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Funding the "opposition" ?


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Foreign Missions Accused of Funding Opposition
The East African (Nairobi)
February 3, 2003
Posted to the web February 4, 2003
David Mugalura, Special Correspondent
SIX MONTHS to Rwanda's historic general election, the government has
accused some foreign missions in Kigali of financially supporting the opposition.
Some foreign missions in the Rwandan capital have not denied this charge.
Instead, they say they are only interested in building a formidable challenge to
the incumbent by fostering democracy and transparency ahead of the polls.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Co-operation, Charles Muligande,
said last week that he had no information about claims of foreign missions
funding to the opposition to challenge President Paul Kagame's eight-year hold
on power.
"A number of these embassies interact with the so-called opposition.
"It is possible the opposition is getting funding from them, but I can't confirm it
at the moment," he said.
Government sources named the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), which
holds the premiership in the transitional government; Party for Democracy and
Regeneration-Ubuyanja, an unregistered political party led by ex-president
Pasteur Bizimungu, as the parties that are benefiting from foreign missions
funding. Bizimungu is currently in custody at the Kigali Central Prison for inciting
ethnic violence.
A diplomat who preferred anonymity said that some foreign governments (the
Netherlands and Germany), through their embassies in Kigali, have held several
meetings with leaders of the two parties to lay strategies for the elections.
However, the Netherlands embassy denied any direct funding to opposition
parties. "We only support democratisation, which we insist must be totally
transparent. We don't support political parties, but support human-rights
activities and everything else that is done transparently," the diplomat said.
Sources said that in the past, some Western embassies had funded
non-governmental organisations under the guise of creating civil society
awareness, but in real sense they were supporting the opposition. It put some
NGOs at loggerheads with the government.
Another source at MDR said that the wrangles in the party originated from the
manner in which the party leadership was using foreign cash donations.
The source said that some senior party officials had in the past visited the
Netherlands and Germany to solicit for funding in the elections.
Dr Muligande said that he did not regard MDR as an opposition party because it
has been in the government for eight years.
"If it claims to be an opposition party, it would be a contradiction," he said.
Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Front has been a senior partner in a coalition that
has run the government since 1994, when the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA)
came to power.
The RPA assumed the reins of the government three months after the death of
President Juvenal Habyarimana in a plane crash.
Rwanda is preparing a new constitution that will give way to the polls,
expected to be held after July 19, when the mandate of the present
government ceases.
Non-citizens who have no record of a criminal past will be allowed to contest
for civic seats.