judged that Rwanda had moved significantly against two of the three conditions set down by the Prime Minister. We are not privy to all the information and advice upon which he made this judgement. However, on the basis of the other evidence which we received, we do not understand how he concluded that Rwandan support for M23 had ceased.

The decision in December

23. The total amount of aid withheld by donors from Rwanda since July is approximately £19.6 million (excluding US military aid) with £92 million delayed. We were told that the impact of the decision to re-allocate £8 million of general budget support to sector budget support was twofold. On the one hand the education and agricultural sectors had received additional funding and DFID set out the results it expected from this.[32] On the other hand the cumulative impact of reduced general budget support has reduced the Government of Rwanda's flexibility to focus on its own priorities and funding gaps, including for rural infrastructure and justice programmes.[33]

24. The new Secretary of State has said she will consider all options, and "very carefully reflect on the partnership principles" when she comes to make her decision in December.[34] She also told us that the Prime Minister's three conditions were still relevant,[35] and that she would "wait to see the conclusion of the UN Group of Experts' final report, and the whole process of the UN Sanctions Committee and the UN Security Council" before making her decision.[36]

25. Subsequent to our evidence session, the final UN Group of Experts report has been published. It confirms, unambiguously, earlier findings of the interim report about direct and indirect support to the M23 rebels by the Government of Rwanda, including its Defence Minister:

The Government of Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo by providing direct military support to the M23 rebels, facilitating recruitment, encouraging and facilitating desertions from the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and providing arms, ammunition, intelligence and political advice. The de facto chain of command of M23 includes Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and culminates with the Minister of Defence of Rwanda, Gen. James Kabarebe. Following the publication of the addendum to its interim report, the Group met the Government of Rwanda and took into consideration its written response. The Group has, however, found no substantive element of its previous findings that it wishes to alter.[37]

26. Rwanda is making significant progress towards the Millennium Development Goal targets and is lifting people out of poverty. We have seen for ourselves the tremendous improvements that Rwanda has made since 1994 and consider that general budget support has proved effective in reducing poverty in Rwanda. For this reason, we think that UK aid should continue to benefit the people of Rwanda. However questions arise about the best method to deliver it.

27. We do not believe that Rwanda has met the Prime Minister's conditions and we recommend that the second tranche of general budget support should not be provided in December.

28. In the light of the Memorandum of Understanding, and the partnership principles contained therein, the conditions the Prime Minister set for the resumption of general budget support—the Rwanda should 1) engage constructively in the peace process, 2) publicly condemn the M23 group and 3) there should be a continuing ceasefire in the Kivus and practical support to the M23 should end—are not unreasonable. We recommend that the before further general budget support is disbursed the Government must ensure Rwanda unambiguously complies with all three of the Prime Minister's conditions—general budget support should not be provided if Rwanda is providing support to the M23 rebels. Until these conditions are met in full, DFID should deliver its aid through alternative channels.

29. We also recommend that DFID consult formally, at ministerial level, with other donors before making a decision to reinstate general budget support. While we understand that the UK Government will make its own decision, it is important that there is some donor coordination of response, even if those responses differ. Donors will need to consider the impact of their individual and cumulative decisions on different sectors. DFID has committed to work with other development partners to improve alignment and harmonisation of development assistance in the Memorandum of Understanding and we expect to see evidence of this.

The future: Regional peace processes

30. DFID will provide £1,510 million in bilateral aid to Rwanda, DRC and Uganda over the period 2011-15,[38] in addition to its contributions to the UN agencies and the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). We are concerned about the effectiveness of this aid in the context of continuing regional conflicts. These undermine poverty reduction efforts and greatly reduce the results our aid can achieve. There is a regional peace process which the UK is involved in. However it has made limited progress despite the presence of MONUSCO, the world's largest peacekeeping force. Continuing unrest in the region threatens to undermine DFID's large aid programmes there. The UK Government should give a higher priority to the regional peace process.

The future: Renewed emphasis on human rights

31. When we visited Rwanda in 2011 we discussed with human rights organisations and lawyers the difficulties they faced in operating in Rwanda. Some of the submissions we received commented on the limited democratic freedoms in Rwanda,[39] and on illegal detention and torture by military intelligence.[40] Some people expressed a desire to remain anonymous, or for their submissions not to be published. We therefore asked the new Secretary of State whether she intended to place a greater emphasis on human rights as set out in the partnership principles.

32. The Secretary of State told us she intended to consider this in making her decision about future funding:

My plan is that I will have a more structured engagement with human rights organisations, so that I can understand what their views are about this situation, and indeed more broadly in relation to DFID programmes. I will aim to be more formally part of the human rights assessment process that the FCO has set up, which I think is a very good one, and involves a twice yearly meeting of the key human rights organisations. I will also seek, in a more structured way, to have those organisations brief me on key issues—for example this issue—when I am forming a decision, because I think it is important that I hear from relevant partners.[41]

33. We welcome the Secretary of State's plan to have a more structured dialogue with international and local human rights organisations with experience and knowledge of the situation in Rwanda, and to engage formally with the FCO's human rights process. We look forward to receiving regular updates from the Secretary of State on these issues. DFID is the second largest bilateral donor in Rwanda and, consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding, it can, and should, play a leadership role in encouraging human rights reforms.

10   DFID, Operational Plan 2011-15, DFID Rwanda, June 2012 Back

11   DFID, Operational Plan 2011-15, DFID Rwanda, June 2012 Back

12   Q 47 Back

13   DFID, Operational Plan 2011-15, DFID Rwanda, June2012 Back

14   Q 2 Back

15   Qqs 35,47,59, 86 Back

16   Addendum to the interim report of the Group of Experts on the DRC concerning violations of the arms embargo and sanctions regime by the Government of Rwanda, S/2012/348/Add.1 Back

17   Qqs 13-14 Back

18   Ev w23-24 Back

19   Q 7 Back

20   Ev w5, and, for example, "He put friendship and connections before his country", The Times, 20 October 2012; Why did Andrew Mitchell reinstate aid to Rwanda on his last day at DFID? New Statesman, 27 September, 2012 Back

21   Q 1 Back

22   Qqs 41-43, 49 Back

23   Q 99 Back

24   Q 1 Back

25   Ev 25 Back

26   Q 2 Back

27   Q 12 Back

28   Evw9 Back

29   Ev w6  Back

30   Qqs 14, 39-40, 45,93,98,127.The final report was leaked in October 2012.  Back

31   HL Deb, 13 November 2012, col 286WA Back

32   Ev 24 Back

33   Ev 26 Back

34   Q 89 Back

35   Q 90 Back

36   Q 93 Back

37   UN Security Council, Letter dated 12 November 2012 from the chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the DRC, addressed to the President of the Security Council, 15 November 2012 Back

38   Although we note that aid to Uganda is currently suspended. Back

39   Ev w7 Back

40   Amnesty International, Rwanda: shrouded in Secrecy: illegal detention and torture by military intelligence, 2012 Back

41   Q 100 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 30 November 2012