Cablegate: Rwanda Scenesetter for Senator Bill Nelson


DE RUEHLGB #0436/01 1771435
P 251435Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Introduction: Senator Nelson's visit to Rwanda
comes at a promising time in U.S.-Rwandan relations.
The U.S. Government has a deep partnership with Rwanda on
a wide-range of bilateral, regional and global issues
such as expanding economic development, peacekeeping in
Darfur, resolving the volatile longstanding conflict in
eastern Congo, and fighting the spread of global
scourges such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. Additionally,
Rwandans deeply appreciate that the United States is the
largest bilateral aid donor operating in Rwanda, with
almost $170 million in assistance in FY07.

2. (SBU) Although Rwanda is a highly stable country,
it is still struggling to overcome the legacy of the
devastating 1994 genocide when upwards of one million
Rwandans lost their lives, and the nation's
infrastructure, economy and society were terribly
damaged. Today, the Government is deeply
committed to forging national unity through the
reconciliation of Rwanda's ethnic groups, and has made
great strides in restoring security and establishing
the underpinnings for a developing democracy.
The economy has been largely rebuilt and Rwanda is
seeking to position itself as "the Singapore of
Africa." Yet much remains to be done, and we are
working with the Government of Rwanda (GOR) to implement
a newly-agreed upon three year, $24 millionMillennium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Country Plan.

3. (SBU) Regionally, Secretary Rice's December
facilitation of the Heads of State Tripartite-Plus Summit
in Addis Ababa built upon and strengthened the November
Nairobi agreement. In this agreement Rwanda and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) agreed on a "common
approach" to resolve the security threat posed by the FDLR
(the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) an
armed group operating inside the DRC consisting of the
remnants of the former Armed Forces of Rwanda and the
Interahamwe militias, who in large measure carried out the
genocide. Subsequent to the Summit in Addis Ababa, the
January Goma Peace Conference, held in the DRC,
resulted in a clear road-map for disarmament of other
indigenous militias. A Joint Monitoring Group meeting in
Gisenyi in June resulted in new commitments toward
peace-making, and an August Tripartite-Plus conference in
Kigali (facilitated by the USG) will add emphasis to these

4. (SBU) Elsewhere in the region, Uganda and Rwanda enjoy
their most positive relations in years, and the simmering
internal political problems in Burundi show signs of
improvement. Kenya's post-election turmoil highlighted
Rwanda's dependence upon long transport corridors from
Indian Ocean ports; Rwanda briefly imposed fuel rationing
when tanker trucks from Mombasa were delayed by the

5. (SBU) AU/UN Mission in Darfur: The Rwandan Defense
Forces (RDF), one of the most competent and professional
militaries in sub-Saharan Africa, currently has four
battalions deployed in Darfur, attached to the African
Union Mission/United Nations Hybrid Operation (UNAMID).
The USG has been providing logistical and training
support for the Rwandan contribution to peacekeeping
efforts in Sudan since initial deployment in August
2004. The U.S. Air Force and US-funded contract
airlines have provided transport for nearly all troop
deployments. American contractors under the ACOTA
program (Rwanda became a full ACOTA partner in June,
2006) have conducted training for over a dozen battalions
in preparation for the Darfur deployments. We are now
providing over $20 million in new equipment for these

6. (SBU) Global Health: Rwanda is one of 15 "focus
countries" under the PEPFAR program. The national HIV
prevalence rate is approximately 3.0 percent (3.6 percent
for women, 2.3 percent for men). A 2005 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 middle of FY 2008, the PEPFAR program in Rwanda will
provide at least 50,000 persons with anti-retroviral
treatment (ART), prevent 158,000 new HIV infections, and
provide care and support to 250,000 persons affected by
HIV/AIDS, including orphans and vulnerable children.
FY07 PEPFAR funding for Rwanda was approximately USD
103 million. FY08 levels are expected to be nearly USD
123 million.

7. (SBU) In addition, Rwanda is a phase II country for
the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI). This program
works 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 was $20 million and we anticipate $17
million in FY08. 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 to $10

8. (SBU) Domestic Political Issues: In 2003, President
Kagame was elected to a seven-year term with 95 percent
of the vote; members of the Chamber of Deputies were
elected to five-year terms in the same year (indirect
Senate elections were also held). The Presidential and
Deputies elections were peaceful, but marred by serious
irregularities. The next legislative elections will be
held this September, with presidential elections
following in 2010. Although constitutional and
regulatory restrictions on political party operations
remain in place, and use of broadly-worded criminal
statutes sanctioning "divisionism" and "genocide
ideology" concern the human rights community, a June 2007
law allows parties to organize down to the lowest
administrative level. As a result, Rwanda's political
parties report renewed interest among average Rwandans
in politics. 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. Pending legislation may loosen
many restrictions on civil society, and to a
lesser degree on the press; their final form will be
determined in the course of the next several months.

9. (SBU) Press Freedom: Press freedom remains the
subject of much debate and action in Rwanda. While
senior GOR officials recognize in principle the
need for an effective free press, both for the
development of Rwanda's democracy and for international
perceptions of the country, there have been incidents of
harassment, occasional run-ins with the police
and other government authorities, and jailing and
prosecution of several journalists. Press freedom
diminished in 2007, although independent newspapers
continue to publish articles critical of senior
government officials and institutions and the
ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front. New restrictions on
independent journalists' attendance at government
events are troubling. In addition to difficult relations
with government officials, independent journalists
often say that day-to-day economic obstacles to making
journalism profitable are key concerns.

10. (SBU) Justice and the Genocide: Over one million
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 95 percent of the pending
cases had been adjudicated by approximately 3,000 gacaca
courts by the spring of 2008. The gacaca service is
optimistic it can finish all cases including appeals by
the end of 2008. The GOR decreed last summer that gacaca
prisoners would serve their suspended and community
service sentences first, and return to prison at
a later date. Since then, the large prison population
has diminished, alleviating crowded and unsustainable
conditions, as the government began releasing prisoners
previously convicted. While a small number of the most
serious genocide offenders will continue to be judged by
Qserious genocide offenders will continue to 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.

11. (SBU) Democracy and Governance Programs: USG
programs focus on local government and reconciliation.
We are supporting 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. This
program is complemented by support for capacity building
programs for local civil society organizations. We also
support a series of smaller projects related to
reconciliation, such as activities in land management
and land policy and legislation, and youth radio. We
also fund youth radio for peace and reconciliation
through a Great Lakes regional initiative. We have
also just secured ESF funding for a $500,000 program to
work with political parties for the 2008 and 2010

12. (SBU) Economic Development: Rwanda's main
development challenges remain its small economy, relative
isolation, poor infrastructure, the high cost of energy,
and poorly developed human capital. Rwanda's economy
remains largely dependent upon foreign aid (roughly half of
its one billion dollar-plus budget comes from donors),
while its population remains overwhelmingly rural with over
85 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 each year. The
government has established important policy benchmarks
for overhauling the economy, and seeks to establish
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 conditions throughout
the country, and maintained a low corruption rate
relative to neighboring countries.

13. (SBU) Specialty Coffee: In 2001, 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, the USG
has invested an estimated USD 11 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 2,600 tons of
specialty coffee in 2007. 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 in over 5,000
Starbucks retail stores throughout the U.S.
Starbucks and Costco today purchase sizable amounts
of Rwandan specialty coffee.

14. (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. 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 completed its Economic Development and Poverty
Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) at the end of 2007 with the
help of the donor community. 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
by the end of 2006. Completion of these two debt
initiatives significantly reduced its overall debt,
freeing significant funds for social programs.
Anticipated GDP growth for the immediate future should
continue at 5-6 percent, while inflation has risen
slightly given high energy costs and large donor
inflows. Rwanda does face challenges to food security
from cyclic rainfall shortages.

15. (SBU) Millennium Challenge Corporation Country
Threshold Program: Rwanda was selected in 2006 for the
Threshold program. The GOR Country Plan has just been
approved by the MCC Investment Committee, and a formal
announcement will occur in Rwanda in several weeks
(after MCC Board approval). Rwanda's three-year, 24
million dollar Threshold Country Plan is intended to
improve its scores on three MCC Ruling Justly
indicators: civil liberties, political rights and
voice and accountability. The Threshold program will
focus on three main components: strengthening the
judicial sector, aiding civic participation, and
promoting civil rights and civil liberties.


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