With accusations Rwanda was involved in supporting Congolese rebels, the German government suspended financial assistance to the country. Rights organizations strongly disagree with Germany's decision to resume aid.
The decision came as a big surprise. After a meeting between the German minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dirk Niebel, and Rwanda's Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, the German government announced it would provide 7 million euro ($9.4 million) in aid to Rwanda over the next 12 months. The money though will not be feed directly into government coffers, but will instead be used for projects and development.
Germany suspended financial assistance to the country last year when a United Nations report accused Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The German government's decision to resume payments has left rights organizations baffled. Rwanda-expert Carina Tertsakian tells DW that there isn't any proof Rwanda has stopped supporting rebel forces. The organization claims it has information M23 rebels based in Congo received financial and military support from Kigali as recently as December.
"If donor countries, like Germany, or others, resume aid prematurely, and the Rwandan government hasn't satisfied them, and the original issues have not been resolved, then this will undermine the code set down late last year," Tertsakian tells DW in an interview.
Other European countries, including Great Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands also froze monetary assistance to Rwanda last year. Germany is the first country following the suspension to reinstate its assistance plan. In this budget year, Rwanda will receive the first 7 million euro instalment, of the 21 million euro promised over the next three years.
'Rwanda makes progress'
Development Minister Dirk Niebel tells DW he believes he has made the right decision. "We don't want the progress that has been made in Rwanda to be lost because the economic imbalance will be too great." But, the minister remains cautious, "we don't think it's a good idea to spend German taxpayers money without having a system of checks and balancers in place." The ministry, he adds, takes the recommendations made by the UN with regard to Rwanda's involvement in the Congo very seriously. But, he says, Rwanda has made great progress and is well on its way to finding a political solution to the situation.
Ilona Auer-Frege from the Ecumenical Network Central Africa is cautiously optimistic. Regarding the peace negotiations that are currently underway in Uganda, the networks coordinator says that Rwanda has been making an effort. Rwanda, Auer-Frege says, also understand their strategy of influencing Congo cannot continue, but she adds, it is important to support Rwanda's readiness for dialogue.
The stick and the carrot
Auer-Frege believes international pressure over the last six months is behind Rwanda's reluctance to be involved in the Congo peace process. "When you press the point too much, you run the risk the Rwandan government will become more radicalized and absolutely no more negotiations will be possible." Rwanda must now show it has ceased assisting M23 rebels in Congo. Instead, Rwanda will help build up the regional economic community and investment in Congo. Auer-Frege and her organization want the general population to be involved in the development program.
Uganda is also watching
The United Nations group of experts intensified their allegations against Rwanda in November. Their report suggests the Minister of Defense was heading the command structure of the M23 rebels. Experts also accused Uganda of supporting rebel forces. Shortly following the announcement, Niebel suspended payments to Uganda. Now, says Niebel, the ministry is considering making Ugandan aid purely project-based.