The Dutch government has suspended 5 million euros in aid for judicial support to Rwanda. The decision follows a United Nations report stating that Kigali is backing rebel groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda firmly denied all the allegations, calling the report “deeply regrettable”.
Despite these denials, the United States recently decided to cut military aid to Rwanda, and the Netherlands is now following their lead. In 2010, there has also been talk of cutting aid to Rwanda because of alleged involvement in violence in the Congo. The UN Group of Experts report was decisive.
Rwanda’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Immaculee Uwanyiligira, says she is very disappointed with the Dutch government’s decision. “You would think that from a country like the Netherlands, that is known for its strong judicial system and openness, they would not take such hasty decisions based on a thin, unsubstantiated report,” she said.
The ambassador believes the UN is scapegoating Rwanda because of its own failure. “With a budget of their magnitude, they should’ve solved the problem a long time ago,” she said. “But because they didn’t, they now give us the blame. The whole international community listens to them as if they were dictating the Bible, without further questions. It’s unjust, they cannot be judge and jury over Rwanda.”
“The international community all rely on the same reports,” says Uwanyiligira. “It’s a domino effect of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and now the UN that are infecting the world with what they say is credible.”
The ambassador doesn’t think the relationship between the Netherlands and her country will immediately cool down, but her disappointment runs deep. She said: “We have a solid bilateral relationship, and good contacts on many levels. But this decision is very temperamental and quickly made. I don’t think a country should react like that.”
The Dutch government will not resume judicial aid until further notice. But there may also be further future consequences. A spokesperson for the Dutch foreign ministry told RNW that the government would, in consultation with its EU partners, re-evaluate its position on development cooperation with Rwanda. This would happen on the basis of an assessment of Rwanda’s formal response to the UN findings and current developments in the field, including an immediate end to Rwandan support for rebels in the DRC. Support for NGOs active in Rwanda has not been suspended.
It is now up to Rwanda to prove its innocence, says Uwanyiligira. “I hope reason will prevail and that we will soon have proven to be innocent. Rwanda, for quite some time, has been enduring accusations. It’s time for Rwanda to clean itself up of the mud that has been thrown at it.”