Sweden freezes aid to Rwanda over DR Congo

Updated 13 August 2012

Sweden freezes aid to Rwanda over DR Congo

STOCKHOLM: Sweden announced yesterday that it was provisionally suspending aid to Rwanda pending clarification of reports that the central African nation has backed rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We have chosen to hold off with aid to shed light on what is going on Congo and how they (the Rwandan authorities) are involved,” Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson told public radio SR.
“We have not stopped, we have chosen to freeze” a part of the aid budget, said Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Eva Sundquist, adding that Rwanda should “take up its responsibilities for the development of the region.”
Sweden has not given direct budgetary support to Rwanda since 2008, but instead finances development projects in areas such as human rights, the environment and free trade initiatives, added Sundquist.
The United States, the Netherlands and Germany have already suspended all or part of their aid to Rwanda since a UN report in June accused high-ranking Rwandan officials of backing army mutineers in eastern DR Congo, who have formed a rebel group called M23.
Rwanda strongly denies the allegation and has in turn accused the Kinshasa government of backing Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who also operate in eastern DR Congo and are opposed to the Rwandan regime of President Paul Kagame.
Asked by AFP what a partial freeze of Swedish aid would entail, the Swedish foreign ministry gave no details.
In 2011, Sweden gave Rwanda aid worth 215 million kronor (26.1 million euros, $32.2 million).
A summit of the African Great Lakes nations, which include Rwanda and DR Congo, was held last week to open the way for a neutral force to eradicate the armed groups operating in eastern DR Congo, but it ended Wednesday with no significant outcome.

 


Kabul begins freeing Taliban

Newly freed Taliban prisoners walk at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 13, 2020. Picture taken August 13, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 55 min 39 sec ago

Kabul begins freeing Taliban

  • Release of final 400 inmates was approved by traditional Afghan grand assembly

KABUL: After months of delay, Afghanistan’s government has started releasing the last 400 Taliban inmates in its custody, clearing the way for long-awaited peace talks, officials confirmed on Friday.

Eighty of the 400 were set free on Thursday and, according to the government, more will be freed in the coming days. The release was a condition to begin intra-Afghan negotiations to end 19 years of conflict in the war-torn country. The talks, already delayed twice, are expected to take place in Qatar once the release process is complete.
“The release was to speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting, nationwide cease-fire,” the Afghan National Security Council said in a statement accompanied by video footage showing former Taliban inmates calling on insurgent leaders and the government to engage in peace talks.
The prisoner release follows an agreement signed by the US and the Taliban in Qatar in February that stipulated the exchange of prisoners between President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the militants, who have gained ground in recent years.
The process, involving 5,000 Taliban detainees held by Kabul and 1,000 security forces imprisoned by the militants, was slated to begin in early March and should have been followed by an intra-Afghan dialogue.
Ghani, initially resistant to the idea of freeing the Taliban inmates, began to release them under US pressure. Some 4,600 Taliban inmates were freed over the few past months, but Ghani refused to free the remaining 400, arguing they were behind major deadly attacks and that setting them free was outside his authority.
Faced by mounting pressure, after Eid Al-Adha holidays two weeks ago, the president vowed to summon a traditional grand assembly, the Loya Jirga, to help him decide if the remaining Taliban inmates should be freed or not.

FASTFACT

Footage showing men in uniforms mutilating the bodies of purported Taliban members went viral on social media this week, raising concerns that violence between security forces and the militants may impede the peace process despite the prisoner release.

Last week, the assembly approved the release, which is now underway and expected to be followed by the peace talks, in accordance with the US-Taliban deal.
The process, however, coincides with a spike in violence in the country and mutual accusations of an increase in assaults by the Taliban and Afghan government forces.
On Thursday, the Defense Ministry said it was probing a video circulating on social media showing men in army uniforms mutilating the bodies of purported Taliban fighters.
The UN requested that the incident be investigated. It remains unclear when and where it took place.
The Taliban, in a statement, said the bodies of their fighters were mutilated in the Arghandab district of the Zabul province.
Concerns are rising that similar acts of violence will further delay the peace process.
“Let us hope that this video does not become part of revenge-taking between the two sides and affect the process of peace. It is really unfortunate,” analyst Shafiq Haqpal told Arab News.
“As the violence continues, we see more brutal and shocking tactics from the sides and examples of revenge-taking, and that is very worrying and impacts any trust in a peace process,” Shaharzad Akbar, the chief of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
“It is on the leadership of the two sides to have clear messages to their fighters to avoid war crimes and actions that further the instinct for revenge that will make the reconciliation that should come out of a peace process difficult,” she added.

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