Rwanda: External aid to contain impact of Corona pandemic is a plaster over political cracks only to postpone inevitable crumble of the rotten political edifice.
RWANDA: EXTERNAL AID TO CONTAIN IMPACT OF CORONA PANDEMIC IS A PLASTER OVER POLITICAL CRACKS ONLY TO POSTPONE INEVITABLE CRUMBLE OF THE ROTTEN POLITICAL EDIFICE.
The FDU-Inkingi has learnt with relief that the IMF is going to “give rapid credit facility of $109.4 million to meet Rwanda’s urgent balance of payment needs in order to allow the government to support starving families badly affected by erratic, unplanned measures taken by the government. But foreign aid will only help postpone the crush of a beleaguered political system under internal systemic contradictions. This bail out of the RPF regime is sadly $81 million short of the $190 million alleged to have syphoned and transferred to offshore bank accounts in one year.
The facility is said to be aiming at backstopping the decline in international reserves possibly due to misallocation of resources as a result of lack of accountability incurably inherent in totalitarian states like Rwanda. Foreign reserves were run down by funding unnecessary trips of President Kagame, the known trips in 2019 numbered 59, including two trips to attend the graduation ceremonies of his son and daughter (total cost of trips estimated at $17 million) and attending NBA Board meeting, funding super rich European football clubs i.e. Arsenal and PSG, spending money on white elephant projects like the KIGALI ARENA, pumping $50 million each year in ailing Air Rwanda. They are allocated to buying the latest military hardware for its military expeditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hunting down opponents inside and outside the country, meet external threats from Uganda and Burundi due to its bellicose foreign policy.
We would like to point out that with regard to the case of foreign aid per capita, Rwanda’s aid per capita is US$100 against Burundi at US$39; Kenya, US$50; Tanzania, US$45; and Uganda with an aid per capita of US$47. Foreign aid as a percentage of central government expenditure in Rwanda stands at 70.9%. There are only two countries in the world with a higher percentage of donor support to central government expenditure than Rwanda. These are Malawi at 127.9% and Micronesia at 120.6%. Because of this massive aid, some analysts have called Rwanda a state without citizens because the citizens are taken care of by foreign funders, while the government spends money to protect the regime and buy off supporters. Some have gone further to suggest Rwanda as an “army with a state” rather than “a state with an army” because of the central role of the army in decision making.
It is quite clear that the Covid_19 measures were taken to impress the international community and did not take into account the prevailing local conditions. The hungry of the capital Kigali are heard now telling reporters clearly and loudly “ the corona virus is an illness of the rich because all people tested positive were coming from travelling abroad…the rich has bought all the food and we shall go to get it where it is…we don’t fear dying of corona virus, we are more afraid of dying of starvation… we are not born thieves, we have strength to work for to feed ourselves a living but hunger can push you to do anything…”. They are complaining the bad distribution of food aid and its insufficiency i.e. one kilo of rice for a family of 5 for 3 weeks. Others are calling on the government to repatriate the money alleged to be in offshore havens in Panama and elsewhere, to use the 194 billion Rwandan francs of “Agaciro Fund” to which everyone contributed since 2012 etc…
We are seriously concerned that, without accountability that is inherent in the Rwandan totalitarian system of government, the aid will go to meet the lavish lifestyle of the President and to keep his political base happy. Aid donors should supplement and not replace the Rwandan regime in delivering services to the people. They should ensure accountability for aid so that it goes where it is needed most. However, such accountability is only possible in a democratic system. Only democratic rules can ensure accountability and good allocation of resources as the former Secretary of State John Kerry rightly pointed out “only democracy allows a country to benefit from the full energy and talent of its citizens, and from the progress and innovation that the unconstrained flow of ideas can create”. This is good for Rwanda as it is for elsewhere in the world.
Indeed accountability cannot be expected when the RPF regime is marked by exclusiveness, privilege, nepotism, enrichment and corruption and when all major political and power-related matters are decided by the President, together with his key advisers. Parliament and Senate cannot dare contradict or call the President to account for spending excesses.
Donors should be strict on tying aid to the respect of democratic values and respect of human rights. Without tying aid to progress in opening the political space to allow the opposition to do its work of bringing the government to account, misallocation of resources will continue and the future of the country compromised. As one social scientist puts it: “loosening the autocrat’s reins and helping his nation avoid another explosion is a message that only Rwanda’s international supporters can deliver to President Kagame.
Done in Rouen, April 8, 2020
Commissioner FDU-INKINGI in charge of Information and Communication
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