'Parting favour': One of Andrew Mitchell's final decisions as International Development minister was to unfreeze aid to Rwanda
- New chief whip said to have made the decision in his final hours as International Development Secretary
- Senior Foreign Office source tells the Mail it was a 'mistake' and that Mitchell overruled civil servants
- Rwandan president Paul Kagame accused of backing militia leading a bloody uprising in neighbouring Congo
Andrew Mitchell overruled Foreign Office advice to hand £16million of British aid money to a controversial African dictator accused of fuelling a bloody civil war.
A senior Foreign Office source told the Daily Mail that Mr Mitchell’s decision to lift the freeze on aid to Paul Kagame’s Rwandan regime was a ‘mistake’ which would damage Britain’s reputation for standing up against human rights abuses.
Mr Mitchell, now David Cameron’s chief whip, is reported to have overruled his own civil servants by making the decision in his final hours as International Development Secretary last month.
Half of the money will go directly into the Rwandan government’s coffers – despite fears that it will be used to fund a murderous rebellion in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
One human rights campaigner yesterday described the move as a ‘parting favour’ to President Kagame, a personal friend of Mr Mitchell.
The revelations will pile pressure on the chief whip, who is already fighting to save his job after being accused of hurling foul-mouthed abuse at police officers who stopped him riding his bike through the gates of Downing Street.
Labour yesterday called for the publication of the civil service advice received by Mr Mitchell. Shadow International Development Ivan Lewis accused him of putting ‘personal friendship above proper foreign policy considerations’.
The Department for International Development insisted his decision had been ‘based on advice from policy officials within the department’, but refused to detail the advice.
In June, a United Nations report produced detailed evidence showing that Rwanda is backing the notorious M23 militia which is leading a bloody uprising in the DRC.
Dictator: Rwandan president Paul Kagame (pictured with David Cameron in 2007) is accused of backing a murderous militia operating in neighbouring Congo
A senior Foreign Office source said: ‘The evidence against Kagame’s regime is absolutely overwhelming. The UN experts’ report found incontrovertible evidence that there had been support from Rwanda to the M23 rebels in terms of supplying weapons, uniforms, tactical advice and command and control assistance. There was also evidence of Rwanda fomenting strife in the area.
‘Most people in the Foreign Office think the time has come to take a really tough stand.’
Sources close to the new International Development Secretary Justine Greening have indicated she is also unhappy about the decision and will review it when the next aid payment to Rwanda is due in December.
Congolese troops and tanks hunt for M23 rebels in the east of Congo: The UN found evidence of support from Rwanda to the M23 rebels in terms of supplying weapons, uniforms, tactical advice and command and control assistance
Aid freezes imposed by the United States, Germany, Holland and others remain in place.
In a statement last month Mr Mitchell said he was releasing the cash because Britain had a ‘responsibility to protect the poor’ in Rwanda. He said he had ‘sought assurances’ from Kagame that he was not abusing human rights.