The Chronicles

Serving Your Right to Know the Truth

Author: Sam Minarick

  • DR Congo Government – FDLR agreement draws Kigali ire

    A deal being negotiated between the FDLR rebels and the DR Congo government risks unravelling gains painfully made over the years as the international community attempts to put a lid on conflicts within the Great Lakes region.

    The Chronicles can exclusively reveal that the DR Congo government has, since early last year, been holding secret talks with the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) – some of whose members are wanted in Rwanda for genocide related charges. Its leaders also face different international courts over war crimes.
    Leading the DR Congo delegation is Major General Dieudonné Amuli — the ex-coordinator of Operation Amani Leo, which aimed at flashing out the rebels, and FDLR deputy executive secretary “Lieutenant Colonel” Wilson Irategera for the FDLR delegation.

    The talks have been ongoing since February last year, and a “preliminary ceasefire agreement” was concluded on March 17. The dilemma however, is that neither the Government of Rwanda nor senior FDLR officers want anything to do with discussion. And the two sides have what could only be described as impossible demands by the other.

    Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry (MINAFFET), essentially, the country’s window to the outside world, tells The Chronicles that it is not aware of any agreement but actually termed the FDLR a “genocidaire militia”.

    Details of the talks are contained in the latest UN report submitted Friday, December 30, 2011, to the Security Council by the UN Group of Experts on DRC. The talks have a facilitator but the name and signature of the individual have deliberately been erased from the agreement – probably by the UN team itself.

    The “preliminary agreement” includes a commitment by FDLR to disarm and regroup all its combatants and dependants in a secure zone between 150 and 300 km from the Rwandan border, where they would settle and transform into a political movement.

    The DRC Government would guarantee the safety of FDLR combatants and grant asylum to those seeking refugee status. The preliminary agreement also underlined the necessity of involvement on the part of the international community.

    The UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) estimates that FDLR combatants do not exceed 3,000 in number, while Rwandan intelligence services presented the UN Group of investigators with a figure of 4,355 – including more than 2,000 in South Kivu alone. In its estimates, the UNHCR says there are probably about 10,000 Rwanda refugees living in the areas controlled by the rebels.

    Rwanda indifferent
    In Kigali, however, any mention of talks with the FDLR has been received with outright hostility. According to the UN report, DRC did take “steps to reassure” the Rwandan Government about this process, but Kigali has “remained remarkably silent on the issue”.

    Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo told The Chronicles on Thursday last week that she was “not aware of such an Agreement”. In rejoinder to our request for comment, the Minister demonstrated a strong show of dislike for the whole idea of talks.

    “…you can be sure that any move to rehabilitate members of FDLR from a genocidaire militia to anything else, including signing anything other than their arrest warrants, will be strongly opposed by my Government,” said Mushikiwabo, in a brief response from her BlackBerry phone.

    By press time, we had not been able to speak to the DRC envoy in Kigali as his known cell phone was off.

    “Spoilers”
    Despite muted objections to some of the 11 articles in the preliminary agreement by some quarters, the FDLR current executive secretary Ndagijimana has remained the most actively involved in the negotiations with the Kinshasa Government, according to MONUSCO sources. The official call record obtained by the UN investigators shows that between March and August 2011, Ndagijimana exchanged 202 text messages with the principal facilitator Maj Gen Amuli by satellite telephone alone.

    To the FDLR negotiators, this could be a godsend to regain the completely lost international credibility, which has left them vilified from all corners of the global due to the alleged crimes they have committed in the DRC. But to FDLR’s top two most senior commanders, any talks without Kigali’s involvement is meaningless.

    The two men whom the UN describes as “spoilers” are “Lieutenant General” Sylvestre
    Mudacumura – the current FDLR supreme leader and his deputy “General” Gaston “Rumuli” Iyamuremye. These men, whose photos have never been published in the media, nor held any interviews, limit defections from the militia group by coercive means. The world only largely knows of the two men through defectors.

    According to UN investigators, the talks with DRC seem to have lost momentum, mainly because of objections from Iyamuremye and Mudacumura regarding the process, as it requires commencement of disarmament. During a vote on 29 June, the FDLR senior officers are said to have opposed this DRC Government’s proposal.

    Congo Government

    UN investigators say while Mudacumura fears international justice, other “spoilers” have emerged following information leaks regarding the process. The political leader of FDLR’ splinter group Ralliement pour l’unité et la démocratie (RUD)-Urunana, Dr. Félicien Kanyamibwa, also rejected the negotiations, suggesting that Rwanda had to be involved. Details about Kanyamibwa, who lives in the United States, are published in our previous issue No 12.

    Talks…? You must be joking!
    It is not the first time something like a negotiated end to FDLR’s rebel activities have come to light. Court documents presented in Germany at the ongoing trial of its leaders Dr. Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni show that the militia group has deliberately targeted civilians to cause the humanitarian catastrophe. The thinking is that eventually, the international community will force Rwanda to negotiate with the rebels, say prosecutors.

    The current claimed DRC plan, which has been rejected before by Rwanda, is such that the rebels who choose to return home would be facilitated to do so, whereas those who turn down repatriation would be relocated to a Congolese area far away from the two countries’ common border.

    Kigali insists that relocating the rebels within Congo cannot deter them from destabilising Rwanda. At some point, government termed the suggestion that FDLR would disarm voluntarily as a fantasy. Rwanda wants them simply rounded up and deported to Kigali.

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  • Rwanda Targets US$800m investment in 2012

    RWANDA Development Board’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Clare Akamanzi (pictured) says the interests of investors attracted to do business in Rwanda should not compromise the government’s vision.

    Instead, according to her, investors have an interest in supporting the vision. The Chronicles’ David Kezio-Musoke and Magnus Mazimpaka talked to her about a wide-range of issues including this year’s investments targets. Below are the excerpts.

    The Chronicles: Let us talk about investments in general. Did you achieve your targets in 2011?
    Clare Akamanzi: The year 2011 was satisfactory. In 2010, we attracted US$390 million. In 2011 we targeted investments worth US$550 million. However by the end of the year, we had registered US$626 million. These were investment deals closed over that period. We passed our target by US$76 million. Our biggest attraction was from tourism, Information Communication Technology (ICT) followed by energy and then agriculture in that order. ICT was on top mainly because of the entrance of BhartiAirtel. Energy was also top because of a deal with a Danish company to produce energy. Last year, we also attracted some pretty good investments from agriculture. We registered a project from a Canadian company to grow Stevia, which is a plant used to process a sweetener like sugar. Stevia is for export and this project is in Rulindo.

    When you give these figures, are they investments attracted or investments that actually kicked off?
    These are investment deals that were closed. Actually in 2012, we want to make sure that when investors register and promise a certain kind of investment, they can actually deliver on their promises. However, within the course of this year, we shall be able to sit with the National Bank of Rwanda and National Institute of Statistics to track the actual investments that kicked off.

    What about forecast for 2012, what is your target for this year?
    We are revising our 2012 target upwards because we exceeded the 2011 target. We think we can reach US$800 million this year but will announce the figures once we have finalised.

    To some people, this figure seems unrealistic. What parameters do you use to come up with these estimates?
    First and foremost, we want investments to be 30 percent of GDP by 2020. Today, investments attract about 22 percent of GDP and since in 2005 it was just 16 percent that is growth. We look at all national targets, like say EDPRS, and we work backwards on what we need to achieve for each year. We know where we want to go and we know where we come from and we see what is realistic.

    There is a feeling that you concentrate on attracting foreign investments and ignore attracting local ones.
    I think that is an assumption. For us at RDB, local investments are equally as important as foreign investment. They both bring something on board. Last year in 2011, about 56 percent of the 139 projects registered were Rwandan investments. The strength is that we get to have more Rwandan projects. Foreign projects bring in higher value because they have access to more capital. Last year alone, foreign projects accounted for 68 percent of the value. We attracted US$626 million in 2011 of which US$372 million was the value of foreign investments (excluding EAC) and US$199 million was value of Rwandan investments.

    With a struggling global economy, you still managed to surpass your 2011 target by US$76 million. What was the magic?
    At global level, the economy is not healthy. So, because of this, investors are looking to enter new markets and Africa offers that. In Africa, there are more opportunities because our economies are still growing and are not as exhaustive. In other African countries, IMF expects exponential growth. And this is not growth you will witness in other parts of the world. So Africa is becoming more attractive. Rwanda’s continuous work to have a more attractive outlook makes us a preferred destination for investors. Look at our investment climate and our sovereign rating, the latest from ‘Standard and Poors’, Rwanda was rated with a ‘B’ but with a more positive outlook. This shows a high level of optimism about investing in a country like Rwanda.

    What is RDB doing to make sure this kind growth is sustained, more especially on the side of investments?
    We have developed a rapid economic growth strategy. We have re-aligned the way we work with Singapore, a country we want to pick lessons from. During the course of 2011, our senior management visited Singapore with the purpose of learning from them. They also visited Rwanda. With the economic growth strategy, every department in RDB promotes investments. It is no longer one single department doing investment promotions. For example, ICT promotes investments in ICT and so does the tourism department. This increases the effort of investment promotion. We have also developed a systematic way of attracting investments called the cluster approach. With this approach, each department identifies four key projects and concentrates on these. For example, ICT has chosen mobile phone applications, cloud computing, ICT education and ICT security. So, this department will ask pertinent questions like; Do we have the right infrastructure in place for applications? Do we have the right equipment for cloud computing? And if we don’t, we procure it. For ICT security, we look at which country does this best. So if this is country like India, we target it. We also look at Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). If we know a country like Philippines is good at this, we visit it.This is a systematic approach that is very successful in countries like Singapore. It is very measurable. This year, we are adding more focus on ‘after care’. When an investor registers our departments, we make a follow-up to make sure their needs are attended to.

    Talking about ICTs, what happened to the Kigali Wibro and National Data centre?
    Both are actually operational. We created a company called Broadband Systems Corporation that runs all government ICT projects and they include those two and National Backbone (fibre optics). Sometimes, government invests in such projects for services to be available and accessible for all Rwandans, in all the 30 districts. It’s not easy for a private company to invest in ICT infrastructure that covers the whole country; so government comes forward. Our expectation is that once these companies are up and running smoothly we can then be able to privatize them.

    How does RDB draw the line between the interests of the country and those of the investor?
    First of all, there is no contradiction between what government wants and what the investor wants. We shouldn’t make assumptions on this. Rwanda’s vision is to drive economic growth through the private sector. This is top priority and facilitating private sector to achieve it is important. This means we do business reforms, cut red tape look at how taxes are filled and ease this as well. But in doing our part, investors’ presence should not be at the expense of policies like, for example, environmental regulations. Some of these policies and regulations are created to make Rwanda a better place for Rwandans and even investors themselves.

    Let us talk about the case of LAP Green, particularly Hotel Umubano and Rwandatel. Don’t you think the interests of government came in at the expense of investors?
    LAP Green’s license was revoked by the regulator (Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Agency) simply because they failed to do what they were required to do. They had obligations in their license requirements which they didn’t probably fulfill. A license is a contract between government and the telecom. Sometimes we don’t simply attract an investor for the sake of having an investor. Investors have to deliver on their license obligations. If you have the mentality that government should ignore its vision at the expense of the interests of the investor, then you risk assuming that government and the investor don’t have a common interest. The interest of government and the investor are aligned.

    What are the challenges you have encountered in this whole process of attracting investors and investments?
    One of the biggest obstacles is availability of infrastructure to produce energy. Despite the fact that investments in energy were top attraction in 2011, it is still a priority for us in 2012 because without energy, the manufacturing industry can’t grow. Right now, we are negotiating with several companies that produce energy including a Turkish one. We are also talking with Orascom from Egypt, we have a memorandum of understanding with them, and they are already carrying out a feasibility study which should be finished in the first quarter of this year. The other pertinent issue is availability of finance. If one wants to finance a US$30million project, there must be funds, but this can be a challenge.

    But this is being addressed, we are attracting investors in the financial sector as well and there is positivity. Recently, Kenya Commercial Bankk entered the market and now Equity Bank is here. We have many projects that need to be financed like say the Bugesera Airport, which is worth about US$600million; we have a railway project coming up as well and many others. Though there is an improvement in acquiring skilled human capacity, it is a challenge. We are encouraging companies to train and equip their human resource with skills. We also have some top notch institutions like Carnegie Mellon University, a top world computer institution, which is soon setting up in Rwanda.

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  • Rwandan airspace abuzz with activity as airlines flock

    AIRLINES Operating commercial and cargo flights to and out of Kigali are set to increase sharply after South African Airways (SAA), Turkish Airlines and Emirates showed interest in adding Kigali on their growing list of destinations.

    The airlines join the existing carriers —Rwanda’s flag carrier Rwandair, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, KLM, and Air Uganda. This is set to increase competition mainly on commercial flights where industry analysts predict a reduction in the cost of air transport.

    The South African carrier, which has previously operated flights to the Rwandan capital, recently announced it would re-launch commercial flights to Kigali and include Burundian capital Bujumbura on the same route. Kigali city is Rwanda’s economic, political and tourist transit hub while Bujumbura is Burundi’s largest city and is close to the main port, shipping coffee as the country’s primary export.

    In a statement seen by The Chronicles, SAA, one of the largest airlines on the African continent, said effective January 17, 2012, it would commence operations from Johannesburg, South Africa’s capital to Kigali and onwards to Bujumbura, Burundi. “These flights are now available for reservations in the Global Distribution System (GDS), through your travel agent, and via flysaa.com, the airline’s online website,” the carrier said in a statement to the press.

    The airline said the new Kigali and Bujumbura flights have been conveniently timed to provide global connections via its Johannesburg hub and to SAA’s international network, including Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, North America and Australia.

    “SAA is focused on strengthening its intra-Africa network in line with its Africa Expansion programme. Adding even more destinations to our already extensive Africa route network gives our customers more travel options to thriving destinations that were previously difficult to reach by air,” Theunis Potgieter, SAA General Manager Commercial was quoted as saying in the statement.

    According to SAA, the Johannesburg-Kigali route and onwards to Bujumbura will be serviced three times a week by the airline’s state-of-the-art Airbus A319 aircraft that accommodates 120 passengers in a two class (business and economy) configuration. The re-launch of SAA flights to and out of Kigali followed a similar announcement by the Turkish Airlines, one of Europe’s largest carriers.

    The announcement was made by the Turkish Airlines President and CEO Mr. Temel Kotil during his meeting with the Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali on July 25. Mr. Temel told the President that the airline was hoping to open flights from Turkish Capital Istanbul to Kigali in April next year. It will also open an operations office in Kigali.

    The two airlines will join Emirates, the Dubai based airline that opened weekly cargo flights to and out of Kigali about three months ago. It is also believed that it might follow with commercial flights according to sources in the aviation Industry. Emirates is operating one of the biggest cargo planes Boeing 777 that gives it a competitive advantage over other players in the cargo business.

    According to Wikipedia, Emirates is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates. Based at Dubai International Airport, it is the largest airline in the Middle East, operating over 2,400 passenger flights per week to 111 cities in 62 countries across six continents. The company also operates three of the world’s ten longest non-stop commercial flights from Dubai to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston. Emirates is a subsidiary of The Emirates Group, which has over 50,000 employees, and is wholly owned by the government of Dubai directly under the Investment Corporation of Dubai. Cargo activities are undertaken by the Emirates Group’s Emirates SkyCargo division.

    Rwanda, however, is also embarking on bilateral air service agreements with many countries, which could see more airlines fly to Kigali. These agreements could also see Rwandair, which is expanding its fleet size launch flights to these countries in its expansion strategy. Some of the countries that have recently signed air service bilateral agreements with Rwanda include India and other five Asian countries which add to over ten countries that signed last year. The country also updated its air service bilateral agreement with Uganda.

    The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) Director General Mr. Richard Masozera said in an interview that his office has held talks with several other airlines, which have in turn expressed an interest in flying to Kigali. He declined to mention their names but he said they consider Kigali a growing aviation centre.

    Passenger boom
    Rwanda is increasingly registering a passengers’ boom. Statistics from the RCAA indicate that in 2009, Rwanda registered about 300,000 passengers and in 2010, they increased by 30,000 while this year, they are expected to increase by more than 70,000. This is attributed to the country’s resolve to attract foreign investments by reforming the business environment as well as offering peace and security to the visitors. Rwanda also has natural tourist attractions such as the mountain gorillas and other wildlife, which increasingly attract foreign visitors. The country also serves as a transit route for passengers to and from Eastern DR Congo and this boosts the number of passengers using the national airports.

    Way forward
    The Government is in the final stages of selecting a firm to construct the first phase of the New Bugesera International Airport. The new airport is expected to cost between US$400 -600 million. Information from the Rwanda Development Board says that some international companies have already expressed an interest in investing in the new airport but the final decision to select the suitable ones will be made after all bids have been reviewed. The Kigali International Airport is also being renovated to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic.

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  • 3billion calls made, Rwf72.6billion earned in 2011

    A report published by Rwanda’s telecom regulator says that Rwandans made over 3 billion telephone calls last year. According to the report, about 20 percent of the calls were international hile the rest were within Rwanda.

    The report that illustrates telecom tariff statistics from January to September 2011 also reveals that despite earning a staggering Rwf72.6 billion during that period, telecom players including MTN Rwanda, Tigo Rwanda and Rwandatel only invested about 23 percent of that money.

    With BhartiAirtel set to start operations this year, investments in the industry are set to double by the end of 2012 as incumbent players are introduced to new competition. Airtel announced that it would invest US$100 million (Rwf60 billion) over the next three years, making it the largest ever investment by an Indian company in the country.

    Airtel is already operating in 19 countries across Asia and Africa. However the argument is whether by coming to Rwanda, it is only interested in expanding its footprint across the African continent or to engage in actual competitive business.

    With the defunct Rwandatel assets up for grabs and a new player joining the industry, RURA might consider revising interconnection fees and new figures could destabilise the already existing tariff structure of the industry.

    The report says that despite the tariffs for mobile telephone calls remaining stable from January to September 2011, Tigo was the cheapest in terms of both regional and international calls.

    “Though Tigo-to-Tigo (on-net) call tariff is twice higher than that applied by MTN, Tigo’s continuous promotional tariff for Tigo-to-Tigo calls makes it appear as the cheapest. If the normal tariff was to be applied by both operators, MTN could be twice cheaper in terms of on-net calls,” the report says.

    Currently Tigo-to-Tigo promotional tariff is Rwf18 per minute while the normal Tigo tariff to any number out of Tigo network is Rwf90 per minute. In November, MTN cut local off-net rates by 30 percent from Rwf90 to Rwf60 and calls to regional partners (including Safaricom of Kenya, MTN Uganda, Vodacom of Tanzania and Leo of Burundi) by 50 percent from Rwf128 to Rwf60.

    On-net calls are the ones made within the same network while off-net cross over to another network.

    The difference between on-net and off-net tariffs is an issue that is hotly debated between operators and regulators. Small operators contend that their competitors’ high off-net prices are anticompetitive forcing them to face aggressive on-net strategies to drive market penetration at a cost of significantly increasing on-net versus off-net price differentials.

    However, experts believe that Airtel as a new entrant in Rwanda’s mobile market might face challenges due to the structure of prices charged by incumbent networks like MTN. In particular, on-net versus off-net price differentials create tariff-mediated network externalities which make larger networks more attractive to consumers than smaller networks.

    While the report is published by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA)’s website, efforts to get RURA’s boss Regis Gatarayihato comment on these issues were fruitless as he never picked his phone and never answered emails.

    MTN and Tigo officials contacted to comment on the same issues also did not respond to the queries posed by The Chronicles.

    RURA also added that despite slow growth, active mobile subscribers as of November 2011 had risen to 4.4 million. While MTN still has the geographical coverage of over 90 percent, it is also still the leading in mobile subscribers with over 60 percent of the market share with 2.9 million subscribers.

    “By September 2011 Tigo had already acquired 55 percent market share in terms of on-net calls due to the continuous on-net promotional tariff. The company had also acquired over 50 percent of the off-net traffic market by the same period,” the report says.

    “Tigo is the cheapest in terms of international calls, but figures indicate that MTN is still dominant in terms of international calls volumes with 86 percent traffic market share. This is definitely due to the bigger number of MTN subscribers,” it adds.

    Rwanda targets at least six million subscribers by the end of 2012. RURA said that the target for mobile telephony by the end of 2011 was 3.7 million subscribers. That figure was already exceeded by 15 percent as of September 2011.

    The report also says that despite the growth in mobile subscriptions, fixed lines remained stagnant at 43,095 subscribers. Rwandatel is the most active fixed line telecom operator while MTN remains with a few. Tigo Rwanda could not confirm whether the company has any subscribers on fixed lines on not. However, Rwandatel is 33 percent cheaper than MTN in terms of fixed on-net calls.

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