Lord Howell of Guildford,
Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Following our exchange during last Thursday’s oral question I referred to Rwanda’s support for rebel groups operating in eastern DRC. I am writing to elaborate on the concerns that I expressed.
Firstly, may I welcome the Government’s statement that the elements disclosed by the addendum to the report of the UN Group of Experts on DRC are credible; just as I welcome the Government’s assessment that there is indeed a danger of the situation spreading and generating increasing instability.
I was also happy to hear that the Government accept that you have both the authority and potential leverage to influence the situation through aid and that they were, according to your statement, using this leverage.
However, I wished to ask you for some clarification over how the Government were using this leverage; as well as some clarification over your statement that “the way [we] do it obviously varies from country to country”.
If it is to be understood that, in the case of Rwanda, a more collaborative and less confrontational approach is deemed more appropriate and/or efficient, especially as Rwanda has achieved such satisfying results following the provision of British aid, I would be grateful to learn about the Government’s assessment on the effectiveness of such approach in this particular case?
Ms. Mushikiwabo, similarly to Mr. Kagame, has unceasingly denied all evidence presented by the UN Group of Experts – and still does so following the exchanges that she had with your colleagues and yourself – and claimed on 27 June that the Rwandan Government was in possession of evidence proving these allegations wrong.
I would be interested to hear whether you asked Minister Mushikiwabo to disclose some of this counter-evidence to you when you met with her. I am also keen to know whether the UK Government really does consider that, in the face of such absolute denials, representations are having any some substantial impact?
Rwanda’s support for armed militias, viewed as defending its own interests, and its involvement in the traffic of minerals on Congolese territory has long and consistently been evidenced, including the Report of the UN Group of Experts. They have been pointing out these very activities in each of their annual reports since its inception.
I would be keen to learn the UK Government’s assessment of what they feel can now be realistically expected from further discussions with a government that has been involved in supporting destabilising operations for the entire decade that followed its war with Congo? Isn’t this repetitive pattern, in spite of public denunciation made by the UN Committee and by many other organisations, a sign that soft behind-closed-doors diplomacy in general, and the UK Government’s in particular, has proved ineffective and insufficient? On the contrary, would you not agree that this pattern illustrates that Rwanda feels the preferential treatment it receives from the UK – its principal donor and ally – protects it from any real threat of sanctions, including withdrawal or conditionality of aid?
Their actions, which contravene many rules of international law, as well as bilateral and multilateral agreements, appear not to unduly trouble the UK Government. At the very minimum surely you would want to make some firm and official statement acknowledging and condemning Rwanda’s long-standing support to forces destabilising the DRC and the region?
Rwanda’s actions in the DRC in the last decade following the war have indeed breached the UN sanction regime, the UN arms embargo, but also the principles of non-aggression and non-intervention, the respect for the sovereignty of States – all principles of conventional and customary law – and is also accountable for the crime of pillage of natural resources, while government’s officials are accountable for the war crime of recruiting children.
Rwanda’s actions also contravene the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the UK government, acting through DfID, and the Rwandan Government in 2006 (and that will be applicable until 2016), by which Rwanda’s government committed to “the promotion of peace and stability in the Great Lakes region”. Section 6 of the MoU also states that one of the “circumstances in which the UK will consider reducing, interrupting, changing the modalities of, or terminating aid” is if “the Government of Rwanda is in significant violation of human rights or other international obligations, especially those relating to regional peace and security”. It further states that “the UK will take a long term perspective and is more likely to respond to a systematic pattern of events over time. However, a single event might trigger a response if sufficiently serious in nature.”
I would be grateful to learn the Government’s assessment as to whether supporting an armed mutiny and seeking secession of a neighbouring country do constitute events sufficiently serious in nature.
More broadly speaking, I wonder what message the UK is sending to other countries, especially to other recipients of UK’s aid, if the UK does not in any way enforce or strive to have these agreements and rules enforced?
The necessity to adopt a conciliatory approach with a long-time ally is understandable. However, ignoring blatant breaches of bilateral agreements between partners not only undermines the UK’s authority and credibility, but also ignores the question of accountability owed to British tax-payers.
If, indeed, the UK is using its leverage and influence differently from one country to the next (as you said I your reply to me last Thursday), is there not a risk of double standards and thereby risk undermining the legitimacy of UK’s diplomacy and international relations? Isn’t this approach contrary to the standards of transparency claimed, if not by the FCO, at a least certainly by DfID? I will copy this to Andrew Mitchell so that he can also comment on the role of aid in this matter.
Both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of deploying double standards where there have been breaches to international law is questionable. Although I agree that every case should be considered on its merits, I would welcome clarification on the criteria used by the Government in determining its approach. You will recall that in the case of Sudan
I recently questioned the continuation of a normal full diplomatic presence with a regime headed by someone indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. It would be helpful to have spelt out what factors determine our policy, even when this is on a case by case basis.
Moreover, in light of the destabilising actions leading to incalculable loss of life and to abhorrent and egregious violations of human rights – not, least against women and children – not only supported but also instigated by Rwanda, I would be grateful to learn what assessment the UK Government has made of the impact of such actions on UK’s assistance to and investment in the DRC and in the entire region.
The UK government has indeed invested considerable amounts of aid in DRC alone – almost £200 million a year given in aid to the DRC; £135 million of humanitarian assistance that will be provided for the next 5 years. In terms of peacekeeping, and additionally to our legally-binding commitments to the $1.5 billion a year UN peacekeeping mission, we also provide discretionary funding for programmes undertaken by the FCO, DfID and the Ministry of Defence.
Granting this amount of aid and at the same turning a blind eye to destabilising actions from another partnering country seems to make little sense. I would be grateful to learn the Government’s appraisal of this question.
Similarly, and considering that the UK provides 45% of its £83m-a-year aid to Rwanda through general budget support, I would like to know what steps the Government has taken to ensure that no British aid is provided to armed groups destabilising the region and promoting secession of the Congolese territory.
In this respect, I would encourage the UK government to take similar steps to those taken by the US Government, which has confirmed its decision to cut its military aid to Rwanda. Have you made an assessment of the American policy and do we have any plans to follow suit?
I am grateful to you for your consideration of these questions. In the light of their interest in this issue I will copy this note to Lord Chidgey, Baroness Kinnock, Lord Boateng and Baroness King.
With kind regards,
(Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool)
House of Lords,
London SW1A OPW