February 25, 2020

Government Cuts Funding For Some Embassies, Creates New Ones

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Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vincent Biruta here speaking at the annual retreat of all Rwanda’s envoys in Kigali, February 20. The budgets for his team clearly show where the priorities are

In a revised budget submitted to Parliament on Monday, various agencies have seen their funding cut, as allocations to others increased – with one agency (not an embassy) seeing its budget increased by 266%.

Overall, the whole budget increased by over Rwf 140billion or 4.8% compared to the original spending plan passed in July last year. The 2019-2020 budget is now Rwf 3.02 trillion (about $3.3billion)

A review of the full report given to Parliament shows that new embassies have been created. Some existing embassies saw their funding cut, including some you would think are key, but perhaps that’s not shared by government.

Rwanda’s embassy in Washington, with envoy Mathilde Mukantabana, was the biggest casualty. More than Rwf 283m has been slashed from her budget equivalent to a 14.4% drop from Rwf 1.89billion. It remains a huge chunk compared to others.

The High Commission in Harare, Zimbabwe, manned by James Musoni, the former all-powerful minister back home, has lost 12% of his budget. Some Rwf 72m has been slashed from his budget of Rwf 679m.

For the High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, it was also not spared. It lost 10.8% of its budget, now standing at Rwf 570m. In other words, South African embassy gets less than that of Harare.

It is important to note that South Africa is home to the dissident group the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), which has posed biggest threat to government of President Paul Kagame for over 10 years. RNC is the reason Rwanda and Uganda are at each other’s throat since February last year.

Cuts were also put on the High Commission in Lusaka, Zambia with 7.4%, as well as the High Commission in Nairobi-Kenya down 5.4% – from its budget of Rwf 1.19billion, a still large budget.

Inside annual retreat of Rwanda’s envoys

Our analysis also shows that embassies in DR Congo, Germany, France and Mozambique have been reinforced. Kinshasa, DRC is getting the biggest increase among embassies, at 27.7% – its funding going up to Rwf 566m.

It not clear if it is by design or coincidence that Kinshasa funding is increased with arrival of envoy Vincent Karega in July last year. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi is also enjoying very cordial relations with President Kagame, that he is even co-mediating the Rwanda-Uganda crisis.

The other big beneficiary to latest budget changes is the relatively new embassy in Maputo, Mozambique. It was just opened in June last year, with former foreign affairs ministry permanent secretary Claude Nikobisanzwe as envoy. The diplomat got a 17% increase to reach a nearly Rwf 800m budget.

Mozambique, like South Africa and other Southern Africa region countries, has a large Rwandan diaspora and refugees. There are thousands of Rwandan refugees in this region, and government has for years unsuccessfully pleaded with them to come home. A few have heeded the call.

Embassy in Berlin, Germany got 22.2% increase, now to receive about Rwf 1.13billion. Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, another relatively new embassy, is to get 18% rise – reaching a Rwf 699m budget. This expansion to UAE presence is indication of Kigali’s growing ties there.

In France, as relations continue to warm, despite long-standing suspicions, the envoy there got 14% rise to his budget, now standing at Rwf 823m. It shows there is a lot that Kigali expects from the diplomats in Paris.

A surprising move is that of Khartoum, Sudan, whose budget has been increased by 13.9%. However, it is very small in general compared to other embassies, at just Rwf 370m.

The budgets for Uganda, New York and Geneva, all key in Rwanda’s diplomatic arena, are not in the revised budget, meaning their budgets remained unchanged as set in the original 2019-20 budget in July last year.

To reinforce its global presence, Rwanda recently created new embassies. The revised budget has funding for them. Doha, Qatar will get Rwf 285m, though Qatar and its Emir is such a big Rwanda fan. Qatar now has a controlling stake in Rwanda’s new airport under construction, as well as national carrier RwandAir.

Another new embassy is in Accra, Ghana, which will get Rwf 653m. The embassy is perhaps aimed at adding power to Rwanda’s west African presence, as there is already embassy in Senegal and Nigeria.

Rabat, Morocco, whose monarch King Mohammed VI came to Rwanda in October 2016 and stayed beyond the planned trip time, now has an embassy. The new envoy will get Rwf 368m.

In other notable budget revisions, the Ministry of Environment, under recently appointed Dr Jean d’Arc Mujawamariya, saw her budget rocket with a 266% increase from the original budget issued in July last year. Its budget rose from Rwf 2.3b to a whooping Rwf 8.45billion.

In Parliament, the MPs also wondered what exactly new is the ministry going to do that has precipitated such budget increase.

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