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Volume 740: debated on Wednesday 21 November 2012


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Amnesty International report Rwanda: shrouded in secrecy.

My Lords, the UK shares the concerns raised in this Amnesty International report. Our high commissioner in Kigali has raised illegal detentions and key concerns in the report with the Rwandan Government on a number of occasions. He has also regularly requested access to detention centres and, in September, was granted access to the Gikondo transit centre, a facility that has been mentioned in other international human rights reports on illegal detentions.

I thank my noble friend for that response. She will be aware that the Amnesty report documents illegal detention and torture over more than two years while, over the past two days, the Rwandan military has been backing the M23 in its incursions. They have overrun the city of Goma in the Congo. Surely both of these events are serious breaches of a memorandum of understanding that Rwanda signed with the UK just this September, committing it to:

“The principles of good governance … respect for human rights”,


“The promotion of peace and stability in the Great Lakes region”.

In the absence of any signs of compliance with the memorandum of understanding, can my noble friend tell us whether, during our Minister for Africa’s visit to the region—he is there now—we will curb Rwanda’s aid programme forthwith?

My noble friend raised a number of issues, some of which relate to reports that were clearly leaked. It would be inappropriate for me to comment specifically on a leaked report but I can confirm that this Government take those concerns extremely seriously. That is why, among other reasons, the Minister for Africa is in the region. My noble friend will be aware of the United Nations Security Council presidential statement, which was issued only yesterday and deals with specific concerns about the M23 in Goma. I am sure he will also accept that our aid programme in Rwanda is, specifically, to deal with poverty in a country where almost 45% of Rwandans remain in extreme poverty. Real progress has been made since the genocide of 1994 in building Rwanda’s economy. I am sure he will accept that our support to the poorest in that economy is part of that.

Does the noble Baroness not recall that in September, in reply to a Written Question that I tabled, her noble friend Lady Northover confirmed that some £344 million is being provided in bilateral aid to Rwanda between 2011 and 2015? In that same reply, she said that Rwanda,

“must adhere to strict partnership principles”,—[Official Report, 24/9/12; col. WA284.]

and that the Secretary of State was still considering whether those expectations were being met. Given what the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, just said about the fall of Goma—there are now 80,000 displaced people and refugees in that area—and what Ban Ki-Moon has said about using aid for leverage, will the Minister say whether we are reconsidering our decision to restore aid in that vast degree to Rwanda and who is arming and paying for the arms of the M23 rebels?

I cannot comment on the last question that the noble Lord raised but, in relation to aid, in 2012-13 we have committed £75 million, of which £29 million is general budget support. The noble Lord will be aware that in July of this year, because of certain concerns that were raised, a £16 million tranche of general budget funding was not given over until September and, at that point, £8 million was given over as general budget support but £8 million was redirected to education and food. The next tranche is due in December and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development is looking at all these matters.

My Lords, does the Minister have a view on how the Security Council could accept yesterday that M23 is getting external support but then perversely claim that it lacks evidence? Does she agree that it need look no further than the new, well documented evidence provided by Human Rights Watch on Rwanda’s provision of, for instance, logistical support and sophisticated weaponry to M23?

We were heavily involved in that presidential statement at the United Nations Security Council yesterday. It was important that we raised our concerns, and we raised them. As the noble Baroness will note from that report, the support given to M23 is not entirely clear. Reference was made to it by the United Nations group of experts’ report via a leaked report. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that leak, but these are matters that we continuously discuss with Rwanda.

My Lords, Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy paints a bleak picture of arbitrary arrest and torture inside Rwanda. What steps are the Government taking to urge the Rwandan Government to investigate all cases of unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill treatment by the military and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice?

I can assure the right reverend Prelate that human rights are an important component of the development work we do in Rwanda. The UK recognises that there are serious concerns about human rights in Rwanda, particularly about political rights and freedom of expression, as well as the concerns detailed in the Amnesty International report. We raise these concerns consistently in our discussions with the Rwandan Government at the highest level, and we will continue to do so.

My Lords, do the Government acknowledge that in addition to the aid provided to Rwanda, this country is also one of the largest aid contributors to Uganda and is increasing its aid year after year to the Democratic Republic of Congo? That puts the United Kingdom in a unique position with our role in the Security Council and in the European Union to insist that the talks happening today in Kampala produce a long-term regional solution that involves all the countries of the region accepting their responsibility for the situation, not just at the moment in Goma, but the continuing violence over recent years. A regional solution that delivers peace not just for people in North Kivu, but for the rest of the region as well, is essential.

The noble Lord raises important points. He will be aware that the Minister for Africa is visiting Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. We have strong relationships in the region, not just through our aid programmes, and it is important that we use them to further stability in the region. The noble Lord may not be aware that aid to the Ugandan Government has been temporarily suspended as a result of evidence emerging from an ongoing forensic audit of the Prime Minister’s office.

Considering that with 20,000 armed men and a budget of $1.4 million MONUSCO has been unable to protect the civilians of Goma from the aggression of M23, does the Minister think that it is time to consider more than just reviewing the mandate of MONUSCO? Has she seen the French proposals to give MONUSCO an aggressive capability? Will she discuss that with it to see whether we could support it in the Security Council accordingly?

The MONUSCO mandate, as the noble Lord is aware, is specifically to protect civilians. They do not have, as he says, a more aggressive mandate at this stage but I will take what he has said on board and feed it back.