Sweden has joined the Netherlands in suspending some aid to Rwanda after a UN report accused the Great Lakes state of supporting Tutsi insurgents in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Reuters reports that the Swedish government says it is taking the report seriously and has stopped a planned 80 million crown (US$14.5 million) budget support payment.
The Netherlands said last week €3 million in aid would be withheld.
Reuters says although the amounts are symbolic, the suspension of aid is a knock for a country that has long been a donor favourite because of its economic reforms as well as its recovery from the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in 1994.
President Paul Kagame, however, told a news conference in Kigali the moves would not hurt the economy and reinforced his view that Rwanda should be weaning itself off aid.
“The people of Rwanda should be ready to survive in any circumstance including the absence of aid,” he said. “These people who cut aid like the Dutch and the Swedes are just supporting my argument.”
Overseas development aid accounted for more than a quarter of Rwanda’s gross domestic product in 2005, making it one of the world’s 10 most aid-dependent nations, according to UN data.
Kagame is credited by supporters with restoring order, achieving healthy economic growth, developing the IT sector and running a disciplined government. But critics say his authoritarian style is hampering democracy.
The UN report accuses Rwanda of supporting insurgents loyal to Congolese Tutsi leader Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese army of backing Rwandan Hutu rebels.
Both the Congolese and Rwandan governments deny providing support for any rebel groups.
Nkunda’s troops have routed the Congolese army and captured swathes of territory in eastern Congo since August, sending around a quarter of a million people fleeing for their lives.
The UN Security Council is due to discuss the report, details of which have been obtained by Reuters, shortly.
“I have never spoken to Nkunda. I have never met him by the way. I don’t know him other than seeing him on television,” said Kagame, adding that the report was “petty, simplistic and utterly nonsensical”.
Among those accused by the UN of providing support to Nkunda’s rebels is Tribert Rujugiro, an adviser to Kagame.
A document in the UN report is an email in which Rujugiro thanks someone in Dubai for arranging payment of $120 000 for the “soldiers” of “our friend Laurent”.
“If he did get involved in Congo, he did it in his individual capacity, not in his capacity as my adviser on public/private partnerships,” said Kagame.
“Rujugiro is a businessman who does business in Rwanda, South Africa and Kinshasa as an individual, not as an adviser.”
Rwanda blames the United Nations and Congo for failing to fulfil agreements to disarm the Hutu rebels in the east of the country who fled Rwanda after taking part in the 1994 genocide.
“This UN thing is our thing but it is our very bad thing,” said Kagame, calling the New York-based institution a “curse”.
“Why don’t they say anything about what the 1 billion-dollar-a-year mission is doing in Congo: raping, selling arms to genocidaires and looting.”