There’s also a downside. Surrounding the presidential election of August 9, this year, a number of worrisome events occurred in the sphere of freedom of speech and political space. in addition, a series of violent incidents marred the run-up to the elections. No doubt President Kagame received a large majority, but this victory would have been more convincing if more space had been given to real opposition. Therefore, in the near future, the Netherlands, when in contact with the Rwandan government, will continue to draw attention to the need to increase political space and respect for freedom of expression.
Letter to the the Dutch Parliament concerning your request on the course of the elections in Rwanda and the current situation in the country
Letter, December 6, 2010 [before the December 6 Dutch Parliament meeting]
Honorable Chairman Voorzitter,
In view of the legislative consultation of 6 December, we hereby offer you our reaction to the request of the Permanent Committee of Foreign Affairs of 13 September 2010, legislative request 29237-124/2010D34467, on the government’s view of the course of the elections and the current situation in Rwanda. We also inform you about the decision of the government not to grant budget support to Rwanda.
Last year Rwanda saw good progress again in the social and economic field, which can be deduced from the recent joint review of donors and the Rwandan government of the end of October. This answers your question. Also, several international indexes confirm this positive image of Rwanda. The Rwandan economy is growing. The inflation is checked. Corruption is being fought and the climate for investing has greatly improved. Also, important steps are being taken on the road to reach the Millenium Development Goals. For example, in the field of education and reducing mother and child mortality. With this, the Rwandan government has in recent years proven to be capable of dealing responsibly with the received aid funds.
The course of the presidential elections
On August 9th this year, for the second time since the genocide in 1994, presidential elections took place in Rwanda. With a high turnout of 97.51% of registered voters, 93.08% of the electorate voted for incumbent President Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Besides President Kagame, three other candidates took part in the election, Prosper Higiro of the Liberal Party (LP, 1.37%), Jean Damscene Ntawukuriryayo of the Social Democratic Party (PSD, 5.15%) and Alvera Mukabaramba of the Party of Peace and Concord (PPC, 0.40%). They did not win of course. Two parties that were still in the process of formation, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and Rwanda’s United Democratic Forces-Inkingi, were ultimately not registered as parties and their leaders, respectively, Frank Habineza and Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, were not able to participate in the elections. The Dutch Parliament was informed in more detail about this on the 30th of July.
A total of 1444 observers from forty organizations observed the elections, including 239 observers from the Commonwealth Observer Group, the African Union, and the EU elections expert mission. The overall conduct of the elections, according to several observers, was positive. The electoral campaign in the country was dominated by the RPF. The election itself was properly organized and was conducted quietly.
There was also criticism. As several observers noted, including the Commonwealth Observer Group, the EU electoral experts and individual Member States like the Netherlands noted that the consolidation phase was not transparently conducted. In this phase, the totals at the district level of individual polling stations are to be added together. The observers were therefore unable to control the way the final results at the national level were put toether. According to their observations President Kagame would have had well above the official 93.08% at the local level. In addition, the Commonwealth Observer Group and the EU also commented on the degree of media freedom, freedom of association, and political participation during the electoral process. They said that the inability of a number of opposition parties to participate in the elections was worrisome. There were also some violent incidents in the run up to elections.
The Dutch government shares this criticism. There is no doubt that President Kagame in the August 9 election received a majority of the votes. The Rwandan government has also recently taken a number of positive steps, such as the adaptation of the national electoral law in line with the recommendations of the EU Election Observation Mission 2008. Nevertheless, serious events took place, as described above. Against this background, the Netherlands stepped down as Co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Basket Fund in support the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The current situation in Rwanda
From 1920 until October 22 this year kept the Rwandan government and the relevant donors, the joint annual Joint Review, which coincided with a mission from the IMF. The Review revealed that Rwanda on economic matters has made substantial progress. Economic growth last year totaled 6.5%, while inflation was reduced from 9.4% last year to 5% by June 2010. In two years time, Rwanda is on the ‘Doing Business’ ranking of the World Bank rose from position 139 to position 58, and therefore has the fourth-best investment climate in Africa. According to Transparency International, Rwanda is now the sixth-least corrupt country in Africa. Rwanda is making in the social area results. At the recent summit held in New York on the Millennium Development Goals Rwanda was honored for the good progress on reducing maternal and child mortality. Also, the percentage of children completing primary school in one year has risen from 56% to 76%, and even to 80% for girls. More than 90% of the Rwandan population now has health insurance.
In the answers to the questions of Members Dijkhoff and Fassed (2010 to 2011 parliamentary questions, 478 and 485), we have already dealt with the arrest on October 14 of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza on charges of complicity in terrorist activities. Before her return to Rwanda,Ms. Ingabire Umuhoza resided for sixteen years with her husband and children, with refugee status in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is closely following her trial.
The need for more political space is extensively covered in the political dialogue of the international community with the Rwandan government. This has not been without effect. Rwanda has consulted independent foreign expert regarding the law governing genocide denial and divisionism. On this basis, it is currently reviewing the text of said laws to reduce the risk of a broad interpretation in practice to a minimum.
The Rwandan government has also, in the Article 8 dialogue between Rwanda and the EU on November 2nd, 2010, promised to establish an independent ‘Rwanda Governance Board which is responsible for registering new political parties. The government also announced on that occasion to start a national debate on press freedom, registration of political parties, censorship, human rights, and political developments since 2003. This should be a debate between government, civil society, donors, and Rwandans in the diaspora.
In answering the questions asked by Dijkhoff (2010-2011 parliamentary questions, 476), we have dealt with the publication of the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on serious human rights violations in the DRC during the period 1993 to 2003. Rwanda accuses the editors of bias and has strongly criticized the methodology and findings of the report. The Netherlands welcomes the report as a first step towards recognition of the suffering of the victims and prosecution of suspects. The Netherlands pleads within the EU and UN for a swift follow up together with the concerned countries in the region.
General budget support
The Netherlands promised budget support to Rwanda in 2008, but did not proceed to granting this assistance after of the publication, in December 2008, of the report of the UN expert on the role of Rwanda in the conflict in the eastern DRC.
The Netherlands also has no plans to provide general budget support to Rwanda, because we believe freedom of expression in Rwanda and the political space is insufficient to justify granting general budget support. As communicated in the Basic Development Letter to the Dutch Parliament, the policy on general budget support is being reviewed and, in general, this instrument will be drastically reduced.
The future of the development relationship with Rwanda, in the broad sense. is part of the current generic policy assessment in the field of development cooperation. The Dutch Parliament will in due course be informed in writing of the results.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Dr. U. Rosenthal
State Secretary of Foreign Affairs,
Dr. B. Knapen