Partners In War

BERLIN/KIGALI (Own report) - German President Horst Koehler will arrive on a state visit in Kigali on February 6 in spite of serious accusations raised against the Rwandan government. According to human rights organizations, "torture, extra-judicial executions and long imprisonment without trial" are commonplace in this Central African country. The government "denounces and persecutes mercilessly every form of opposition," church aid organizations wrote in a letter to the German President. Attempts to found organizations independent of the government are obstructed until the efforts end in "self-abandonment," writes the Institute of African Affairs (IAA), Hamburg, classifying Rwanda an "autocracy". In 2001, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development upgraded Rwanda to make it its "focal partner" and is providing a particularly high per capita support from its budget. Germany is also furnishing direct aid to Rwanda's police and judiciary. Kigali, which is principally responsible for the grueling war in East Congo, has a large contingent of soldiers standing ready for interventions against the Islamist government in Sudan. Rwanda is serving Berlin's strategic interests.

Feudal Aristocracy

The serious accusations are being raised against Germany's close cooperation partner. The German government has been closely cooperating with the Rwandan military regime since it came to power following the 1994 genocide. One of the first Bundeswehr deployments in Africa was in support of this change of government in the former German colony, whose current president Paul Kagame is a descendent of its feudal aristocracy.[1] Kagame will meet with President Koehler on Wednesday. In 1995, Germany became the first country to negotiate so-called development aid with the new government. In 2001, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development upgraded Rwanda to make it its focal partner and is providing an extraordinarily high financial support. In 2006, German financial aid averaged 1,26 Euros per capita in the Rwandan population, compared to an overall average of 0,70 Euros for all of the African states. The German president's current visit is again upgrading Kigali and is underlining its importance to Berlin's Africa policy.


Even while the Federal President's office was preparing Koehler's state visit, at the end of last year, strong criticism was being raised against Berlin's cooperation partner. In an analysis of the Rwandan form of rule [2], the Institute of African Affairs (IAA), Hamburg found unusually harsh words, because the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development had declared that Kigali is particularly concerned with the promotion of democracy. Nothing of the sort, responded the IAA in its analysis: "Rwanda's form of government, still today, has to be termed autocratic." The elections in 2003 "only created a democratic façade helping to legitimize autocratic power structures." The power is in fact mainly concentrated in the hands of President Kagame, while active and passive voting rights are restricted and freedom of opinion virtually made "impossible".[3] Political parties are subject to laws, described by the Institute of African Affairs as "restrictive" and these laws are "applied in a political manner". The analysis continues: "Civil society is either organized to serve state interests, or obstructed to end in self-abandonment."[4]


Strong criticism against the Kigali government is also being raised by amnesty international. Several thousand detainees remain incarcerated on a long-term basis without trial. Detention conditions are "extremely harsh" amounting to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".[5] Amnesty international also has at its disposal "numerous credible reports" on torture and "extra-judicial executions". Several dissidents have "disappeared" without a trace. The so called Gacaca Courts, established to deal with crimes committed during the 1994 genocide, have also been strongly criticized.[6] Trials under the gacaca system do not conform to "international standards of fair trials", but rather display "a lack of independence, impartiality and transparency". According to reports at hand, defendants were not allowed under the gacaca system "to defend themselves either during the information retrieval process prior to the trial or during the trial itself."[7]

Democratization Aid

In spite of all these accusations, German authorities are actively involved with the Rwandan judiciary and police. German development personnel are giving psycho-social care for witnesses and defendants in the Gacaca trials - thereby aiding a judicial system that has come under heavy criticism. Already back in November 1995, the interior minister of Rhineland-Palatinate and his counterpart in Kigali agreed on a "security partnership". Since then, the Rhineland-Palatinate police is regularly organizing training programs for Rwandan police officers, usually in close cooperation and with the financial support of the German foreign ministry.[8] The Rhineland-Palatinate interior ministry claims to also have furnished Kigali "democratization aid". It sent several experts to advise the national election commission in the legislative and presidential elections in 2003. The results speak for themselves: EU observers called the elections "unfair and only to a very limited degree free".[9]

Access to Raw Materials

Church aid organizations are also beginning to express their criticisms of the Kigali government. At the end of last year, the Ökumenische Netzwerk Zentralafrika (Ecumenical Network Central Africa), supported by important Christian organizations such as „Misereor" and "Bread for the World" [10] pointed, in a letter to the German President, to the "escalating conflict situation" in the eastern Congolese Kivu provinces, and also Rwanda's "direct responsibility" for that situation. According to experts, the cease-fire agreed upon, in the meantime, will not last long. As the Ecumenical Network writes, Kigali and the east Congolese militia leader Laurent Nkunda [11], who is wanted for war crimes, are pretending "to provide security for the Congolese Tutsi". But observers believe in fact "that this propaganda only serves as an alibi, to have access to the raw materials on Congolese territory". The aid organizations report: "the trade balance shows that, for years, raw materials have been illegally exported via Rwanda."[12] German firms and personnel of the German Foreign Ministry were involved in those dealings ( reported [13]).


Like Uganda, visited from Monday to Wednesday by the German President, Rwanda is one of those African nations supplying soldiers supporting Germany's effort to gain military control over the continent. Kigali is "providing 2.500 soldiers for AU and UN peace keeping missions in Sudan" report the German Foreign Ministry.[14] Supported by African troops, these interventions serve to restrain the Islamist government in Khartoum.[15] Uganda dispatched 1.600 soldiers to Somalia, on behalf of the African Union (AU), to defend the transition government, installed through western support, against Islamist forces. Rwanda is also making its territory available to the USA for the construction of an oversized airport that, according to observers, will be of strategic military importance. Kigali's disposition to support western military projects [16] explains the German President's generosity towards Rwanda in respect to human rights and democracy.

[1] see also Helmut Strizek: Geschenkte Kolonien
[2], [3] Alexander Stroh: Legitimation allein durch Entwicklung? Das Beispiel Ruanda; GIGA Focus Afrika Nr. 11/2007
[4] Das Institut für Afrika-Studien hat im Jahr 2005 eine ähnlich kritische Analyse zur politischen Lage in Äthiopien publiziert. In engem zeitlichem Zusammenhang zu einem Treffen des äthiopischen Präsidenten Meles Zenawi mit Bundespräsident Köhler wurde die Analyse damals zur "Überarbeitung" zurückgezogen und ist seitdem nicht mehr im Internet einsehbar. See also Indispensable Rights
[5] Urgent Action: Abschiebung/Drohende Folter und Misshandlung; amnesty international 16.03.2007
[6] Urgent Action: Sorge um Sicherheit/Rechtslage; amnesty international 09.05.2007
[7] amnesty international: Jahresbericht 2007
[8] Sicherheit und Solidarität: 20 Jahre Partnerschaft mit Ruanda; Polizeikurier aus dem rheinland-pfälzischen Ministerium des Innern und für Sport, Mai 2002
[9] Alexander Stroh: Legitimation allein durch Entwicklung? Das Beispiel Ruanda; GIGA Focus Afrika Nr. 11/2007
[10] Dem Ökumenischen Netzwerk Zentralafrika gehören Brot für die Welt, das Diakonische Werk der EKD, Misereor, Pax Christi und die Vereinte Evangelische Mission an.
[11] about Nkunda see also They Are Ready, Haftbefehle, The Lueshe Mine and Focal Partnership
[12] documents Auszüge aus dem Brief. Der Volltext befindet sich auf der Website der Vereinten Evangelischen Mission (
[13] see also War Resources (I), Kriegsressourcen (II), War Resources (III) and They Are Ready
[14] Beziehungen zwischen Ruanda und Deutschland; Länder- und Reiseinformationen des Auswärtigen Amts
[15] see also Military Aid for Africa (I) and Militär für Afrika (II)
[16] see also Sudan: The Anti-Khartoum Front, Sudan: The Left Disguise, Mit Rebellen gegen Khartum and Geteilte Menschenrechte