HC 726 UK Aid to Rwanda

Written evidence submitted by Dr. Phil Clark, SOAS, University of London

Executive Summary

This submission addresses the decision by the Department for International Development (DFID) to withhold, and subsequently to disburse, budget support to the Government of Rwanda following allegations about its involvement with the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This paper puts forward two main arguments. First, decisions to withhold or withdraw aid to particular states should be based on more comprehensive and systematic evidence than that provided by the United Nations Group of Experts (GoE) for the DRC. There are substantial methodological and substantive shortcomings in the 2012 Group of Experts reports, on the basis of which several foreign donors reconsidered their development aid strategies toward Rwanda.

Second, while there are justified concerns over Rwanda’s alleged military involvement in eastern DRC as well as domestic human rights issues in Rwanda, the withholding or withdrawal of aid to Rwanda will do little to address systemic causes of conflict in eastern DRC and may undermine important political, social and economic gains which Rwanda has made since the 1994 genocide. This risks destabilising a still fragile situation in Rwanda, with major repercussions for the entire Great Lakes region. On this basis, this paper advocates the continuation of UK aid to Rwanda at the same level as before the GoE findings, alongside the continued use of non-aid measures to address the question of Rwanda’s alleged military involvement in the DRC and domestic human rights issues in Rwanda.

Submitter’s Biography

Dr. Phil Clark is a lecturer in comparative and international politics (with reference to Africa) at SOAS, University of London, and a specialist on conflict-related issues in central Africa. He holds a DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Dr. Clark has published extensively on political, social and legal responses to genocide and other mass crimes in the Great Lakes, principally on the gacaca community courts in Rwanda and the International Criminal Court (ICC). His research is based on more than 1000 individual interviews over the last ten years with conflict-related actors at the international, national and community levels throughout the region. Dr. Clark’s most recent book is The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda: Justice without Lawyers (Cambridge University Press, 2010). In 2011, he gave oral evidence to the International Development Committee on UK aid policy in fragile states, focusing on central Africa. He has been an expert witness at the ICC (in the case of Callixte Mbarushimana in the situation of the DRC) and has provided expert briefings on central Africa to DFID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US State Department, the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Crisis Group. Dr. Clark is currently an expert for the Crown Prosecution Service on issues concerning Rwandan genocide suspects living in the UK.

Over-Reliance on UN Group of Experts Reports on the Democratic Republic of Congo

1. In 2012, the decision by the governments of the UK, the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden to withdraw or withhold parts of their donor assistance to Rwanda was based primarily on the June 2012 addendum to the interim report of the UN Group of Experts (GoE) on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which accused the Rwandan government of supporting the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo. In considering the justifiability of this decision and effective policy directions for the future, the nature of GoE reporting warrants further scrutiny. That the donors in question cited the June 2012 GoE report as the principal reason for altering their aid programmes toward Rwanda highlights the immense influence of the GoE in shaping international policy. There are, however, significant methodological and substantive problems with this and other GoE reports, which call into question whether this single source should be relied upon so extensively in determining policy toward central Africa and elsewhere.

2. Evidence-gathering in volatile conflict and post-conflict societies such as those in the Great Lakes is an enormously complex undertaking. Investigators and analysts confront constant challenges, including gathering information during ongoing conflict, ensuring the security of informants and investigators alike, and corroborating evidence to ensure it is not tainted by misinformation, propaganda, rumour and other distorting elements that inevitably arise during times of war. Because of these enormous challenges and the risk that poorly gathered evidence can skew analysis and policy prescriptions, close scrutiny of the investigative methods used by organisations such as the GoE is imperative.

3. The June 2012 GoE report exhibits methodological shortcomings that are apparent in the majority of GoE reports. It is important to recognise these problems when considering GoE findings and their implications for international policymaking. First, most GoE reports in the context of the DRC involve interviews and other forms of information-gathering within confined regions of eastern Congo, with little engagement in neighbouring countries, including Rwanda. In the case of the June 2012 report, GoE analysts spent only several days in Rwanda interviewing government officials and conducting other forms of investigation [1] , which constrained their ability to draw robust conclusions about the precise nature of Rwanda’s alleged support for M23.

4. This geographical restriction limited the depth of analysis in the report and led to several erroneous claims. To take one example, the report states incorrectly that Rwanda trained some M23 fighters at the Kanombe army barracks in the Rwandan capital, Kigali [2] – a key claim in showing the extent of Rwandan involvement in the M23 rebellion – when those barracks comprise only a military hospital and a cemetery. It would be impossible for such training to take place in those barracks and even a cursory check of the premises would have convinced the GoE of this. This error suggests that the GoE conducted insufficient investigations within Rwanda and relied on highly questionable sources, a point that has major implications for the GoE’s wider claims regarding Rwandan complicity in rebel activity in Congo.

5. Second, a general problem with many GoE analyses in eastern DRC, which is also apparent in the June 2012 report, is a tendency to ascribe criminal liability to armed groups in the Kivu provinces on the basis of scant evidence or without specific explanations of how the identity of the liable groups was deduced. The GoE tends to state either that violations were committed by particular groups without indicating how this information was gathered or that the organisation has ‘received reports’ containing this information, without further specification. For example, a GoE report on 29 November 2010 states:

The Group has received reports of five cases of summary executions of RUD

combatants since January 2009. [3]

The Group has received numerous credible reports of contacts aiming to

reunite FDLR-FOCA and RUD-Urunana initiated by Kanyamibwa, who is based in New Jersey. His brother, Emmanuel Munyaruguru, who is the RUD representative in Norway, was chosen to mediate between the parties. [4]

6. The lack of detailed evidence in GoE reports may result from the Group’s preference for analysis based on ‘authentic documents and, wherever possible, first-hand, on-site observations by the experts themselves’ [5] (the nature of such ‘observations’ being largely ill-defined) rather than more concrete evidence such as corroborated interviews with multiple, credible eyewitnesses.

7. In this vein, a key dimension of the June 2012 GoE report is the reliance on testimony by unidentified Congolese military commanders and intelligence officials and defectors from the Congolese army [6] , whose impartiality on the issues at hand must be seriously questioned. The report provides insufficient information regarding how evidence gathered in the field was tested and how the reliability of certain sources was established. Coupled with the geographical narrowness of the GoE’s investigations, as discussed above, questions should be raised regarding the robustness of the evidence which underpinned the GoE’s conclusions. Greater scrutiny of the GoE’s methodologies and the substance of their claims is required before policy decisions are made on the basis of the Group’s findings. In the case of the June 2012 report, apparent methodological and substantive problems suggest that international donors should have treated the GoE’s analysis with much greater caution.

Limitations and Pitfalls of Withholding or Withdrawing Aid to Rwanda

8. Not only should there be a closer assessment of the GoE’s findings, but the decision by the UK and other donors in 2012 to withhold or withdraw aid to Rwanda is problematic for two further practical reasons: first, such a policy will not address systemic political and military causes of violent conflict in eastern DRC; and, second, decreasing aid to Rwanda risks damaging a still fragile post-genocide socio-economic environment, with major consequences for Rwanda and the Great Lakes region as a whole.

9. One significant problem with the GoE report and much of the international reaction to it is the insistence that Rwanda is primarily responsible for current instability in eastern Congo. This view neglects the role played by Congolese President Joseph Kabila in generating the M23 mutiny. One key motivator for the rebellion was that President Kabila reneged on deals with these same rebels in 2009, before they were integrated into the Congolese army. These deals held that the integrated rebels would not be scattered away from their homelands in the provinces of North and South Kivu – which Kabila threatened to do in early 2012 – and that they would maintain their military ranks and be paid adequate salaries. President Kabila has displayed bad faith on each of these counts and undermined the 2009 peace agreement between the DRC, Rwanda and a range of Congolese rebel groups, which greatly improved the security situation in eastern Congo. Rwanda played a vital role in this peace process and the subsequent increase in regional security – a positive contribution that warrants greater recognition in current policy discussions.

10. More broadly, the singular focus on Rwandan military involvement in eastern DRC ignores President Kabila's failure to control his armed forces, which are responsible for regular attacks on Congolese civilians, as well as his tendency to use inflammatory ethnic rhetoric against supposed 'Rwandans' living in Congo, as seen during the 2006 and 2011 presidential campaigns. Simply diminishing Rwandan influence in eastern Congo will not address these fundamental causes of conflict and President Kabila's role in fomenting tensions for his own political gain. If the policy objective in altering aid strategies toward Rwanda is to guarantee security in eastern Congo and the region generally, more systemic remedies are required. Principal among these is substantial political and military reform within the DRC. Such reform does not appear forthcoming, particularly following Kabila’s victory in the 2011 presidential election, which was greeted favourably by much of the international community.

11. Finally, withdrawing aid from Rwanda is likely to have dire consequences for a country still addressing the complex legacies of the 1994 genocide. International donor contributions represent around 48% of the Rwandan national budget, the vast majority of which is spent on education, health and poverty alleviation. As a landlocked, resource-poor country, Rwanda still relies heavily on foreign assistance. Most observers – even those highly critical of the Rwandan government [7] – agree that Rwanda has recorded extraordinary successes in these domains since the genocide because of its effective use of international aid and its low levels of corruption. These major socio-economic achievements have been the bedrock of the peace and stability that Rwanda has enjoyed over the last 18 years. The danger in using aid to alter Rwanda’s perceived military policy in eastern DRC is that ultimately it will be the Rwandan population that suffers from any reduction in social and economic services. Withholding aid will do little to address systemic problems in the DRC and will undermine substantial gains in Rwanda. This risks causing major instability within Rwanda and the region as a whole and, in doing so, undermining the UK’s wider policy objectives in central Africa.

Policy Recommendations

12. The points raised above lead to a serious of concrete policy measures that should be adopted by the UK government. Above all, the UK should continue providing aid to the Rwandan government at the same level as before the allegations regarding M23. To date, donor assistance has contributed enormously to the stabilisation and prosperity of Rwandan society and to levels of social cohesion and economic development which were unimaginable in the aftermath of the genocide. While there may be justifiable reasons to question Rwanda’s military actions in the Great Lakes region and its domestic human rights record, these questions should be addressed separately from issues of development aid which benefit everyday Rwandans in tangible ways. The withholding or withdrawal of aid, as a means to alter Rwandan government policy, may not achieve domestic political reforms but will certainly undermine vital social and economic services for the majority of Rwandan citizens. That is too high a price to pay and may reverse many of the immense socio-economic advances Rwanda has made since the genocide.

13. Second, the UK government should call for more robust field methodologies employed by the UN Group of Experts, to ensure a higher quality of empirical analysis. The Group should display greater transparency about the nature of its informants and its strategies to ensure impartiality and comprehensiveness in its reporting. More effective GoE analysis would provide more systematic insights into conflict-related issues in the DRC and elsewhere and a more informed basis for international policymaking.

November 2012

[1] UN Group of Experts, ‘Addendum to the Interim Report of the Group of Experts on the DRC Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 4 of Security Council Resolution 2021 (2011)’, S/2012/348/Add.1, 27 June 2012, p.26.

[2] Ibid., p.14.

[3] UN Group of Experts, ‘Final Report of the Group of Experts on the DRC Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 6 of Security Council Resolution 1896 (2009)’, S/2010/596, 29 November 2010, p.29.

[4] Ibid., p.30.

[5] UN Group of Experts, ‘Interim Report of the Group of Experts on the DRC Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 8 of the Security Council Resolution 1857 (2008)’, S/2009/253, 18 May 2009, p. 6.

[6] UN Group of Experts, 27 June 2012, p.3.

[7] See, for example, S. Straus and L. Waldorf (eds.), Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence , University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

Prepared 15th November 2012