Cablegate: Rwanda Overview for General Ward Visit


DE RUEHLGB #0176/01 0531129
P 221129Z FEB 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Post warmly welcomes the visit of Deputy Commander,
Headquarters, US European Command, General William E. Ward.
Rwanda is a nation still struggling to overcome the legacy of
the devastating 1994 genocide, and reconcile populations at
odds for most of Rwanda's modern history. Upwards of one
million Rwandans lost their lives, and the nation's
infrastructure, economy and society were terribly damaged in
the genocide. Today, the economy has been largely rebuilt,
and great strides have been made in restoring security and
establishing the underpinnings of a developing democracy.
Yet much remains to be done. Below the mission reviews keys
issues for your visit.

2. (SBU) AU Mission: The Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF), one
of the most competent and professional militaries in
sub-Saharan Africa, has approximately 2,500 troops deployed
in Darfur attached to the African Union Mission in Sudan
(AMIS). In addition to RDF soldiers and officers serving in
six-month rotations as force protection and military
observers, there are 50 civilian police officers serving
under AMIS and 250 RDF troops in Khartoum in support of the
United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). The USG has been
providing logistical and training support for the Rwandan
contribution to AMIS since initial deployment in August 2004.
The US Air Force and US-funded contract airlines have
provided transport for all troop deployments (except the
recent deployment of one battalion by Algerian aircraft), and
US contractors have conducted training for nine battalions in
preparation for the Darfur deployments. An additional
battalion, the 14th, is currently being trained. Rwanda
became a full ACOTA partner in June, 2006, and ACOTA now
provides a full nine-week Peace Support Operation training by
US contractors (MPRI. One current bilateral issue is the
application of the Leahy Amendment to the currently-training
battalion and its commander.

3. (SBU) Regional Security: Overall trends are increasingly
positive throughout the region. Successful 2006 elections in
the DRC have brought hope of a stabilizing neighbor to the
east, and greater cooperation between the two governments.
Uganda and Rwanda enjoy the most positive relations in years,
and the simmering internal political problems in Burundi show
signs of improvement. However the Forces Dmocratiques de
Libration du Rwanda (FDLR) (an armed group of Rwandan
origin formed from the remnants of the former armed forces of
Rwanda and the Interahamwe militias, some of whom bear
responsibility for the 1994 genocide), continue to operate
in North and south Kivu provinces of eastern DRC. The FDLR
conducted an insurgency in northwest Rwanda in 1997 and 1998,
prompting the RDF to re-enter eastern Congo to pursue and,
eventually, put down the insurgency. The RDF left eastern
Congo in 2002 and, despite causing continued instability in
the Kivus, the FDLR has not threatened Rwanda militarily
since then. Recent cooperation with the DRC government and
armed forces in encouraging the reintegration of militia
forces, including those of rwandaphone General Nkunda, shows
progress can be made in eastern Congo. However, the FDLR,
currently estimated at between eight to ten thousand
combatants, remains an unresolved worry for the GOR and the
international community.

4. (SBU) Tripartite Plus: In 2004, the USG facilitated the
formation of the Tripartite forum for Rwanda, Uganda, and the
DRC (with Burundi added in 2006) to discuss regional security
issues. The USG last facilitated meetings on the margins of
the UNGA in New York in September 2006. The next meeting has
been set for the middle of March in Kigali. In December
2005, the Tripartite Fusion Cell (TFC) started operations in
Kisangani, DRC, with the primary function of sharing
information on the foreign-armed groups in eastern Congo.
The GOR usually has two representatives on the TFC. Much
work has been done on the four Focal Points, located in the
capital cities, with the ultimate view of closing the TFC and
relying upon direct communication and information-sharing
among the governments. A principal focus of the March
meeting will be on ending regional security threats by
"negative forces."

5. (SBU) Political Pluralism: In 2003, President Kagame was
elected to a seven-year term with 95 percent of the votes,
and members of Parliament were also elected. In February
2006, local officials were elected to five-year terms in
local elections, and in early March 2006 the new mayor of
Kigali City was elected. The next legislative elections will
be held in 2008, presidential elections in 2010, and local
elections in 2011. The 2003 presidential and legislative
elections were peaceful but marred by irregularities.
Constitutional and regulatory restrictions on political party
operations remain in place, and use of broadly-worded
criminal statutes sanctioning divisionism and "genocide
ideology" are a concern for the human rights community.
Other human rights concerns include lingering restrictions on
a free press, a judicial system still hampered by capacity
limitations, and a developing civil society that must satisfy
extensive licensing requirements.

6. (SBU) Justice and the Genocide: Over 800,000 suspected
"genocidaires" (those who participated in the 1994 genocide)
are the subject of judicial inquiry by the gacaca courts, a
traditional system modernized and expanded by the GOR. Over
51,000 cases had been adjudicated by 1545 gacaca courts by
the end of 2006. Many of those so judged return to prison
with lengthy sentences, and the prison population has been
rising at a worrisome rate. The GOR just released over 9,000
gacaca suspects and regular convicts from the nation's 16
prisons, and plans additional releases, providing temporary
reductions in the prison population. While the most serious
genocide offenders will be judged by the regular courts, the
gacaca courts represent the principal attempt by the GOR to
achieve justice and reconciliation, a difficult policy
balance, given Rwanda's history of ethnic animosities.

7. (SBU) Economic Development: Rwanda's main challenges
remain its small economy, relative isolation, poor
infrastructure, energy insecurity, and poorly developed human
capital. Rwanda's economy remains largely dependent upon
foreign aid, while its population remains overwhelmingly
rural with over 90 percent of families earning a living
through subsistence agriculture and 56.9 percent of
households living below the poverty line of 250 Rwandan
francs a day (about $0.45). However, Rwanda has achieved an
average GDP growth rate of 6 percent over the past six years
and increased the total value of exports by 23 percent in
2005. The government has established important policy
benchmarks for overhauling the economy, and establishing
Rwanda as a regional crossroads bridging the Francophone west
and Anglophone east. It has achieved major improvements in
the areas of tax collection, banking, trade agreements,
anti-corruption, and fiscal policy. It has improved road
condition throughout the country, and maintained a low
corruption rate relative to neighboring countries. In 1996,
there were a total of 91 parastatal enterprises, and over 50
of those enterprises had been privatized by the end of 2006.
Privatization of the telecommunications and banking sectors
has largely been completed and Electrogaz is scheduled to be
privatized in FY 2008.

8. (SBU) Poverty Reduction: The government has made
efforts, with measurable results, to reduce poverty and to
improve access to health care and education, despite its
severely limited resources. Under its national policy of
universal primary education, the GOR provides free primary
education to all children. A joint GOR-donor task force is
focusing on improvement of girls' education. The GOR is also
attempting to improve access to health care through greater
decentralization to ensure inadequate health services at the
local level. In addition, it has implemented plans for the
prevention, protection, and reintegration of street children
(currently 7,000 out of 4.2 million children), including
vocational training to promote self-reliance through
development of income-generating skills. Rwanda is revising
its Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy in
2007. Rwanda had completed the Highly Indebted Poor Country
(HIPC) debt relief initiative and the Multilateral Debt
Relief Initiative by the end of 2006.
Completion of these two debt initiatives significantly
reduced its overall debt. Anticipated GDP growth for the
immediate future should continue at 5-6 percent, while
inflation may rise given high energy costs and large donor
inflows. Rwanda does face challenges to food security from
cyclic rainfall shortages.

9. (SBU) Global Health: Rwanda is one of the most
severely HIV-affected countries of 123 countries receiving
USG funding under PEPFAR, a $15 billion, five-year,
multi-agency global plan to combat HIV/AIDS. Rwanda was
selected as one of the 15 focus countries for its level of
infection, the severity of its health situation, and the
leadership demonstrated by the Rwandan government and its
people in fighting the epidemic. Recent results of a 2005
demographic and health survey, officially released by the
GOR, indicate a national HIV prevalence rate of 3.0 percent
(3.6 percent for women, 2.3 percent for men). The survey
suggests that women are contracting HIV/AIDS at a younger age
than men, and that for both sexes prevalence in urban areas
is approximately three times higher than in rural areas. By
the end of FY 2008 the USG's PEPFAR program in Rwanda will
provide at least 50,000 persons with ARV treatment, prevent
158,000 new HIV infections, and provide care and support to
250,000 persons affected by HIV/AIDS, including orphans and
vulnerable children. FY06 PEPFAR funding for Rwanda was
approximately $72 million. The funding for FY07 is expected
to be $94 million. DOD PEPFAR funds will result in the
testing of all RDF troops each year.

10. (SBU) In addition, Rwanda is a phase II country for the
President's Malaria Initiative. This program will work to
dramatically reduce the incidence of malaria through new
treatments, indoor residual spraying, home based management
of fever in children and increased bed net use. PMI funding
for the first year of the program is $20 million. The
Mission also implements successful programs in child
survival, maternal and child health, reproductive health and
family planning. These programs have annual budgets of
approximately $8 million.

11. (SBU) Democracy and Governance: The Mission program,
led by USAID, focuses on three areas: local government,
civil society, and reconciliation. The agency supports
decentralized governance through an innovative program in
which health and governance objectives combine to ensure
local management and delivery of high quality health
services. The program is intended to demonstrate ability for
local governments to manage and fund public services. The
program is complemented by a civil society program that will
give over 400 small grants to local organizations that
provide services, income generation, or other economic
development opportunities. The agency also supports a series
of smaller projects related to reconciliation, such as
activities in women's micro-finance, women's legal rights,
land policy and law, and youth trauma therapy.

12. (SBU) Specialty Coffee: In 2001 when USAID spearheaded
the development of the specialty coffee sector in Rwanda, the
country produced only low-grade commercial quality beans for
export despite coffee being the traditional number one export
earner. Over the past six years, USAID has invested an
estimated USD 10 million in promoting and developing the
Rwandan coffee industry, building and rehabilitating coffee
washing station, training farmers and "cuppers" (coffee
tasters), organizing cooperatives, encouraging banks to lend
to Rwandan investors to build coffee washing stations, and
improving rural infrastructure. Today, Rwandan coffee has
become known as one of the "best of the best" coffees in the
world. Rwanda exported 1,100 tons of high quality specialty
coffee in 2005, and 2,000 tons in 2006. While still a small
proportion of overall coffee exports, these crops earn top
prices for the coffee growers, and have resulted in better
health care, education, and housing in coffee farming
communities. In 2006, Starbucks launched a promotional
campaign featuring the best of Rwandan coffee, a program seen
by an estimated 19 million customers per week in over 5,000
Starbucks retail stores throughout the US.

© Scoop Media

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