The Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Protais Musoni, yesterday, said that the freezing of the Rwandan embassy accounts in Belgium is a blatant violation of the Vienna Convection, an international treaty that lays out a framework for diplomatic relations between sovereign nations.
The accounts of the embassy were frozen by a Belgian court bailiff based on a ‘one sided case’ filed by a Rwandan citizen, Gaspard Gatera, who alleges that Kigali owes him Rwf101 million.
The accounts were frozen on October 20.
“The Convention stipulates that the host country has the responsibility to protect and facilitate the functioning of the embassy, and we expect the Belgian government to act expeditiously to ensure that the embassy functions run without any hindrances,” the minister told The New Times last night.
Article 22 of the Vienna Convention reads in part: “the host country must protect the (Diplomatic) Mission from intrusion or damage. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property.”
Speaking to The New Times, the First Secretary at the Belgian Embassy in Kigali, Michael Wimmer, said that the accounts were not frozen by his government, but regretted the action. “The reason for the seizure is apparently a legal case involving a Rwandan citizen and the government of Rwanda. We regret this unfortunate event.”
“The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has intensive contacts with all the actors to contribute to a solution. We hope this can be found soon. A decision by a judge on the lifting of the seizure should come out soon, hopefully early next week.”
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mary Baine, said that Gatera’s claims stem from a past consultancy work with the Ministry of Agriculture, under the Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP).
However, she said that Gatera’s company, Agro-Consult, failed to deliver on its contractual obligations, notably boosting maize production in the Eastern and Southern provinces.
“He misappropriated the funds that were given to him in breach of the letter and spirit of the contract, an action that attracted protests from his victims –the farmers. His contract was subsequently terminated for obvious reasons,” said Baine.
She added that a resultant arbitration process ruled in favour of the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We have since expressed our discontent through the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we expect them to act accordingly,” Baine said of the embassy accounts’ seizure.