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Ian Birrell

  • Award-winning columnist and foreign reporter. Contributing editor of The Mail on Sunday and weekly columnist in the 'i' paper. Writes regularly for many other papers, platforms and magazines. Frequent broadcaster and speaker at events. Co-founder wth Damon Albarn of the Africa Express music project and executive producer of 4 albums...Read more
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Why does Rwanda still get British aid?

Published by The Times (31st August, 2017)

Diane Rwigara is a brave woman. Her industrialist father died in what she believes was a politically inspired car crash. Yet she went back to Rwanda to challenge Paul Kagame for the presidency, knowing that the last woman to do this remains in jail while other rivals have been beheaded or strangled. When she revealed her candidacy, nude portraits instantly flooded the internet. Then she was stopped from standing by an electoral body once funded with British aid.

Kagame won this month’s election, of course, with a ludicrous 99 per cent share of the vote. So having changed the constitution to overturn term limits, he can stay in power until 2034. Yet the courageous Rwigara continued to speak out. ‘Rwanda is like a very pretty girl with a lot of make-up,’ she said. ‘Perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect everything. They spend so much time on the image because they know the inside is dark and dirty.’

Now that filthy core has been exposed again. Hours after I met a prominent Rwandan dissident who told me she would soon be ‘dealt with’ for daring to confront Kagame, news seeped out that she and her family had been carted off by his security goons. Later, sources told me they were combing through their computers and phones for contacts and information. Rwandan police say they are probing forgery of signatures on documents used to stand for election.

Britain will not be bothered. We will keep on pumping aid — £64 million this year — into this tiny east African nation. The cash keeps flowing regardless of Kagame’s killings, his torture, his corruption, his wrecking-ball interventions in other nations. Our foolish ministers seem hypnotised by this clever despot and his Tutsi-dominated regime in their desperate search for an aid success story.

After the election Rory Stewart MP, minister for Africa, shamefully praised ‘a result which reflected the will of most Rwandans’. The Department for International Development spouts nonsense about strengthening civil society. Politicians of all persuasions promote a savage regime. Charities stay silent to keep the funds flowing. They are all apologists for a murderer who crushes dissent, controls every aspect of life inside the country and is creating potentially explosive problems for the future.

Recently whistleblowers have revealed that economic and health data is being falsified, while there are reports of widespread hunger blamed on centralised agricultural policies. Yet self-serving western donors simply ignore the abuse and keep on pouring aid into Kagame’s pocket.

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