Deal that makes a mockery of fair play

Published by The Mail on Sunday (27th May, 2018)

After a decade writing about the aid industry, I thought I had seen it all with the daft projects, the dismal corruption, the demeaning attitudes, the dreadful waste of money taken from hard-pressed taxpayers.

But this is a first: a ruthless dictator whose vile regime takes vast sums in aid and then spends a fortune sponsoring his favourite football team.

In a decent world, Arsenal would be ashamed to promote Paul Kagame’s Rwanda – although if their fans accept the suggestion of visiting the tiny East African country, they are unlikely to hear dissent from 12 million citizens terrified into submission.

Nor are they likely to see the detention camps, the tortured detainees, the dead journalists or jailed dissidents such as two brave women who dared challenge his rule.

Premier League football cares only about cash and we can only presume Kagame’s £10 million-a-year outbid any rival offers from North Korea, Eritrea or Venezuela.

Yet this seedy shirt sleeve deal – the biggest in Premier League history – stands not only as a symbol of top-flight football’s shameful lack of ethics. It serves also to highlight the utter absurdity of British aid policies.

We are the second biggest bilateral donor to Rwanda, handing over £64 million last year – about twice as much per capita as to other regional countries.

So why is Rwanda lavished with foreign aid and its leader hailed by politicians from across the spectrum? Partly it is lingering guilt over failure to stop genocide in 1994 – but mostly it is their desperate desire to find an aid success story.

Yet Kagame is one of the world’s most ruthless rulers – and he has suckered naive Western politicians and the aid industry into fawning at his feet.

This arrogant man runs a brutal one-party state that has been called an ethnic dictatorship. He holds sham elections, has carried out appalling atrocities and sends hit squads to kill his foes even in foreign countries.

Just two months, ago Kent police warned his former bodyguard, married to a British woman, of ‘imminent’ threat to his life after he published a book on his former boss.

There have been well-founded accusations that Kagame’s government falsified data on child mortality, health and poverty. One British firm withdrew from a key study due to concerns of manipulation.

Yet self-serving British politicians praise Kagame, the aid sector ignores his repression and rivers of aid cash flow into a country under his total control.

Now this repellent despot has responded to their generosity by blowing a reported £30 million on the football team he supports – nearly as much as the UK-backed World Bank just agreed to spend on fighting chronic malnutrition amid his nation’s children.

Perhaps Kagame will fly to London on one of his private jets to admire his Visit Rwanda logo on display. At least Arsenal play in blood-red shirts.

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