October 6, 2012 by soniauwimana
The Rwanda: Keeping it Real Initiative, as I have written before, is such a great idea. Young Rwandans utilizing social media channels as a way to demand more accountability and transparency from journalists from outside Rwanda who consistently write falsehoods or miss and misrepresent critical context when writing about our country. It is truly an empowering, revolutionary idea.
But, boy, these youngsters are so damned polite!
This morning, they have taken on Cahal Milmo of the UK Independent for what must be the most flagrantly dishonest piece of reporting I have seen in several days (I wish I could say weeks or months, but alas…)
Here’s the nub: the feral UK press is going after Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary and now chief government whip. He got into some fight with a taxi driver or something — whatever the details, the British press always need a villain du jour and Mitchell is it until the next scandal erupts and they all move on to the next target.
Anyway, in their scrambling to find dirt on Mitchell, the scurrilous UK press have latched on to Mitchell’s decision on his final day as IDS to unfreeze aid to Rwanda. The Daily Mail has been bleating about it, and now Cahal Milmo (who, unless Google is misleading me, knows about as much about Rwanda as I do about figure skating) at the Independent has chimed in with a pieced titled “Memos reveal how Andrew Mitchell ignored advice on Rwandan aid”. Now it is never fair to blame the journalist for the headline (that is the sub-editor’s job) but, still, this is a disingenuous piece of nonsense even by the standards of British tabloid journalism.
For a start, there is nothing remotely scandalous about a politician making a whole heap of decisions on their final day in office. It is entirely natural to clear your intray, and to suggest Machiavellian motives is just silly. Secondly, the “memos” referred to prove nothing close to what Milmo promises. Instead, they are a collection of what sound like pretty run of the mill internal departmental documents regarding Mitchell’s engagements with Rwanda. That date from 2010 and 2011. In other words, they have no bearing whatsoever on the decision to suspend aid a few months back due to concerns over a mutiny in the DRC that didn’t get underway until April 2012. Nor did they show that Mitchell ignored anything. The entire premise of the article is a big, fat lie.
What the memos obtained under Official Information laws do show is the Mitchell had a constructive relationship with the Rwandan government and that he once traveled there.
This is about as shocking as a health minister getting along famously with the country’s best hospital administrator and going there to see first-hand how things are going from time to time.
For god’s sake, Rwanda is the poster child for aid effectiveness. Ministers and departmental delegations from donor and recipient nations alike stream into the country on a weekly basis to learn from Rwanda how to get the most bang for the aid dollar; how to increase transparency and results; how to eliminate public sector corruption and waste; how to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget.
If the UK International Development Secretary did not visit Rwanda and praise if effusively from time to time, he or she is guilty of professional misconduct. To imply sinister motives on Mitchell’s part for doing so is just downright mendacious.
RwandaKiri is right to probe the journo in question. Good luck getting answers, though. Accountability is hardly the hallmark of British reporters.