Rwanda said it had decided to freeze bank accounts belonging to the Belgian embassy in Kigali after seeing its own accounts in Brussels frozen last month over a business dispute.
The row between the central African country and its former colonial ruler centres on a Rwandan living in Belgium called Gaspard Gatera who successfully applied to a Belgian court to freeze the Rwandan accounts because he said he was owed money.
Kigali has since urged the Belgian authorities to lift the freeze, saying it violated international laws, Reuters reports.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters on Friday that Rwanda froze the Belgian embassy accounts on the “principle of reciprocity”.
“Rwanda has requested appropriate organs of the state to freeze accounts of the embassy of Belgium. This happened on the 3rd of November following the freezing of accounts of the embassy of Rwanda in Belgium that was done by a court bailiff in Belgium on the demand of a Rwanda businessman who pretended he was owed money by our government,” said Mushikiwabo.
Rwandan officials says Gatera’s company had done consultancy work at Kigali’s agriculture ministry failed to deliver on its contractual obligations and the contract was terminated.
The New Times daily in Rwanda reported that the businessman said Rwanda owed him more than $160,000.
Rwandan officials say Gatera’s company had done consultancy work at the agriculture ministry failed to deliver on its contractual obligations and the contract was terminated.
In Brussels, Michael Malherbe, spokesman for the Belgian Foreign Ministry, confirmed the mutual freezing of accounts.
“We don’t give this case any political meaning. It started as an issue between random parties,” he said.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Rwanda were seeking to have its accounts unfrozen and a Brussels court is to rule next week.
“We hope that will solve the commercial dispute and this will lead to the accounts both in Belgium and Kigali being unfrozen … very quickly,” said Malherbe.
Rwanda and Belgium are development partners, with Belgian development aid to Rwanda rising from 32.5 million euros to 50.5 million euros from 2007 to 2010.