This past week I made a quick stop in Rwanda to catch up with some old friends and touch base on the current status of donor-government relations in the country. I had not been back to Rwanda since 2010, so I was very happy to finally get a chance to stop by; even if it was only for a couple of days. Every time I’m in Kigali, I’m reminded of how nice the city is – clean streets, minimal traffic, friendly people. I was particularly impressed on this trip by the new city buses – some even have Wi-Fi!
In terms of donor-government relations, things are also of course evolving and changing. Last year, donors suspended budget support – or direct allocations to the Government of Rwanda’s treasury – due to allegations of Rwandan involvement in neighboring DRC. Some donors have since re-started budget support to specific sectors, such health or education. However, no donors are planning on resuming general budget support, which goes into the general treasury account of the government.
Needless to say, the situation is highly political and complex, but the suspension does point to some interesting realities highly relevant to my research. First, the freeze drives home the interconnectivity of the political dialogue and the technical dialogue on development. Perhaps more than any other country, Rwanda has tried to separate these two discussions. However, as the most recent suspension makes clear, it is all but impossible to do so.
Second, the freeze highlights the important role budget support has played in fostering a high-level dialogue on development issues. The most prominent donor group in Rwanda has been for several years the Budget Support Harmonization Group (BSHG). However, given the suspension of general budget support, the government has decided to disband the group. For many donors, the question is: where will high-level discussions on cross-sector issues now take place?
Next it’s back to Uganda for a few days, before rounding out the trip with a two-week stop in Dar-es-Salaam!