Europe must address FDLR problems- Dutch minister

KIGALI - The Minister for Development Cooperation, Bert Koenders, has called on his European counterparts to address the issue of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who are a threat to security in the region.
Bert Koenders.
Bert Koenders.

KIGALI - The Minister for Development Cooperation, Bert Koenders, has called on his European counterparts to address the issue of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who are a threat to security in the region.

Koenders was addressing the just concluded Development Partners meeting which brought together the government and the donor community in Kigali.

He pointed out the FDLR was kept in business by the continued exploitation of minerals in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which was fuelling the conflict.

“We as Europeans should also take our responsibility and seriously address the problem of FDLR leadership in Europe and do more to stop illegal exploitation of natural resources, which is fuelling the conflict. It is for that reason that I will discuss the trade in illegal materials with stakeholders in the Netherlands, in line with EU efforts to combat illegal trade in products from war zones,” he told the gathering.

Most of FDLR’s leadership are based in European countries including its president, Ignace Murwanashyaka and his Secretary General Callixte Mbarushimana who live in Germany.

The Dutch minister said that regional economic and political integration was necessary if stability was to b achieved. He commended Rwandan track record, saying that despite being in one of the most volatile region in the world, it had shown the tenacity needed to achieve it social-economic goals.

“Rwanda has made tremendous progress, and I sincerely congratulate you, because you also have specific constraints such as being a landlocked country and having a high population growth. Your economic performance has been impressive,” he said.

He pointed out that more needed to be done to attract foreign investors, including bring down the cost of doing business in the country. He however praised the government’s performance in the financial sector, good governance and the fight against corruption.

“It allows competition and direct foreign investment, whilst reinforcing the National Bank of Rwanda’s role in guaranteeing the solvency of its financial institutions,” Koenders noted, adding that ; “Rwanda has made tremendous progress since 1994, and I sincerely congratulate you on this. Your economic performance has been impressive. Rwanda’s progress has also been characterised by consistent improvement in governance, especially in the fight against corruption and by better-managed public finances.”

Koenders praise for Rwandan’ progress was echoed by the new US Ambassador to Rwanda, Stuart Symington, who led country’s team to the financial talks.

He said that the country deserved the accolades from the donor community because it was one of the countries in Africa with sound economic management policies.

The meeting ended with advise from the Dutch minister still ringing in the ears of the participants in his criticism of the continued control of aid by donors who dictated priority areas that in most cases was not the view of aid beneficiaries.

“As an example, I want to mention the recent World Bank report on Aid Architecture which presents the case of health sector financing in Rwanda. In the health sector, only 14 percent of total donor support is channelled through the Ministry of Health, another 12 percent goes through local governments. The remaining 74 percent is managed by donors themselves or channelled through NGO’s. This would make it difficult for any government to make sure resources translate into results,” revealed Koenders.

The meeting attracted representatives from twenty countries, international financial institutions, UN agencies and local stakeholders.

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