US senator questions aid to Rwanda over human rights, role in Congo

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he would place a hold on US security assistance to Rwanda in Congress over concerns about the Rwandan government’s human rights record and role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senator Robert Menendez called for a comprehensive review of US policy towards Rwanda.

Menendez said he would begin by placing a hold on several million dollars in support for Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions, according to the letter, which was leaked to the media and which his office confirmed was authentic. A hold is a Senate procedure that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote.

Menendez said he feared that US support for the Rwandan military, while it is deployed to Congo and backing rebels, would send “a troubling signal that the US tacitly approves of such actions.”

Read: The M23 demon: Could Rwanda ultimately invade DRC?

The M23 rebel group began a major offensive in Congo’s eastern borderlands with Rwanda at the end of March. Congo has accused Rwanda of backing M23, which Kigali denies.

Read: The M23 problem, Kigali’s headache and some hard truths

The United States allocated more than $147 million in foreign assistance to Rwanda in 2021, making it Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor.

Menendez also cited what he said were credible accusations that the Rwandan government was muzzling critics at home and targeting dissidents living outside the country.

The US State Department reviews its policies in response to events on the ground and would consult closely with Congress on the question of aid to Rwanda, department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

“We’ve said before that we’re concerned about the rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda,” Price told a regular press briefing, urging both sides to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue.

A Rwandan government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The smallholder farmers feeding the long food supply chain in Rwanda

Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in East Africa, but one of Africa’s most densely populated nations. It has the highest bean consumption per capita globally, followed by Burundi, and is the second-largest per capita consumer of bananas.

On a Thursday afternoon, under the scorching sun, hundreds of farmers lined up in Kigali’s suburb, Mulindi, known to be a junction of cheap fresh food from different parts of the country.

Energetic and enthusiastic, they got down to the business of selling fresh from-the-garden foods. Among them was Charles Mwizerwa. He isn’t a farmer. He is an innovator who had showed up to present different solutions to the challenges the country’s agricultural sector has faced for ages.

An agronomist and researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Mwizerwa talked about an application called ICT4BXW, which, he said, has helped smallholder farmers across Rwanda combat banana disease.

“Over 8,000 smallholder farmers have downloaded the app, and they teach others about the information they find there. The ICT4BXW is an ICT-based tool with information in Kinyarwanda that acts like an early warning system to provide real-time data on the incidence of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt disease,” Mwizerwa said.

He added that farmers who do not own a smartphone can call 845 toll-free and learn about banana farming and how to fight diseases.

“This will increase food security in the country. About 20,000 farmers have used the platform,” he said.

Morris Haragirimana, another innovator, has gone in a different direction. He has developed a solar-powered irrigation system that he sells to farmers in his home area in Bugesera at Rwf 60,000 ($59).

“This drastically reduces the cost of production for farmers. It has made irrigation possible in some remote areas where electricity has not yet reached. This system is durable and farmers who buy it no longer need to worry about electricity or fuel bills. It is environment friendly and requires little maintenance,” Mr Haragirimana said.

Harvest Day

But these are only a small representation of what is happening behind the curtains in the struggle to feed 12 million in the predominantly agricultural country, where 72 percent of the working population is employed in agriculture.

Largely a subsistence agricultural country — much like the rest of the East African Community partner states — there is now talk of a “silent agricultural revolution” taking place in Rwanda.

Every first Friday of August, Rwandans gather in their communities to celebrate the National Harvest Day, Umuganura — meaning “thanksgiving day.” It is a century-old practice, and the food is communally shared in a large flat basket to reflect Rwanda’s food production.

The food mostly includes beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, maize, green vegetables, cassava, and sorghum cake — the most productive crops in Rwanda, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Rwanda, ranked the highest in bean consumption per capita globally, with an average resident consuming 34.8kg, is followed by neighbouring Burundi, where an average person consumes 31.5kg. The country also consumes a lot of banana, which is grown at different levels by at least 90 percent of households, according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Rwanda is ranked the second-largest consumer of banana in the world, with an average Rwandan consuming about 227kg of banana per year, according to the Helgi Library which utilises data from the FAO corporate statistical database (Faostat) .

Although 75 percent of Rwanda’s agricultural produce comes from smallholder farmers, the sector employs about 70 percent of the population and contributes to around 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

In addition to the challenges of climate change and the fact that 90 percent of Rwanda’s terrain is sloppy, which makes it prone to soil erosion and land degradation, the UN reports that 81.3 percent of the country’s population is food secure.

Also read: Warning over hunger crisis gets louder in E. Africa

Food production

However, Rwanda’s food production is only a drop in the ocean of what the East African region produces, although production still varies.

Tanzania, for instance, contributes more than 80 percent of the total rice production in EAC, with the rest of the members supplying 20 percent, according to the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan.

Take Uganda, for example, 89 percent of the population is food secure. The FAO describes its population as still having normal access to food from own production as food prices in the market are affordable and have an “acceptable food consumption score” and can afford at least three meals per day of a diversified diet.

In contrast to Kenya, 36.5 percent of the population is food insecure. Kenyan farmers, whose crops depend on rain, are becoming increasingly vulnerable to drought and the unpredictability of weather patterns resulting from climate change, although this is a shared problem. Nevertheless, agriculture accounts for 65 percent of the country’s export earnings, and provides employment for more than 80 percent of the Kenyan population.

Although Rwanda’s population is generally food secure, the 2021 Global Hunger Index ranks Rwanda 98th out of the 116 countries, with a score of 26.4.

“Rwanda has a level of hunger that is serious,” the report says, an outlook compounded by data that shows that stunting has been a persistent issue in the country, despite efforts to eradicate, or at least reduce, it.

The UN estimates that 800,000 Rwandan children under five are stunted. Although the rates of chronic malnutrition among children under five decreased from 44 percent to 38 percent, rates are still too high. It is estimated that 18 percent of children between six and eight months are stunted, and 49 percent for children aged 18-23 months are stunted, with children in rural areas are more stunted than those in the city.

Part of the reason for stunted growth in Rwanda is high poverty rate, where more than 30 percent of the population is under the poverty line. Farming, perhaps unsurprisingly, has become one of the frontlines in the battle against poverty and hunger.

Agriculture jobs

One of the high-profile figures in this fight is Gerard Sina, 59, who has created more than 280 full-time jobs and 600 part-time jobs in Rulindo District, where he was born.

Mr Sina, who started his business when he was only 20, has also built a school in his home area, with the nursery to secondary sections, where learners study free, even those in boarding school.

His successful career started from his parents’ sweet potatoes harvest in 1983, whose puree Sina used to make his famous Urwibutso doughnuts, kick-starting his success and the transformation of the area where he was born.

Mr Sina, who works with more than 3,000 farming families, also offers free seeds, fertiliser, training and buys crops when ready for harvest. His flagship, “Akabanga,” a chilli pepper oil, has gained attention for himself and the country, and is probably one of the most well-known Rwandan products globally.

Many pieces have been moved to solve the Rwandan agricultural puzzle. One of them is seeds. After years of spending millions of dollars on seed imports, Rwanda says it has reached its target of becoming a self-sufficient in seeds supply. It is no longer importing maize, soybean and wheat seeds.

Before 2017, it depended on imports to meet its need for these seeds, bringing 3,000 tonnes of hybrid maize seed, 800 tonnes of wheat and 700 tonnes of soybean every year. Well up to 463,500 farmers now have access to improved seed. One of the many who moved the pieces is the pan-African agricultural organisation the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

In 2009, AGRA, through a grant, supported Rwandan maize farmers with the first hybrid seeds and, later, partnered with the Rwanda Agricultural Board in capacity-building of local seed companies under a project named “Securing Early Generation Seed for Emerging Seed Industry in Rwanda.” Before then, the country relied on imports.

One of the beneficiaries of the programme is Norah Kamashaza, 36. She has two farms in the Eastern province; one in Bugesera and another in Nyagatare, but she also rents out land to grow maize. Now, she has a significant market in the Eastern province, and sometimes also sells her produce through the government-owned “smart nkunganire” platform, where dealers search for stock and buy at a wholesale price.

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Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in East Africa, but one of Africa’s most densely populated nations. It has the highest bean consumption per capita globally, followed by Burundi, […]

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Court sketch shows former senior Rwandan official Laurent Bucyibaruta during his trial for genocide.

French court jails Laurent Bucyibaruta for 20 years over genocide

A French court has jailed a former senior Rwandan official for 20 years after finding him guilty of complicity in his country’s genocide.

Laurent Bucyibaruta is the highest-ranking Rwandan to have faced trial in France over the 1994 massacres in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in 100 days of mass killings.

At the heart of the case against the 78-year-old were several “security” meetings, either ordered or attended by Bucyibaruta, which prosecutors had argued were actually planning sessions for the killings.

Specifically, the former prefect of the southern province of Gikongoro was accused of having persuaded thousands of people to take refuge in the Murambi Technical School, by promising them food, water and protection. 

Days later, in the early hours of April 21, tens of thousands of Tutsis were executed there in one of the genocide’s bloodiest episodes.

The court also examined Bucyibaruta’s responsibility in the massacre of around 90 Tutsi pupils at the Marie Merci school in Kibeho on May 7, 1994 and in the execution of Tutsi prisoners — including three priests — in Gikongoro prison.

During his trial, Bucyibaruta denied any involvement in the killings.

“I was never on the side of the killers,” Bucyibaruta told the court as his trial ended on Tuesday.

In an apparent message to genocide survivors, he said: “I want to tell them that the thought of leaving them to the killers never entered my mind.”

He added: “Did I lack courage? Could I have saved them? Those questions, those regrets even, have been haunting me for over 28 years.”

His lawyers had called for the court to take “a courageous decision” and acquit him.

Also read: Rwanda protests Kabuga trial delay at Hague court

Court cases 

The trial involved more than 100 witness statements, including some from survivors from Rwanda, either in person or by video conference.

Bucyibaruta, who has been in France since 1997, has myriad health problems and was allowed to remain under house arrest during trial to receive treatments.

France has long been under pressure from activists to act against suspected Rwandan perpetrators who took refuge on French soil afterwards.

The French government at the time of the genocide had been a long-standing backer of the Hutu regime in power, which has caused decades of tensions between the countries since.

A separate French probe into the act that sparked the genocide — the shooting down of Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane — was closed earlier this year.

Read: France ends case over Rwanda plane shooting

Four people in three cases have already been convicted in French courts over the genocide: a former hotel driver was handed a 14-year sentence, an army officer was jailed for 25 years and two mayors were given life sentences.

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Laurent Bucyibaruta is the highest-ranking Rwandan to have faced trial in France over the 1994 massacres in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in 100 days of mass killings

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The M23 problem, Kigali’s headache and some truths few want to hear

Soon after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was elected President of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – the predecessor to the African Union — the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed of Rwandan exiles and refugees, mostly Tutsis, decided to attack Rwanda on October 1, 1990 using his country as a launch pad.

Four years earlier, the Rwandans had helped Museveni rise to power in Kampala and had held key positions in the new Ugandan army. Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, was a senior officer in the Ugandan military intelligence, while his comrade in arms Fred Rwigema, killed at the frontline in the early days of the campaign, had been minister of State for Defence.

Museveni was upset, his election at the helm of the continental body meant the elevation of the former rebel leader, brought to power by the force of arms, as an equal among world peers. And now these “boys,” as Museveni used to call them, risked ruining his moment. The situation seemed all the more upsetting as he had trouble convincing anyone that he was not behind this “aggression” on a neighbouring and brotherly country.

Museveni recounted how it happened while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York: “The news reached me at night, I tried to wake President [Juvenal] Habyarimana in vain. The man was a heavy sleeper.”

Thirty years later, Rwanda was likely in the position Museveni was, following the recent attacks of the Congolese rebel movement of March 23rd, as M23 – in reference to an unfulfilled peace treaty signed on March 23, 2009, between its leaders and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It came as Kigali was getting ready to host, in less than a month, 50 heads of state, members of the Commonwealth. While relations between Rwanda and the DRC had finally warmed up with the advent of Félix Tshisekedi to power in Kinshasa, Kigali would have done without another M23 attack, which put it in a delicate geopolitical situation, provoking fresh anti-Rwandan rhetoric in DRC.

Congo problem, Rwandan exhibits

rebels
A rebel group in Ituri Province, the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on September 19, 2020. PHOTO | AFP

The DRC public often conflates the M23 with the Rwandan army, and for good reason. Some commanders of the rebel group had joined the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in its own armed struggle of the 1990s which put an end to the genocide against the Tutsi.

Once the war was over, the Congolese Tutsi returned home to their highlands of Kivu, eastern DRC, where in the meantime, anti-Tutsi hatred had been shifted by the genocide perpetrators, who had been defeated back home. Supported by then Zairean strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, the “genocidaires” were targeting the Tutsi in Zaire.

This is how, with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, they took up arms again to defend their community in a struggle that galvanised other Mobutu opponents with their own national grievances, leading them to march on Kinshasa, ousting Mobutu, and replacing him with Laurent Désiré Kabila in September 1997.

Once installed, Kabila would fall out with his hitherto allies who had brought him to power, even going as far as collaborating with the same genocidaires. His replacement by his son Joseph Kabila would not change much.

In Rwanda, there was hope with the advent, at last, of a new first name in the Congolese political spectrum since its independence in 1960: in the absence of Antoine, the patriarch; his heir Felix!

Read: Kagame stars in DR Congo Tshisekedi ceremonies

All seemed well at first, with the coming to power of Felix Tshisekedi, relations between the DRC and Rwanda were almost repaired. It was mostly the Congolese diaspora, aggrieved by “the aggression of little Rwanda on great Zaire,” who disliked the new rapprochement.

Short-lived honeymoon

To understand the “M23 problem” one needs to appreciate that there are three types of rebels in the DRC. The first, small militias with no national political agenda, that attack civilians, rarely fight each other, coexist with the regular army (FARDC) and UN peacekeepers (Monusco). These constitute the majority, their interests do not go beyond their communities. There are more than 100.

Then there are foreign groups that exploit the weakness – some read it as an absence – of the state and national army, to use the vast DRC territory as a breeding ground for attacks against their countries of origin. It is in this category that we find the Rwandan genocidaires, known as FDLR, and the Ugandan terrorists known as ADF-NALU. In the past, there were other Sudanese and Ugandan groups – including the infamous Lord Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony, Congo-Brazzaville groups and even Angolans. The dense forests of the DRC are a festering ground for all manner of armed groups from the region.

Then there is the M23. Congolese citizens, with national grievances linked to lack of security, discrimination of their community and poor governance at large.

The first and second categories of militias are rarely bothered because they do everyone’s business: smuggling, illicit trafficking of minerals, enriching FARDC commanders and multinationals, sponsor political careers in Kinshasa and justify the presence of both UN forces in the DRC for more than 20 years and that of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) for 10 years.

The M23 pose a (geo)political problem, because they seize territory, threaten power in the capital Kinshasa, which in turn exposes the weaknesses of the national army, of national politics, and of the UN. To make themselves heard, the M23 are fighting against everyone, including the two other categories of rebel groups, the FARDC, and even Monusco – sometimes all three in a coalition.

Read: DR Congo’s M23: A rebel group re-emerges

According to an “incident monitoring think tank” manned by international researchers in eastern DRC, the Congolese army FARDC is one of the most violent against civilians, at times their killings surpass those of Ugandan Islamists ADF-Nalu, and Rwandan FDLR genocidaires.

Ten years ago, M23 was defeated by a UN-backed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) made of South African, Tanzanian and Malawian armies. FIB’s mission was to defeat “all the negative forces” in eastern DRC. At the time, M23 posed little resistance and with some political assurances, withdrew into Rwanda and Uganda.

The FIB seems to have since “acclimatised” to Congolese “Rumba” like everyone else, read: doing nothing, and allegedly engaging in illicit trade.

Rock and hard place

map showing conflict-prone DRC provinces

Upon accession to power, President Tshisekedi wanted to be seen as tackling the protracted armed conflict in eastern DRC. So he declared a “State of Siege” in North Kivu and Ituri. State of emergency means the region is run by the army and most civil rights are suspended. State of emergency also means a hefty budget sent to eastern DRC and managed by the army.

Read: Military replaces civilian authorities in eastern DRC

However, a recent parliament audit revealed that of the $74 million allocated to “State of siege” to be sent to Kivu and Ituri, 68 percent was “eaten” in Kinshasa, 12 percent went to unknown expenditure of the army, and only the remaining 20 percent was sent to eastern Congo.

Following the recent attack by the M23 two months ago, the occupation of the towns of Bunagana and the province of Ruchuru on the border with Uganda, Tshisekedi accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel movement, a charge Kigali vehemently denies.

But what alternative did Tshisekedi have? Should he have explained to the Congolese that they have no army? That they never had one? That Mobutu appealed to mercenaries (Jean Schramme, Bob Denard) or to foreign countries (Morocco, Senegal, Chad, Togo) to help keep security and power? There are more than 58 countries contributing troops to Monusco for over 20 years, with dismal results.

Read: DR Congo wants UN mission to leave

monusco
Monusco soldiers fire at Codeco militia during the extraction of a Red Cross team which had been ambushed in Dhedja on December 19, 2021 in Ituri, DR Congo. PHOTO | AFP

The FARDC spend their time playing “Sobels” (Soldier by day, Rebel by night) – a sobriquet borrowed from Sierra Leone and Liberia civil war of the 90s. They change clothes to loot the populations they are supposed to protect, collaborate with the FDLR, and sell weapons and ammunition on the black market from Uvira to Beni.

Read: How M23 and Congolese army commanders benefited from $57m illegal trade in Kivu

Are the Congolese ready to listen to these truths? The first politician to venture there would immediately sign his political death, a year before the elections, and Tshisekedi is not suicidal. Using Rwanda as a scapegoat seems like the only political card in his hand.

Read: DR Congo, Rwanda agree to ease tension

Hate speech revived

While no proof of these accusations has been brought forth, the streets, from Kinshasa to Brussels, need no further convincing. Unfortunately, accusing Rwanda brings with it the old demons of “Tutsiphobia”. Anti-Tutsi hate speech across DRC has risen to troubling proportions. Congolese social media is awash with anti-Rwanda hate speech, lists of Tutsi members of the FARDC are being published online with rewards promised to anyone who would “cleanse our army”.

Tutsi of Banyamulenge community in South Kivu’s high plateau have left their homesteads after their cattle were looted by various militia, and now live in UN-protected IDP camps.

Images of young militias affiliated to Tshisekedi’s ruling party (UDPS) were seen in the streets of Kinshasa, armed with machetes, stopping cars looking for Tutsis. Several people have been killed by Congolese mobs, for allegedly “looking” Tutsi, including one Lt-Col Joseph Kaminzobe, member of the Banyamulenge community and officer of the regular army, burnt alive by young people in Lweba, South Kivu. Many Congolese Tutsi civilians are reported to have been burnt alive, and at least in one case, Mr Semutobo, a Munyamulenge, was lynched by a mob of young people in Kalima district who posted it online.

Read: Rising hate speech in Congo conflict alarms UN

M23’s beef with Kinshasa

peace agreement signed in Nairobi in December 2013, between the Congolese government and the M23 consisted of:

  • Amnesty to all M23 fighters who did not commit war crimes and crimes against humanity;
  • Register M23 as a legitimate political party.
  • Repatriation of “Rwandophone” of Congolese nationality, sheltered in refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda.

The agreement has never been implemented for ten years hence, causing the recent attack by the M23.

Ironically, M23 claims it doesn’t want to fight. While they are occupying important towns of Bunagana and Ruchuru in Noth Kivu, they claim to do so to compel the DRC government to implement the Nairobi accords and are ready to relinquish them.

bunagana
Bunagana in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the border with Uganda. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG

Amid the accusations against Rwanda and its denials, there is one fact: Kigali is not going to fight the M23.

Indeed options of possible support to the DRC army in fighting M23 were being studied in Rwandan quarters until Congolese politicians started accusing Kigali and FARDC shelled Rwandan territories of Rubavu and Kinigi, heightening tensions between the two neighbours.

As a reminder, the M23 political wing, which has been sheltered in Rwanda for the last ten years, has not left their camps, while those of Uganda, led by Commander Sultani Makenga quietly left Uganda five years ago, and have since been based in DRC forests near the Ugandan border.

Following routs on the battlefield during the war that opposed it to the RPF in the 90s, then Habyarimana’s government accused “Ibyitso Tutsi” internal spies of the loss. My mother, who had run a hairdressing salon in Kigali for 10 years, and who had never been involved in politics, was arrested and detained for a year with thousands of other civilians, for the simple reason that they were Tutsi. Today, it is the turn of any Congolese with “Tutsi facial expressions” to “prove their citizenship”.

I am not worried about the repeated calls by Congolese populists to attack and annex Rwanda, after all, as Wole Soyinka would say, “A tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces”. What worries me is the resurgence of hate speech and violent killings targeting Congolese Tutsi, and anyone with “doubtful” features; the Luba, Ngbandi, Bashi… all Congolese citizens.

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Soon after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was elected President of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – the predecessor to the African Union — the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed […]

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Photo AFP

Hope springs eternal for UK-Rwanda migrant deal

The UK-Rwanda migrant deal is likely to go on despite leadership change in the Conservative Party after the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A judicial review to consider the lawfulness of the asylum arrangement is due to be heard in the High Court in the UK soon. The hearing is expected to last three days and a decision delivered by end of July.

While the change of leadership in the UK’s Conservative Party is expected in October, a change of policy is unlikely as the party had already backed the asylum arrangement.

This is part of a broader package of reforms in the recently enacted Nationality and Borders Act, which the UK government says will “deter illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of people smuggling networks, and speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK.”

“The (refugee ) policy will continue,” a well-placed UK official told The EastAfrican. “I am sure this important relationship will only be invigorated by a change of leader at this point. Rwanda won applause for the Chogm and there are great hopes for the Commonwealth under its new Rwandan chair.”

This is part of a broader package of reforms in the recently enacted Nationality and Borders Act, which the UK government says will “deter illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of people smuggling networks, and speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK.”

“The (refugee ) policy will continue,” a well-placed UK official told The EastAfrican. “I am sure this important relationship will only be invigorated by a change of leader at this point. Rwanda won applause for the Chogm and there are great hopes for the Commonwealth under its new Rwandan chair.”

The UK and Rwandan governments are promoting the arrangement as an innovative solution for a “broken” international refugee protection regime. They contend it will deter criminality, exploitation and abuse and support the humane and respectful treatment of refugees.

Kigali says migrants will be entitled to full protection under Rwandan law, equal access to employment, and enrolment in healthcare and social care services as well as the issuance of necessary identification documents.

But the deal has been criticised by a broad range of stakeholders. Some Conservative MPs have voiced doubts about its legality, practicality and value for money.

Asylum rights advocates have practical concerns about the arrangement and Rwanda’s suitability as a host. They also say the deal undermines the post-WW2 international protection regime.

Last week, the UK announced a migration deal with Nigeria to “tackle illegal migration and speed up the removal of foreign criminals.”

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Photo: AFP

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DRC, Rwanda agree to ease tension and normalize diplomatic relations

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda on Wednesday agreed to immediately cease hostilities between the two countries, Angolan President João Lourenço has announced.

Following the Wednesday meeting in Luanda, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame also agreed to create an ad-hoc observation mechanism to help ease tensions, he added.

Luanda will next Tuesday host the Rwanda-DRC bilateral joint commission meeting, President Lourenço, who is also the chairman of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), said in his capacity as mediator.  He was appointed by the African Union to mediate in the Kinshasa-Kigali crisis.

“I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures that are contained in the roadmap that has just been presented,” President Lourenço added.

Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), João Lourenço (ANgola) and Felix Tshisekedi (DR Congo) speak following a mediation meeting in Luanda on July 6, 2022. PHOTO | COURTESY | DR CONGO PRESIDENCY

Rwanda and DR Congo have been at loggerheads following counter accusations of each country supporting different rebel groups in eastern DRC hostile to the other nation.

DR Congo and Rwanda relations deteriorated after Kinshasa accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, who have been involved in a series of clashes with the army since the end of May. Kigali denied the allegations, but in turn accused DRC of supporting FDLR rebels who are hostile to Rwanda.

On Sunday, President Tshisekedi said that there was no doubt that Rwanda was backing a rebellion in his country after the resurgence of the M23 rebels active in the east of the country, near the border between both countries.

Kinshasa had earlier also suspended Rwandan carrier RwandAir from flying into the country, and summoned Rwanda’s ambassador to warn him of the country’s position.

The medication process was meant to help restore confidence between Rwanda and the DRC.

“This objective will be achieved gradually via a so-called Luanda roadmap based on the re-launch of the DRC-Rwanda joint commission, which has not met for several years,” Tshisekedi’s communication office said. This commission will hold its first meeting on July 12, 2022 in Luanda.

The roadmap stipulates a willingness to normalise diplomatic relations between Kinshasa and Kigali.

“Angola has amassed vast experience in solving conflicts thus I think this conflict between DRC and Rwanda will come to an end with President Lourenço’s mediation,” Macolino Tavares, a political analyst, told The EastAfrican.

“This conflict between brothers has no deep reason to keep on. With Angola mediation it will come soon to an end,” Matias Pires, another analyst, told Angolan state-owned Rádio Nacional de Angola.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda on Wednesday agreed to immediately cease hostilities between the two countries, Angolan President João Lourenço has announced. Following the Wednesday meeting in […]

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