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Rwanda has written to the United Nations Security Council objecting to its plan to support a military deployment by southern African nations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The letter, dated Feb. 12, comes amid a flurry of diplomatic and military activity that threatens to put South Africa on the opposite side of a conflict to Rwanda. 

South Africa said it’s deploying 2,900 troops to the region as part of a Southern African Development Community mission that will fight the M23 rebel group, which UN experts have accused Rwanda of supporting. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has denied the allegation, will attend a meeting of heads of state in Ethiopia on Friday that was called by Angola to discuss the escalating conflict in Congo, his spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said. 

“The government of Rwanda would like to request the UNSC to avert the escalation of the conflict in eastern DRC by reconsidering the request to provide logistical and operational support” to the SADC mission, Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister, said in the letter, seen by Bloomberg. “The UN Security Council should instead encourage the government of the DRC to pursue a peaceful solution.” 

Biruta argued that the mission and UN support for it will embolden Congo’s government to seek a military victory, rather than a diplomatic solution to a dispute that has wracked the Great Lakes region of East Africa for decades. 

The SADC force is set to gradually replace soldiers from the UN, who have been in the region for 25 years, and some from East African community states, who have been there for a year but have now been asked to leave by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

A war that began in the region in 1998 and lasted until 2003 dragged in troops from nine nations and saw Zimbabwean and Angolan forces among others fighting the Rwandan army. Conflict has simmered ever since as Rwanda says elements of forces that carried out a genocide of the Tutsi ethnic group in the country in 1994 have taken refuge in Congo. Kagame, a Tutsi, led an army that overcame those forces and has ruled Rwanda since. With assistance from Michael J. Kavanagh, Bloomberg

In Summary

  • Compared to other global regions, East African residents who have experienced a disaster and lost access to critical infrastructure, such as clean water and electricity, have the biggest gap in confidence between national and local government with local administrations seen as much less prepared.
  • Over half (55%) of Eastern Africans who experienced a disaster have lost access to clean drinking water.
  • Two thirds (66%) of Eastern Africans who experienced a disaster have lost access to electricity. 

A global safety charity has highlighted how losing access to critical infrastructure services, such as clean water and electricity, is harming confidence in the disaster preparedness of local governments in Eastern Africa, particularly among communities that have experienced disasters caused by natural hazards. 

According to Lloyd's Register Foundation, people in Eastern Africa who have experienced a disaster and lost access to critical infrastructure are much less likely to say their local government is well prepared to deal with a disaster compared to their national government, by a margin of 12 percentage points – the biggest gap globally. The finding comes from the Foundation's latest analysis of its World Risk Poll, powered by Gallup, which surveyed 125,000 people across 121 countries. 

The findings from the Foundation's new report - Focus On: Critical infrastructure resilience and perceptions of disaster preparedness - examine the link between loss of critical infrastructure and confidence in both local and national government indicating who citizens tend to hold accountable. Respondents were asked about their experiences of losing access to one of five essential services (telephone, food, clean water, electricity, and medicine/medical help) and their confidence in national and local government disaster preparedness. 

According to the data, all regions surveyed across Africa believed their national government was better prepared to deal with a disaster than local government. Gaps in confidence in favour of national government range from 7 to 12 percentage points among African respondents who had experienced a disaster and lost access to critical infrastructure. East African residents retained the highest confidence in their national government compared to local government, by 12 percentage points, and as high as 18 percentage points in Tanzania and Zambia. However, significant differences are apparent when comparing with some more developed global regions, such as Northern/Western Europe and North America, which either have roughly even confidence or greater confidence in local government.   

Data from Lloyd's Register Foundation's World Risk Poll showed that 91% of people in Eastern Africa have lost access to at least one type of critical infrastructure for more than one day in the past year, which rises to 93% among those who have also experienced a disaster in the past five years. This includes loss of access to clean drinking water (experienced by 49% of the general population, and 55% of those who had experienced a disaster), food (47% and 57%), medicine/medical help (54% and 64%), telephone access (58% and 63%), and electricity (68% and 66%). 

In response to the findings, Jan Przydatek, Director of Technologies at Lloyd's Register Foundation, said: "The World Risk Poll has highlighted how trust and confidence in government are important components of resilience when natural hazards and other forms of disaster occur. Trust is fundamental for dealing not only with the initial impact but also for handling and recovering from the longer-term impacts on communities. 

"The figures show how maintaining reliable access to critical infrastructure even outside of disaster scenarios is challenging in regions such as Eastern Africa. Improving this situation is a key challenge for international partners to support local governments with, and this may in turn lead to greater confidence in government disaster preparedness." 

The report recommends that national governments work more collaboratively with local governments and other actors to improved disaster preparedness and response, working within the context of international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction. 

Savina Carluccio, Executive Director at International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure said: "Education could enhance understanding of the importance of disaster risk reduction and resilience and, in turn, improve the confidence of the public in the government's plans and actions. Educating and building capacity of policymakers is a priority, since they are responsible for developing regulations and incentives to increase the uptake of disaster risk reduction and resilience. Enhancing capacity of practitioners at local level is urgently needed, and educational settings and civil society have a key role to play here. In parallel, improving public education would result in increased public buy-in for resilience projects, increase public understanding of disaster risks, and may contribute to a culture of risk awareness and resilience."

The Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll is the first global study of worry about, and harm from, risks to people's safety. This data is from the second edition of the Poll, based on around 125,000 interviews conducted by Gallup in 121 countries during 2021. 

The data includes places where little or no official data on safety and risk exists, and so constitutes a unique resource for defining the nature and scale of safety challenges across the world, as reported first-hand by those who experience them. 

This intelligence can and should be used by governments, regulators, businesses, NGOs and international bodies to inform and target policies and interventions that make people safer, working in partnership with and empowering communities.  For more information about Lloyd's Register Foundation, visit lrfoundation.org.uk.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman on a PR trip to Rwandan capital Kigali in March© PA

The Government's claim that Rwanda is a safe place to send asylum seekers has been savaged as figures showed the UK has granted sanctuary to dozens from the African nation.

Ministers are locked in a bitter court battle trying to salvage their controversial deportation scheme after top judges said it was unlawful. While they maintain Rwanda is a safe country, analysis of official data reveals that over 40 Rwandans have applied for asylum in the UK since 2020. 

And between 2011 and 2021, 37 people were granted asylum after officials accepted they were unsafe in their home country. Immigration expert Prof Thom Brooks, of the University of Durham, told The Mirror: "While we are told Rwanda is safe for all, the Home Office recognises that it is not safe for all Rwandans. It is unclear how Rwanda can be safe for all from any country if not safe for every Rwandan."

The Government hopes to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as it desperately tries to tackle a massive backlog which stood at over 130,000 earlier this year. But in June the Court of Appeal ruled the scheme was illegal as judges, with judges saying it is not a safe third country.

Steve Smith, CEO of refugee charity Care4Calais said: “The Government’s claim that Rwanda is a ‘safe country’ to which we should send asylum seekers has always been pure conjecture on their part. The fact that Home Office decision makers have been granting asylum to Rwandans, whilst Ministers have been spinning their ‘cash for humans’ deal in the media, blows their argument apart."

 

He branded the Rwanda scheme, first unveiled in April last year by former Home Secretary Priti Patel and championed by her successor, Suella Braverman, an "expensive and ill thought out publicity stunt". The Home Office has repeatedly refused to reveal the total spent on the project, but it is known that £140million has been paid to the Rwandan government.

Home Office figures show 29 decisions made on Rwandan claimants since the start of 2020. Of these 14 people were granted protection, while 10 were refused. A further five applications were withdrawn.

Prof Brooks said the stakes are high for Mr Sunak as the Supreme Court weighs up whether the scheme is legal and whether Rwanda is safe. He said: "If the policy is found unlawful by the UK's top judges, the Tories are left without any plan to stop the boats except use of empty barges at extortionate cost to taxpayers - and mark a new low for 13 years of ineptitude on immigration."

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “How can the Home Secretary seriously say Rwanda is safe when the UK is granting asylum to people from the very same country? The Home Office looks more and more ludicrous by the day under Braverman.

"Pursuing these disastrous policies is doing nothing but bringing more problems upon the asylum system. Introducing safe and legal routes and getting down the backlog is the only answer. The Home Secretary must finally accept reality and scrap the unworkable and expensive Rwanda scheme. Her focus must be tackling the asylum backlog created by years of Conservative mismanagement."

In the final six years when Labour was in power, there were 59 enforced removals to Rwanda, compared to three in the past seven years under the Tories.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Rwanda has been recognised globally for its record in welcoming and integrating migrants and asylum seekers. The number of people risking their lives by making illegal and dangerous journeys is unacceptable. That is why we have passed new legislation which will ensure those arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”  By Dave Burke, Daily Mirror

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