Implication of donor suspension of aid to Rwanda over DRC crisis

  • By Ernest Rwamucyo
  • December 03, 2012
Ernest Rwamucyo

THE decision of some donors to suspend aid to Rwanda raises a fundamental question on the rationale for rich countries to give aid to poor countries. Is the major reason for aid to reduce poverty and help raise the welfare of the poor in developing countries or is to increase the ability of rich countries to exercise political leverage over them?

The decision on Rwanda will confirm the rarely discussed, but widely held view that the raison d’être for aid is mainly for political leverage. It increases control and potential for arm stringing of the poor by the rich.

Rwanda is consistently rated as a country that uses aid wisely, productively and to the best benefit of its people. The 2010 United Kingdom Department for International Development Department (DFID) evaluation of the impact of UK aid globally, ranked Rwanda highest in delivering best value for every pound of aid given to the country.

Over the last five years alone, with effective use of aid and domestic resources, Rwanda helped over one million of its citizens raise themselves out of poverty. According to the results of the 2011 externally validated household living conditions survey, the poverty headcount reduced by an unprecedented 12 percentage points, with poverty reducing faster in rural areas than urban areas and inequality declining as measured by the geni-coefficient.

This achievement was termed by the highly respected Oxford University Economist, Paul Collier, as a development hat trick – high economic growth resulting in significant reduction of rural and urban poverty, with inequality falling. This means the benefits of a decade of growth are fairly and equally distributed across the country.

Rwanda is one of few sub-Saharan African countries on track to achieve almost all the millennium development goals by 2015.

The country has been able to put all children of school going age in school and they are guaranteed to stay in class until they finish the nine years of basic education. Child mortality has significantly reduced.

The Rwandan population enjoys universal health insurance coverage, guaranteeing access to basic health services.

There is no question that aid to Rwanda reaches those who need it most. It has the desired impact and delivers best value for money. The country has a strong accountable public finance management system, a zero tolerance policy to corruption and robust engagement with donors.

So every pound of aid is accounted for and can be tracked to tangible and verifiable results. There is,  therefore, no doubt that if the raison d’être for aid is to reduce poverty and benefit the vulnerable, Rwanda is a star performer.

For donors to suspend aid to the country based on allegations in a highly contested United Nations “Group of Experts” report to the UN Sanctions Committee on DRC raises serious questions about the intentions of donors when they give aid. This has far reaching implications beyond Rwanda.

The crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been around for decades. It didn’t start with the M23 which Rwanda has expressly and strongly denied it doesn’t support. DRC has experienced over four decades of governance failure, institutional decay, corruption, insecurity and conflict. The current crisis is a direct result of the country’s political and historical complexity. This is external to Rwanda which has its own internal priorities of reconstruction after a tragic genocide in 1994.

The carnage, death, loss of life and humanitarian crisis that has gone on for decades in DRC is painful and inexcusable. It must stop. This can be achieved by genuinely addressing the root causes of the cycle of conflict and finding a lasting solution. Any sustainable solution will have to be DRC led. This requires ownership by the Congolese to genuinely seek a political dispensation that will bring durable peace and stability.

Rwanda as a neighbor can only help where it is needed. Indeed Rwanda has been pro-actively engaged with the DRC government and within the framework of the International Conference for Great Lakes led regional initiative to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

The suspension of budget support, despite Rwanda’s efforts and demonstrated good will to help ensure stability prevails in the region, while rebuilding after being a failed state in 1994 is a slap in the face. This action harms Rwanda, but will not help DRC either.

Rwanda has built a successful partnership with its development partners. The country has played a key role as an inspiration in the conception and implementation of the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness.

The declaration was fluential in re-shaping the relationship between donors and aid recipients. It sought to re-define the relationship as one of development partnership rather than paternalism. Principles of encouraging countries to own their development process and donors to ensure the quality of aid is improved, predictable and aligned to country owned priorities are at the core of the Paris declaration signed by donor countries and aid recipients.

The framework for mutual accountability has been championed by the OECD-DAC and Rwanda has been hailed as meeting its part of the bargain.

Rwanda has been instrumental in ensuring that this new aid architecture is feasible and works. In December 2011, the country represented Africa and brought the continent’s voice at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea. President Paul Kagame spoke eloquently in Busan about the strength of this new era of development partnership and the promise it held.

Less than a year after Busan and donors re-affirming their commitment to ensure aid works for the poor, Rwanda, the star performer, is a victim of the violation of the same commitments that donors first agreed on in 2005 in Paris and re-affirmed in the Accra Agenda for action in 2008.  

The decision on Rwanda affirms that aid remains very highly politicized. It demonstrates that donors, at the expense of the poor and vulnerable, will use aid to push for political objectives or to reward compliance and punish non-compliance depending on “development partner” interests.

Budget support to Rwanda was frozen not because the country has failed to use it for the benefit of those who need it most, but to influence a political end in the DRC. There is no direct link between what is happening in the DRC and what aid achieves for ordinary Rwandan citizens. This is definitely not the right way to solve DRC’s problems. Rwanda should not be penalized for the failures of another country.

Critics of general budget support present it as if donors give the aid to Rwanda as a blank check that government can spend as it wishes. That is not true. The Government of Rwanda in its annual budget preparation works with its development partners to agree on allocations to agreed priority programs and results are pegged on a well defined verifiable results framework. So donors know ahead of time where their money is going and what it will achieve.

While the case of bilateral donors withholding aid due to political consideration may be understood, the worst precedent that has been set is the politicization of the multilateral development agencies – The World Bank and African Development Bank. This is unprecedented and has far reaching implication beyond Rwanda.

The World Bank and the AfDB are development Banks. Politics should be kept out of their business and operations. Rwanda has not violated any agreement with the institutions. Donors must keep politics out of these reputable global organizations whose sole mandate is development and not politicking.

This may be about Rwanda today, but the implications for the functioning, governance, and reputation of these banks and the countries they serve is far reaching and exposes them to risk. This must stop. Rwanda has not violated any terms of the World Bank or the Africa Development Bank and interests in DRC that have nothing to do with Rwanda should not be brought into their governance and decision-making process.

There is no reason for the rich countries of Europe to politicize these institutions. This is a very dangerous path and should not be ignored or seen as limited to Rwanda.

One important point to underscore is that these political decisions directly affect the poor. They compromise the quality of aid which has an adverse effect on the quality of development outcomes and results. But fundamentally the belief that aid is primarily aimed at reducing poverty and improving the welfare of the poor is greatly undermined. Even ordinary citizens begin to perceive aid as a tool only intended for political control and to buy political leverage and influence.

The Rwanda case should therefore not be seen in isolation. It should awaken developing countries to the reality that aid is very volatile. It is intensely more political than we have previously believed. We can no longer claim that aid is fundamentally for poverty reduction and development when at the flimsiest excuse, lives of the poor can be put on line due to political considerations.

Developing countries also need to reflect on the nature of the relationship between donors and aid recipients. Is it truly a development partnership or paternalism? Until recently, Rwanda had believed that the relationship had moved closer to a partnership. Reality has now dawned that aid remains very unpredictable and the donor-aid recipient relationship might be slipping back into the 1960s approach where political, military and economic interests were the major determinants of the nature of aid countries received.

Donor commitments are increasingly becoming a talk-show and mature democracies of the world can renege on their own commitments and fail to honor agreements on aid disbursements without accountability.

I would be curious to know what we would be saying if the Busan High Level Forum on aid effectiveness was happening tomorrow and the evaluation of progress on the forgotten Paris declaration on aid effectiveness was happening today. We certainly have another aid effectiveness show coming in the near future and the same commitments will be rehearsed.

The author is the Rwandan High Commissioner in the United Kingdom


Thank u very much for this article, hope they (Donors) do read New times. I wish we always have people who can putout theirs well organized/composed/clear/full of points views. Your full of Patriotism. Well done.

10:02:39 Monday 03rd, December 2012 Kigali - Fredrick

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Financial aid is used by the international donor community to bulldoze poor third world countries. Yes all indices show we have the best value for money use of financial aid, but when it comes to defending our borders, security and integrity, the international donor community use the only tool available, i.e. relying on internationally biased reports to take decisions which eventually end up hurting the poor. But His excellency the president has said it time and again, the culture of begging must end. The dependency syndrome cycle should be broken. Not by any other, but we Rwandan.

10:45:26 Monday 03rd, December 2012 MAKERERE UNIVERSITY - MUNANURA JAMES

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I would be extremely amazed if Ms. Greening or her government colleagues seriously lent any credibility to the GoE report on M23 support from Rwanda and Uganda. However few politicians have the backbone to face up to baying editorials and slanted media screeching fed by a "halloed" human rights industry when the target is what they might consider an inconsequential little country in the middle of darkest Africa. These politicians are fully aware that the decision to withdrawal aid to a country that is the very model of aid effectiveness will do long-term damage to the international consensus so painstakingly built up to ringfence aid from the vicissitudes of domestic political pressures to shift resources to other uses in view of tight resources. But politicians are, if anything, highly calculating creatures and are aware that while protecting aid to Rwanda would be the right thing in the long-term, over the short-term, it can only bring them political aggravation from a highly determined and well-organized anti-Rwanda coalition of pressure groups, the media and those who are behind the ongoing covert operation to derail Rwanda's progress. Minister Mushikiwabo may decry, in diplomatic terms, the UK government decision as regrettable. But DIFD Secretary Greening, knows on which side her loaf is buttered and by who. She just isn't prepared to spend any political capital doing the right thing when it may be politically damaging. Poor woman; she probably gets heartburn every time she sees a country dossier on her desk if the name begins with the letter "R".

18:23:10 Monday 03rd, December 2012 - Mwene Kalinda

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Sibo Mana

19:07:38 Monday 03rd, December 2012 DENMARK - JOHN

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I would like to thank deeply the author of this news paper article for informing us very clearly if what is happening with our tax in the UK. We have seen wars and conflicts in many parts of the world but we have never heard that a conflict in a large country like DR Congo caused by Congolese rebels who expressed their disappointment from their own government that fail to pay wages, look after their soldiers, police and security officers. A country where minorities have to build their own system of protection most of the time against violence caused by unpaid member of DRC forces.We have learnt that Libyans and Syrians can fight their own regimes if they believe the regimes have failed to provide them with security and protection. We have even seen the UK and other countries lending support to these rebels so that they can bring order and protect civilians from real harm.East of DR Congo has been a dangerous place for many years and so many people have died and so many women have been raped. This have been witnessed by many independent observers.We have seen rebels moving in Goma. They did not harm civilians. We saw on Al Jazeera that DRCongo army and police joining the rebels and accepting to work for them as long as they can pay their wages and protect civilians. It is clear therefore that the UN huge budget has not worked for Congolese people's safety. The UN failed to build an Army that will protect civilians or give them confidence and hope for future.Why then Rwanda on news? Rwanda had its fair of loss in life in 1994 when a million of people were killed while they were waiting to get UN protection. UN then handed the country to French troops who just left the country in mess and allowed Old Rwandan Arm Forces to move in the Congo with military equipment, guns etc why then the UK and other western countries are so surprised that Congo is in mess today.How will Rwanda deal with poor people who depended on international aid? Why punishing Rwanda that has a good leadership and where money is being used according to millennium development goals in line with WB 2015 and Rwanda vision 2020. A country that uses the money for civilians and feed its children, educate young and old citizens and lift them from poverty.We were told by the UK government minister Andrew Mitchell MP and labour government before this administration great story when Gorden Brown praised aid work in Rwanda.It seems that UK want Rwanda to become a country where Congolese rebels must be taken to jail as that Rwanda before did to the Congolese dissident ex Army General Laurent Nkunda in 2008.Congolese problems are deeper that Rwanda can arrest rebels. It is fair to respect Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and other regional leaders to bring about reconciliation between DR Congo and its rebels who have serious concerns and grievances against thier government.Meanwhile, I find disgraceful that the tax payers' money designated for aid to Rwanda can be frozen. It is unfair to Rwandan poor. It is an insult to genocide survivors who Rwanda have to look after after terrible failures were rightly blaimed to the UN at all levels. Rwandans have right to the aid money for the loss they have to put up with. Rwandans need a chance to lead a decent life and have a right to fight poverty. One million of active citizen is a big loss to cope with. UK government think about your action before you seriously damage Rwandan progress. Rwanda can help Congo recover from their mess. Two failed countries will not help each others. Rwanda can educate the region how to handle money for development and poverty reduction.The UN have a responsibility to respect region efforts to build a peaceful resolution for durable peace in the region. They must stop undermining regional leaders by issuing reports that are not balanced and where no credible evidence is found. They must stop using 1 billion just to their pockets. That money is needed for development in the region. UN troops have not stop suffering or exploitation of mines by rich companies exploiting children and local poor people.Aid has to be reinstated to Rwanda in efforts to build on the development before people are back to poverty and the nightmares of the past 18 years.ThanksAmdani Jumaa Burundian and Reandan germicide survivor in 1994

23:39:08 Monday 03rd, December 2012 UK - Amdani Juma

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Well said

00:03:37 Tuesday 04th, December 2012 UK - Maggie

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Thank you for a well written article explaining how rich countries are using aid to exercise political pressure over poor countries, how they think that being rich gives you a moral superiority over poor. When facing this injustice, I'm proud to live in the country of agaciro-dignity.

00:04:52 Tuesday 04th, December 2012 Kigali - Michel Bezy

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Thank you for this very insightful and important piece. Too often the central goal of aid disbursement differs between that of donor governments (aid to be used as a political tool) and donor nation citizens (aid to be used to help) who are actually providing the tax dollars/pounds.

23:07:27 Tuesday 04th, December 2012 Virginia, USA - Joseph Estrada

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Well expressed.thx

12:36:05 Wednesday 05th, December 2012 kigali - julius

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Thank u for this article, it will not change them, but it is a veracity to persons anxious with rights of with rights of minority.

14:22:58 Wednesday 05th, December 2012 Cairo - Herena

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Well done. Beautiful article. I agree with you that aid is tool for politic leverage for certain countries. In fact this is not news. But we need to be fair with donors that when they started giving aids to Rwanda they were not planning on using it against Rwanda. Suspending aid is a reaction, not an action that was planned. Rwanda certainly is the best country in term of aid effectiveness but this should not excuse accountability over actions of certain rwandans (military) taking advantage of the chaos in the eastern DRC. In the street of Kigali everybody knows that most of the rwandan demobilized soldiers are hired by many of the so called "Congolese Rebels". Those rwandan demobilized soldiers are keeping themselves busy and making money in the DRC. This is not a secret.One more thing the author of this article chose to mention is the role of Rwanda in the last two wars in the DRC. The author said the conflict started decades ago and has nothing to do with M23, yes. M23 is just a transformation of another rebel group CNDP that was mainly composed by ex rwandan demobilized soldiers, previously fighting with the "RCD", which comes from "rebels" that decided to fight Kabila when he broke the alliance with the Rwanda army that helped him become the president (James Kabarebe was the minister of defence in the DRC then). All these events happened only a decade ago, one can google them.However, I agree that with that suspending aid is not the solution but it's clearly a message. The concept of "Do No Harm" apply for the innocent (women and children) Rwandan that are paying the price of this in Rwanda but also the victims of greedy and cruel M23.I am not expecting this post to be published but I am writing it anyways.Concerned citizen (

14:38:24 Wednesday 05th, December 2012 St Vincent - Gasana

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The arrogant decision of the rich western countries and financial institutions like the WB, etc.. to unjustifiably cut aid from Rwanda will harm the poor Rwandans but at the end, we will emerge out stronger. It is a bitter lesson that we can't rely on the so called development partners. This is not the first time they are leaving Rwandans during the time of need! It is just a repeat of history. One thing they can't take from Rwandans - AGACIRO. How I wish they had it! We will continue to use,share the little we have with efficiency and love.

12:50:59 Thursday 06th, December 2012 Kigali - Geoffrey Zawadi

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