German Development Minister Dirk Niebel has begun a visit to Uganda and Rwanda where he is expected to assess the countries’ economic progress and visit German development projects.
The performance of the Rwandan and Ugandan economies may be promising, but their respective human rights records still give cause for concern. German Development Minister Dirk Niebel is expected to respond by keeping German financial aid to the two countries on a tight rein. Restrictions already imposed on assistance to Rwanda may also be applied to Uganda. Niebel is set ot spend nearly a week in Rwanda and Uganda.
Prior to his visit, Niebel's ministry announced that both countries had made major progress in development in recent years and had become engines for economic and political integration in Africa's Great Lakes region.
He also lauded the two countries' development strategies which are geared to promoting growth and the private sector development. "The success they have had proves that they were right to adopt these strategies,” he said.
Peace and development seen as key to regional stability
Dirk Niebel is expected to encourage both countries to continue playing a constructive role in safeguarding peace and security and to push ahead with Great Lakes' integration.
Uganda has been posting economic growth of five percent for several years, while Rwanda peaked above eight percent in 2011. The economc data may be promising, relations with Germany are clouded by political difficulties. This is because UN experts accused both Uganda and Rwanda in 2012 of financially supporting the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Germany subsequently halted budget support for both countries but it resumed funding at the beginning of 2013. This time, though, funding will be channelled to development projects directly so Berlin can ensure it is used for appropriate purposes and does not end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians.
Niebel has similar plans for Uganda where he will be pushing for project-based assistance over a three year period.” I will propose to the Ugandan government that, in future, instead of providing budget support, we support a program specifically aimed at improving the management of public finances," he said.
Human rights violations in the region
There is widespread corruption in Uganda and human rights are systematically violated, particularly the right to freedom of expression. This includes Uganda's recent handling of critical reporting on President Yoweri Museveni's plans for a successor.
A letter by General Sejusa, a former associate of Museveni and coordinator of security services, was published in Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper. The authorities responded with a police blockade of the paper's premises.
The letter claims that there was a plot to assassinate top government officials who were opposed to an alleged move by President Yoweri Museveni to have his son, Brigadier Kaneirugaba Muhoozi - who is also commander of Special Forces Brigade - succeed him as president.
Sejusa has since remained in London where he had travelled on official business.
On Thursday, the Ugandan government ordered that the blockade of the Daily Monitor's pemises be lifted and that journalists be permitted to return to work.
Rwanda's development record is not entirely positive, though President Paul Kagame has sought to meet the Millennium Development Goals and has been investing in infrastructure and in the fight against poverty.
However, these successes have been achieved through financial support from abroad, upon which the country still depends.
There has been economic and social progress in Rwanda, but the infringement of civil rights is equally visible. In October 2012, opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was sentenced to eight years in prison for treason and trivializing of the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. This court ruling alarmed human rights activists across the world..
The Rwandan government seeks to justifiy its involvement in the DRC by the presence there of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia group, which is says is undermining Rwanda's stability.
Niebel will probably discuss this subject during his stay in Rwanda. Before his departure, Niebel warned that it was important that both Rwanda and Uganda to observe human rights in order to ensure that any development progress that is made will be sustainable in the long term.