Rwanda’s rebuttal to the addendum to a UN Group of Experts interim report linking Kigali to rebels in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is “very serious and satisfactory”, the outgoing Netherlands Ambassador to Rwanda, Frans Makken, said yesterday.
He was briefing journalists shortly after bidding farewell to President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro.
On Monday, the government submitted to the UN Sanctions Committee its response to the allegations by the Group of Experts (GoE) on the Congo weeks after the highly contentious addendum was published without Rwanda’s input.
“It is important to note that Rwanda is taking this issue very seriously; we think that Rwanda has made an extremely serious response to the UN Experts report. They have satisfied us in rebutting the various allegations,” said Ambassador Makken.
The Dutch envoy added: “Of course we still have the issue of M23 (rebels) but we are following the negotiations that are going on closely, we saw them in Addis Ababa, we know that in Kampala there will be the next high-level meeting and so far Rwanda has been extremely open to all kinds of monitoring of the border, of revamping the joint verification mechanism with the Congo, to a regional force, whatever can bring a solution Rwanda is open; so we welcome this constructive attitude”.
The Kampala meeting, due next week, will bring together Heads of State from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), as part of continued efforts to help address the latest crisis which has seen the M23 rebels seize parts of eastern DRC, with thousands of Congolese fleeing across the borders to Rwanda and Uganda.
One of the proposals on the table is deployment of a neutral force along the Rwanda-DRC border, whose mandate would include disarming armed groups in the region, including M23, as well as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation Rwanda (FDLR) militia, composed of elements who are largely responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Makken also dismissed media reports that his country was among the development partners that suspended aid to Rwanda in the wake of the allegations.
“What happened is that the Dutch Government decided it will not make any decision on aid until Rwanda pronounces itself on the UN accusations…We sincerely hope that in the coming weeks we will see developments that would make us simply decide to go on with our usual programmes with Rwanda. And the discussions that are going on are for the budget support – that is also true with other donors – the rest of the support programmes are ongoing,” he explained.
Last week, members of the GoE on the Congo visited Kigali to get Rwanda’s side of the story.
Reports had indicated that the Netherlands had suspended budget support assistance of $6.15 million to the Rwandan justice sector.
“Technically, we have not suspended our aid to Rwanda; you suspend aid if you are due to pay something and you delay the payment. There were no payments due, so we have not suspended aid, we are delaying any decisions on aid payments pending the reply of Rwanda to the UN report of Group of Experts,” Makken explained.
The GoE allegations have come under increasing scrutiny after documents were widely circulated indicating that the group’s coordinator Steve Hege long harboured anti-Rwanda views and instead had a soft spot for the FDLR, a blacklisted terrorist group.
The views are contained in several publications by Hege himself, including a February 24, 2009 article in which he argued, “The FDLR have not constituted a military threat to Rwanda for over five years…The FDLR would rather wait for political negotiations when international opinion eventually sours on the Rwandan regime”.
Meanwhile, the Dutch diplomat observed that during his four-year tour of duty, the long term relations between Rwanda and The Netherlands were generally good despite a few ups and downs.
“During our meeting, the President made a statement about a hurricane that comes and blows everything away and at the end passes, leaving you to pick the pieces and continue with your life. I would make the same comparison about my stay in Rwanda. Our relationship has been bumpy sometimes, but generally it has been good. Despite criticisms, Rwanda has deservedly remained on the list of the 15 nations meriting assistance from the Netherlands,” Makken said.
“Rwanda has earned it, the projects we have in this country are very successful and effective”.
He cited cooperation in the area of justice, particularly on efforts to bring to justice Genocide fugitives.
Back home, Makken was appointed as the inspector of all The Netherlands Embassies globally.