Rwanda: Belgian Minister Criticizes Aid Suspension, Blame Game

BELGIAN Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, yesterday, said that blaming Rwanda on the current situation in DRC was a distraction from finding a solution to the crisis that has gripped the neighbouring country since April.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo (R) chats with her Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders in Kigali yesterday. The New Times/Timothy Kisambira.

Reynders was addressing a joint news conference together with his Rwandan counterpart, Louise Mushikiwabo, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kigali.

“It is certainly not the best solution. It is not the best way to blame one country. But we have to put pressure on all the partners – the Congo, the neighbouring countries, the international community – and now it is urgent to take to the floor [at the UN] for a solution,” Reynders said at the end of a two-day visit, which he said was mainly “dedicated to the situation in the region particularly the eastern part of the Congo.”

Reynders began his Rwanda tour by visiting displaced Congolese refugees at Nkamira transit centre in Rubavu District.

A UN Group of Experts accuses Rwanda of backing the M23 rebellion against the government of President Joseph Kabila.

As a result, several western countries suspended or cut aid to Rwanda, a move the Belgian diplomat said was “not a good idea.”

“I repeat, I have said that it is not a good idea to take some individual decisions in different countries. It is better to make a real visit and dialogue and then we’ll be in discussions at the United Nations,” Reynders said.

Mushikiwabo reiterated that any action against Rwanda taken on the basis of the Group of Experts interim report would be hasty and unjustified.

“Aid is not an instrument to be used for political purposes. There is a reason for aid, and in the case of Rwanda, definitely, it’s not helping Congo, it’s not helping Rwanda, and it’s not helping the donors. It is just a wrong approach,” she said.

Mushikiwabo is expected to travel to the UN headquarters in New York, this week “to talk to those who commissioned the report by the Group of Experts and other members, particularly, the UN Security Council”, and to “provide our own comments.”

“We have heard a lot said about Rwanda, but Rwanda has not had its chance to talk and to give its own take on accusations levelled against the country,” she added.

Rwanda forwarded a rebuttal to the allegations to the UN but Kigali has also asked to discuss the “baseless accusations” in the UN interim report. “The blame game cannot go on forever.” Mushikiwabo said, adding that the Congo crisis needs a genuine solution.

She noted that stability in eastern DRC is important for Rwanda and there was need for an approach that would bring about lasting peace in the neighbouring country.

Attacks

The visiting Belgian minister also spoke about recent incidents involving Rwandans in Belgium who have repeatedly been attacked by Congolese nationals, and have faulted Brussels for not doing enough to stop the violence. The latest such incident took place on Saturday, with reports indicating that another Rwandan was attacked and reportedly stabbed in the abdomen.

“I spoke with the President (Paul Kagame) and my colleague (Mushikiwabo), and expressed my deep concern about the aggression against one young man, yesterday, in Brussels, and we have organised all possible activities for proper prosecution. It is unacceptable – we have the police, the logistics and we will do what it takes,” Reynders noted.

In July, a 22-year old Rwandan was attacked by a Congolese mob in the Merode subway station in Brussels and later admitted in hospital with a fractured jaw. The association of the Rwandan Diaspora in Belgium petitioned the authorities over the attacks, which are supposedly linked to allegations of Rwanda’s involvement with the DRC conflict. On August 18, the group staged a peaceful protest in Brussels.

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