Cablegate: Scenesetter for Senator Kerry Visit to Rwanda


DE RUEHLGB #1041/01 3190752
R 150752Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Post warmly welcomes the November 18-19 visit of
Senator Kerry to Rwanda. Rwanda is a nation 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 wanda's
ethnic groups, and has made great strides in restoring
security and establishing the underpinnings for a developing
democracy (see paras 8-12). 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 finalize a
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Country Plan
(see paras 13 to 16).

2. (SBU) Regionally, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of
the Congo (DRC) recently signed an agreement - with strong
U.S. backing - to address the security threat posed by the
Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR - an armed
group operating inside the DRC consisting of the remnants of
the former Armed Forces of Rwanda and the Interahamwe
militias). Additionally, Rwanda has become an mportant
player in peacekeeping operations in Darfur and elsewhere.
Your visit coincides with the rotation of two 538-person
Rwandan battalions to Darfur with the U.S. providing the
airlift capacity. Finally, the United States is the largest
bilateral aid donor operating in Rwanda, with almost $175
million in assistance in FY07.

3. (SBU) Your meeting with President Kagame provides an
opportunity to welcome the recent DRC-Rwanda agreement on the
FDLR and to thank him for Rwanda's contribution to the
African Union/United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur
and to express U.S. support for Rwanda's efforts at regional
economic integration (Rwanda recently joined the East African
Community). Your trip to Paul Farmer's Partner's In Health
hospital in Rwinkwavu will express U.S. support for the
program's integrated approach to community

4. (SBU) Regional Security: On November 9, the DRC and
Rwanda signed an agreement on a common approach to end the
threat to peace and stability in both countries and the Great
Lakes region posed by "negative forces," especially the
Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda that continues
to operate in North and south Kivu provinces of eastern DRC.
Tensions between the DRC and the GOR have also centered on
renegade Congolese Rwandaphone General Laurant Nkunda who has
not cooperated with the DRC in reintegrating his militia
forces into the Congo's army. Successful 2006 elections in
the DRC, however, have brought hope that Rwanda's large
eastern neighbor will stabilize and there will increased
scope for 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.

5. (SBU) Regional Security: 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 most recent meetings
were held in Bujumbura in June and in Kampala in September.
A meeting of the Chiefs of Defense Staff of the four nations
took place at the end of August in Kigali, and in Lubumbashi
in October. Both considered regional security approaches to
"negative forces." In addition to the Tripartite Plus
meetings, the Tripartite Fusion Cell (TFC) continues
operations in Kisangani, DRC, with the primary function of
sharing information on the foreign-armed groups in eastern

6. (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, to be 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 twelve battalions in
preparation for the Darfur deployments. As noted above, your
visit coincides with the rotation of two 538-person
battalions. We provided transportation in October for a new
800-person AU/UNAMID hybrid battalion and rotated a
680-person battalion.

7. (SBU) Global Health: Rwanda is one of 15 "focus
countries" under the PEPFAR program. The national HIV
prevalence rate is approximately 3.1 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
end of FY 2008, the PEPFAR program in Rwanda will provide at
least 50,000 persons with anti-retrovial 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 104 million.
FY08 levels are expected to be nearly USD 124 million. In
June 2007, Rwanda hosted the yearly PEPFAR conference and
garnered high praise for its energy and initiative in its
HIV/AIDS programming.

8. (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 is USD 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 USD 8 million.

9. (SBU) Domestic Political Issues: In 2003, President
Kagame was elected to a seven-year term with 95 percent of
the vote; members of Parliament were elected to five year
terms in the same year. Both elections were peaceful, but
marred by irregularities. The next legislative elections
will be held in 2008, 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 1 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 appears to
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.

10. (SBU) Press Freedom: Press freedom remains the subject
of much debate and action in Rwanda. While senior GOR
officials recognize the importance of a free, effective free
press to the development of Rwanda's democracy and to
international perceptions of the country, there have been
reports of harassment, occasional run-ins with the police and
other government authorities, and jailing and prosecution of
several journalists. Most observers consider the press freer
than it was two or three years ago, and independent
newspapers regularly publish articles critical of senior
government officials and institutions and the ruling Rwanda
Patriotic Front without government sanction (two have
recently suspended publication temporarily to protest what
they consider to be harsh government criticism). Local
journalists, who do admit to self-censoring on occasion,
often confess that their over-riding concern is the
day-to-day economic obstacles to making journalism profitable.

11. (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
90 percent of the pending cases had been adjudicated by
approximately 3000 gacaca courts by November of this year.
The gacaca service is optimistic it can finish all cases by
the end of this year or the beginning of 2008. The GOR in
March lessened sentences in the gacaca system. This summer
the prison population stabilized at about 90,000 prisoners
when the GOR decreed that gacaca prisoners would serve their
suspended and community service sentences first, and return
to prison at a later date. Since then, the prison population
has diminished, alleviating crowded and unsustainable
conditions, as the government began releasing prisoners
previously convicted. While the most serious genocide
offenders will continue to be judged by the regular courts,
the gacaca court represent the principal attempt by the GOR
to achieve justice and reconciliation -- a difficult policy
balance -- given Rwanda's history of ethnic animosities.

12. (SBU) Democracy and Governance Programs: USG programs
focus on three areas: local government, civil society, and
reconciliation. We are supporting decentralized governance
through an innovative wrap-around 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. We also
support 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

13. (SBU) Economic Development: Rwanda's main development
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 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 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
conditions throughout the country, and maintained a low
corruption rate relative to neighboring countries.

14. (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 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 U.S.

15. (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
completing its Economic Development and Poverty Reduction
Strategy (EDPRS) at the end of 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.

16. (SBU) Millennium Challenge Corporation Country Threshold
Program: Rwanda was selected in 2006 for the Threshold
program. The GOR with assistance from the Mission is putting
the finishing touches on a Threshold Country Plan intended to
improve its scores on MCC's Ruling Justly basket of
indicators. The Threshold program will focus on three main
components: strengthening the judicial sector, aiding civic
participation, and promoting civil rights and civil
liberties. Rwanda has passed all three baskets of
indicators (the others are Economic Freedom and Investing in
People) in 2007, and so is theoretically eligible for full
Compact negotiations.

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