Tony Blair defends Rwanda's role in DR Congo

Rebels in eastern DR Congo on 30 November 2012 The M23 launched its rebellion because it said a 2009 deal had been reneged

Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has defended Rwanda over its part in the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

He told the BBC the causes of that conflict were complex and Kigali should not be singled out for blame.

He also said it was wrong to withhold aid to Rwanda, as many Western countries have done.

Rwanda denies a UN accusation that it has been backing the Congolese M23 rebel group.

About 800,000 people have been displaced in fighting since May 2012 when the rebels launched a rebellion against the DR Congo government.

Tony Blair: "Withdrawing aid is a way to punish the people of Rwanda without solving the issue of the conflict"

Last year, a report by the UN Security Council's Group of Experts said that M23 leaders "receive direct military orders" from Rwanda's chief of defence staff, Gen Charles Kayonga, "who in turn acts on instructions from the minister of defence", Gen James Kabarebe.

Mr Blair acts as a personal adviser to Mr Kagame - who came to power after the 1994 genocide - and one of his charities, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), employs people inside the Rwandan government.

"If you read, and I have read, both the UN report and the very detailed rebuttal of those claims by the Rwandan government, you've got to say there's a dispute over the facts," Mr Blair told the BBC's Focus on Africa TV programme.

He said there were a dozen different small militias in DR Congo, complicating the situation for the government.

"I'm not disputing the need to make sure that everybody abides by the right international principles here, I'm simply saying it isn't right to put all of this on Rwanda ," he said.

Rwanda had made good use of the aid money and there had been massive poverty reduction in the country, Mr Blair said.

Rwanda had "virtually eliminated measles in the country, now moving on to rubella".

"The way they've reduced malaria deaths by something like 60%. These are massive achievements done through aid.

"To withdraw the aid in those circumstances seems to me a way to punish the Rwandan people without necessarily helping the issue of the conflict."

Mr Kagame's critics accuse him of leading a repressive regime, which jails opponents and cracks down on the media.

Last October, opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was convicted of treason and sentenced to eight years in jail. She denied the charge.

More on This Story

Rwanda: Haunted Nation

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Africa stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Martin Gardner as a young manThink hard

    Was this man the world's greatest puzzle master?


  • Carved pumpkinTrick or treat

    What did a riot at a pumpkin festival show about race in US?


  • A woman puts on a surgical mask during hospital Ebola training in Alabama.'Dark continent'

    Is prejudice fuelling Ebola outbreak hysteria in the US?


  • Oscar de la Renta and Oprah WinfreyIn pictures

    The life and work of Oscar de la Renta


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • FutureThe future is now

    Get the latest updates and biggest ideas from BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit

Programmes

  • Smart glassesClick Watch

    Smart spectacles go into battle – the prototypes looking to take on Google Glass

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.