Christian Aid calls for greater democracy in Rwanda

 On the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, Christian Aid is calling for the UK government to review its support to the Rwandan government. A new report: 'It's time to open up' says the UK should be a more 'critical friend' to Rwanda and concentrate on helping it to establish strong democratic roots and a legitimacy which will provide long term stability for all Rwandans and succeeding governments. It's time to open up, highlights the advances made since the genocide - one of the most shameful episodes in the 20th century when almost a million people were killed in the full glare of the international media, while the international community did nothing. However, 'It's time to open up' points to disturbing trends in Rwanda. Freedom of the press and speech are limited, social and economic rights are still unfulfilled and the resources of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo have been plundered through proxy militias. The run-up to the 2003 elections was marked by the imprisonment, exile or disappearance of opposition politicians. Election monitors from the European Union say the election had no real opposition and that there was a lack of transparency. President Paul Kagame was returned to office with 95.5 per cent of the vote. In January 2004, the UK and the Rwandan governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which provides a framework for both governments to be held accountable on the issues of poverty alleviation, human rights and democracy for Rwanda. The report highlights the need for the MoU to be strictly observed. 'It's time to open up' draws on Christian Aid's unique role in Rwanda. It began working in Rwanda in 1963, supporting churches to meet the needs of rural communities. After the genocide in 1994, Christian Aid's support grew to help Rwandan organisations respond to the enormous needs of the post-genocide period. This included helping orphans' and widows' organisations and peace building.

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