A letter to members of the International Development Committee of the UK Parliament


November 7, 2012 by soniauwimana

Dear Mr. Chairman and committee members,

I am but a solitary citizen of Rwanda: no more, no less.

From such a humble platform, please accept my warm and sincere greetings from a country whose citizens have benefited in myriad ways over many years from the strategic and generous investment of British taxpayer dollars facilitated by governments of all parties.

Along with my compatriots, I am sincerely grateful for this unrivalled contribution towards the the rebirth and reconstruction of Rwanda,  As policy-makers and legislators, not to mention members of a committee charged with overseeing international development, you understand, as we in Rwanda also do, that this partnership has not been the byproduct of “genocide guilt” as some cynical commentators have claimed.  You understand, as we do, that this engagement has instead been grounded in the most transparent, well-targetted and outcome-driven approach to aid and development assistance of anywhere in the world, at any time in history; and that, as a result, it has helped drive some of the most significant advancements in human development of the past several decades in this or any continent.

By any measure you choose, the story of Rwanda over the past decade has been singularly inspirational for anyone who believes that aid — when employed effectively and unhampered by corruption or inefficiency — can help lift millions from poverty and lay the foundations for new and enduring prosperity in corners of the world that, a mere generation ago, seemed destined to languish in a state of permanent despair.

Rwanda is tomorrow the subject of a hearing into the decision of Andrew Mitchell to disburse aid to Rwanda after a temporary suspension caused by concerns of Kigali’s involvement in a rebellion in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  This has been entangled in a broader domestic political scandal involving the conduct of Mr. Mitchell who made the fateful decision on his last day in office before moving to Chief Whip, a position from which he has subsequently resigned in the face of an unyielding media frenzy.  I am sure you can appreciate that, for a Rwandan like myself, these events are perplexing to say the least.

It appears that this scandal is less about Rwanda than meets the eye, and  that the aid decision would almost certainly not have attracted this level and intensity of criticism were it not for Plebgate, a story that makes little or no sense to anyone unfamiliar with the peculiarities of UK domestic politics.

Whatever its genesis, however, the Mitchell decision has precipitated a heightened level of scrutiny regarding Rwanda’s suitability as an aid partner.  This has led your committee to seek answers regarding the probity of Mitchell’s decision, and to examine the broader circumstances surrounding the original decision to suspend aid to Rwanda. Like it or not, Rwanda, and specifically allegations regarding its involvement in the eastern DRC, has come into sharp focus as a result of what began as a quintessentially British scandal.

Mr Chairman and honourable members, the recommendation whether or not to re-freeze aid or continue disbursement is entirely and appropriately in your hands.

I am certain you agree that the success of the partnership between Rwanda and the UK has arisen from a shared commitment to accountable, transparent and evidence-based processes and policies.

And so, the extent of my plea is this:

Please adhere to this path.  Examine the facts.  Look behind the headlines and the hysteria.  Review the evidence.  Make your judgment based on a reasoned assessment of what you find.

Only such an approach honours our shared journey to date and ensures that, when it comes to the Rwanda-UK relationship, good policy continues to trump mere politics.

Kind regards

Sonia Uwimana

Kigali, Rwanda


One thought on “A letter to members of the International Development Committee of the UK Parliament

  1. Mwene Kalinda says:

    Amen. The Committee will hopefully remember the why of foreign aid and whether the UK-Rwanda cooperation fulfils the established criteria for continued support rather than use the occasion to bash the current UK government with Rwanda caught in the inevitable crossfire of partisan sniping. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath given the current NGO-fuelled anti-Kigali animosity across the British media and politicians’ abiding need to keep on the good side of that media even to the point of deep-sixing principle.

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