UK withholds £21m Rwanda aid after Congo conflict allegations

Rwanda army officers carry a wounded FDLR rebel fighter Photo: James Akena / Reuters

In many ways, Rwanda is a success story.

Its economy is amongst the fastest-growing anywhere in the world. Its capital is filled with building sites for sparkling office blocks - the consequence of foreign money. Its streets are relatively safe and super-clean.

These achievements are all the more remarkable given that this is a country still emerging from the horrors of genocide.

Few nations can claim to have recovered from such trauma and mayhem so rapidly.

No wonder world leaders seem so mesmerised by the example that its president, Paul Kagame, has set to his African counterparts.

Tony Blair supported him as Prime Minister and continues to advise him.

In 2007, as Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron visited him as part of what seemed like an attempt to push his own credentials as a compassionate Conservative.

Tony Blair supported Rwandan president Paul Kagame, and continues to advise him Credit: ADRIAN DENNIS/PA Archive/Press Association Images

But there is another side to Rwanda, revealed by a United Nations investigation.

The country’s leadership is apparently funding the rebel army which is causing so much bloodshed across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN believes that Rwanda is meddling in the affairs of its neighbour, with disastrous humanitarian consequences.

Britain today decided to withhold a payment of £21 million which was due next month.

It will hurt a country which relies on foreign aid for 50 per cent of its national budget.

But the suspicions over Rwanda’s role in the bloodshed in DRC are not new. So why is Britain acting now when the US, Germany are others have already cut aid?

Earlier this week, I reported from the eastern city of Goma on the impact of Rwanda’s apparent interference.

I witnessed the heartbreak of tens of thousands of people who had escaped their homes, and the anguish of children who were maimed or paralysed by crossfire.

The next day I took a stroll around the streets of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, looking at the remarkable new projects which are evidence of a country that has leapt from the darkness of its past.

There is so much that is positive about Rwanda’s transition that may cloud any assessment of its leadership as being ‘bad guys’ stirring trouble abroad.

The question for Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary who signed off £16 million during his final hours in that job, is whether he was swayed by his personal attachment to the Rwandan project.

Did he and his colleagues ask the right questions? Did they truly consider that British money might be going towards the indirect funding of a rebellion against an elected government?