By Marco Jowell

Director of Research


Surrounded by the growing controversy of the indictment of nine Rwandan government officials by French Judge Bruguiere, the government of Rwanda held its sixth annual conference with its development partners this week. The conference focused on five key development areas and the effort to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


Rwanda’s development strategy is focused in the following categories:

  • Economic Development & Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).
  • Private sector development.
  • Agriculture
  • Decentralization, good governance, reconciliation & rule of law.
  • Aid Policy



The conference focused on matching Rwanda’s Vision 2020 commitment of becoming a middle income country by adopting the UN’s MDGs. Although highly ambitious the MDG’s can possibly be achieved with international cooperation combined with dedicated leadership enforcing a clear developmental strategy. The development plan aims to increase primary school enrolment to 100 percent and secondary school enrolment to 60 percent of the total population, which is predicted to be 13 million people by 2020.


Also in the EDPRS is a commitment to reduce the numbers of those living on less than UD$1 per day from 65 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2020. GDP growth rate is expected to rise also from 5.6 percent in 2006 to 8 percent in 2020.


Jean-Francois Ruhashyankiko, a senior economic advisor at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), stipulated that there was a need to reduce poverty by building upon leadership, working with development partners (foreign and local) and promotion of the private sector. Significantly, Ruhashyankiko noted that these aims were ambitious for such a short period but also affirmed that such goals were realistic if certain obstacles could be overcome and if there was enough commitment from all parties.


Private sector development was the second aspect promoted in the conference.  Participants recognized the importance of the private sector in employment creation, enhancing growth and poverty reduction. This incorporated the need for the government of Rwanda to create a favorable environment for the deployment of existing and new businesses. The government presented a Financial Sector Development Plan. The plan involves a diversification of financial instruments which both the government and development partners are committed too.


Robert Bayigamba, chairman of the Rwanda Private Sector Federation, noted some obstacles in fostering private investment and projects. These were a small but burgeoning private sector, limited skills, geographical obstacles, such as lack of access to the sea and infrastructure problems, a small national market and lack of participation in public policy.


However Bayigamba was positive that Rwanda’s private sector could grow quickly if these issues were addressed. He stressed that to foster Rwanda into a middle income nation a vibrant private sector is mandatory.


The third issue was agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Anastase Murekezi, outlined seven priorities for the farming sector and some obstacles to their implementation. The priorities are:


  • Erosion control
  • Development of the marshlands
  • Upland irrigation development
  • Enhancing animal resources
  • Increasing use of inputs (quantity & quality)
  • Ensuring community food security
  • Promotion of exports


The constraints the minister mentioned were threefold. First, technical constraints involving the use of inputs (priced or un-priced resources) and the use of modern technology. Second, external factors such as energy crisis and weather dependence. Finally, rebuilding extension services and improving agricultural capacity.


Murekezi promoted a Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation. This incorporates four programmes and 17 sub-programmes in the agricultural sector, aligned with the EDPRS. She added that agriculture provided the foundation for Rwanda’s short and medium term growth as 90 percent of the population depends on agriculture as their livelihood.


The fourth aspect of the conference encompassed the largest scope of all the issues, revolving around decentralization, good governance, reconciliation and the rule of law. According to the Minister of Local government and Good Governance, Protais Musoni, decentralization is a necessity but also a gradual process for achieving good governance and accurate accountability.


The aim is for local authorities in each region emphasizing a grass roots level form of decision making as well as improved transparency and accountability. The decentralization program includes fiscal decentralization where Rwanda has had initial success fighting corruption (See GLCSS weekly newsletter 17 November 2006). This was also firmly corroborated by the delegate from the African Development Bank who stated that in terms of corruption only four African states faired better than Rwanda.


Regarding good governance Musoni had a dynamic plan of action revolving around capacity building of four sectors. First central government institutions (parliament, ministries, the ombudsman and security forces), second local government institutions (Rwanda Association for Local Government Authority, Community Development Councils and national dialogue), third the private sector (Rwanda Import and Export Authority , the privatization secretariat and fostering public – private sector partnership) and fourth civil society (media, NGOs and faith based organizations).


Musoni went on to say that the key areas in promoting the above sectors were institutional strengthening, unity and reconciliation, social welfare of the population, and economic planning and management. He also reasserted that capacity building with clear definitions was paramount to establishing good governance and rule of law.


Two further points were made about reconciliation and rule of law. The notions were intertwined although the former focused on the Gacaca trials while the latter involved national unity. Both however emphasized participation on an individual level on the part of all Rwandese to cement national identity and to deal with the issue of division and disparity within Rwandese society.


The last area to be addressed was aid to Rwanda through multilateral and bi-lateral donors.


Director of Economic Planning, John Rwangombwa, stated that there are three methods of aid given to Rwanda; general budget support, sector budget support and project support. He made it clear that Rwanda preferred un-earmarked general budget support but accepted sector budget support and didn’t particularly desire project support but was whole heartedly dedicated to the Paris Declaration.


His rationale was that budget supporting initiatives enable the donor to work along side the government creating a partnership whereas project support worked outside the realms of government planning, where they have no control. However he conceded that Rwanda would continue to accept project support donors.


Rwangombwa also conceded that Rwanda was heavily reliant on aid flows with 23 percent of GDP coming in the form of aid. The total amount of aid in 2005 was US$497.6million which is equivalent to US$ 55 per capita. The minister asserted that however reliant the government was on aid it wouldn’t accept assistance unless it was beneficial to Rwanda.


The most important factor needed, said the minister, was the “scaling up of aid”. That is, more aid incorporated with the four previous issues discussed in the conference.


In reply to the Finance Minister’s statement, the donor community, represented by Arne Ström of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), commended the government of Rwanda for strong leadership in relation to the Paris Declaration and for the ongoing reforms in financial management.

Ström went on to say that the donor community fully supported Rwanda in its aid programme as long as it carries on as it is. Furthermore he highlighted areas where the donor community would endeavor to improve its policies, specifically, alignment with Rwanda, harmonization with other aid agencies (multi and bilateral), the scaling up of aid and meeting targets set out in the Paris Declaration.

The concluding session of the conference involved statements from the development partners.

The United States firmly congratulated Rwanda on its development strategy and mentioned the recent success Rwanda had in becoming eligible for aid through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) which qualifies aid based on 18 different criteria.

Japan firmly supported the government of Rwanda in its measures proposed under the banner of “Africa the home of self-endeavor”.

The European Union stated its role lay in ownership and partnership emphasizing the need for good governance, civil society promotion, transparency and social equality through a regular political dialogue. The key points according to the EU are ambition and credibility.

France asserted that it was part and parcel of the EU and that it was dedicated to aiding Rwanda in their propositions.

China reasserted the eight point plan made at the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (see GLCSS weekly newsletter 10 November 2006). The Chinese delegate also highlighted the successful nature of Sino-Rwanda cooperation but was dismayed to find that Rwanda had not used the zero tariff agreement between China and Rwanda to its fullest unlike other African states.

Finally the African Development Bank and the World Bank concurred with the other donors in Rwanda’s current success and its direction since 1994 and fully supported all efforts the government was proposing in its development path.

The conference concluded on the heels of Rwanda withdrawing its ambassador from France and severing diplomatic ties. GLCSS believes the indictment of nine Rwandan government officials by French Judge Bruguiere in the death of French citizens piloting President Habyarimana’s plane in 1994 will have long-term consequences in the region and beyond.


Ultimately, it will add fuel to the growing fire of African Nationalism, the rejection of international intervention in Africa, and increase African leader’s suspicions of a Post Cold War Neo-Colonialism strategy by France and the United States, in Central and West Africa for France and in the Horn of Africa for the United States.


In addition, the indictments create a double bind situation for the European Union and European nations individually. It will force a choice between their view and support of Rwanda and a French judicial decision that has been strongly criticized by many independent researchers, such as Conspiracy to Murder author Linda Melvern, as flawed and contradicted by documented facts.


Internationally, the options are limited and expansive at the same time. The international community could, however it is very unlikely, take a rigid stance and enforce the arrest warrants outside of Rwanda and request the government of Rwanda to comply with the warrants. From a practical and reality perspective, this is not a straight line solution.


First, there has been an increasing trend of national judges issuing what they call “international arrest warrants”, which are really national arrest warrants that have an Interpol red flag. Judge Bruguiere, despite his previous reputation, joins the chorus of the Spanish judge who issued “international arrest warrants” for three American soldiers and the indictment of US Secretary of Defense by another European judge.


The reality is that these “international arrest warrants” are political acts and do not carry the weight of an international court or tribunal, which have signatory obligations. This means that they can be subject to review during the extradition or enforcement process for validation of prima facie evidence. (This is not always true as in the case of current Fast Track Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom).


Second, the enforcement of “international arrest warrants” has proven spotty and difficult in high-profile or political cases. Despite international arrest warrants or United Nations sanctions, the infamous Viktor Bout is reportedly living comfortably in Russia, sanctioned members of the Rwandan genocide-linked FDLR live and travel openly in France, Belgium, and Germany as do suspected master-minds of the Rwandan genocide. The zealous enforcement of these specific warrants, while the careful avoidance of others, will further promote the view that France and Europe, by association, has two sets of rule: one for Security Council members acting politically and one for Africans.


In this vein, African nations, where these individuals travel most frequently on state business, could reject the arrest warrants out of hand. This is highly probable considering the French have suggested that Uganda and specifically President Museveni played a role in the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane.


Considering the current mood in Africa created by the strong-arm Security Council tactics in Darfur, threats against Sudan and Zimbabwe and the developing African proxy wars by the international powers, will add more fuel to the belief that Africans have an obligation to control their own destiny.


On the practical European Union-level, the impact could be devastating if the political fall out is not checked. The indictments have upset the government of France’s current “do not rock the boat” strategy towards Rwanda and agreement to EU funding in exchange for a UK “do not rock the boat” strategy in other parts of Africa where French involvement has been equally disastrous (Cote D’Ivoire as a case in point).


The French lobby in the European Union is perhaps the strongest of the European nations. Although France is the bi-lateral donor that gives the least to Rwanda (US$ 2.2 million 2005) the EU is the second largest donor (US$88.8 million 2005). France is a primary donor to the EU funds in Rwanda and the consequences of the withdrawal of the French ambassador and the lack of diplomatic representation could force a political riff with the United Kingdom which is Rwanda’s largest bi-lateral donor. There is potential for the indictments to destabilize UK bi-lateral support for Rwanda and at the least EU funds.


In terms of the illusionary Anglo-Saxon conspiracy, often cited in the French press as an effort to dominate Africa, it signals a weakening of Francophone influence in Central Africa. From a domino theory perspective it leaves Burundi standing alone with it being pulled into Anglophone East Africa.


The Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies is a London-based think tank with offices in Kigali and Kampala.

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