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Friday 30th November 2012 | 10:25
Justine Greening has stamped her authority on DfID with an announcement* that she's stopping £21m of UK aid to Rwanda.
The move follows what she calls "credible and compelling reports of Rwandan involvement" with M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It finally brings us into line with similar aid suspensions by the US, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Politically speaking, Greening's move may throw into doubt any rehabilitation Andrew Mitchell may have been hoping for as 'Plebgate' became a distant memory. Visitors to Mitchell's office at DfID were often taken aback by the pic on the wall of Rwanda's hardline President Paul Kagame and by the glowing praise the former Cabinet minister heaped on him.
Mitchell visited Rwanda eight times in the past six years and was heavily criticised by human rights groups for lifting a freeze on £16million of British aid to President Paul Kagame’s regime on his final day as International Development Secretary in September.
Mitchell's defenders point out that he was simply following through on his commitment in Opposition to the African country (a mission that was fully backed by David Cameron and was a key party of the Cameroonian project on overseas aid and social action) and has nothing to hide about his relationship with Kagame.
But he still got a rough ride from the DfID Select Committee recently, insisting that he was not a 'rogue minister' on Rwanda. Here's his robust response at the time:
"The press have sort of suggested that a rogue minister can sign cheques under the bed clothes and bung them out to dubious leaders. That is completely untrue. It is very insulting. I take deep offence at the suggestion that I would ever behave in such a way, but it’s also a tremendous insult to the British civil service, who would never allow such a thing."
I wonder what he will say today?
*FOOTNOTE: Today's statement from Greening may or may not be an attempt to pre-empt the Select Committee's own report on aid to Rwanda. That's due out at 10pm tonight. Having been due to be published at midnight, that suggests its contents are deemed sufficiently newsworthy for the 10pm TV news bulletins tonight. Let's see.
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