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UK Politics

UK 'should review relations with Rwanda'

The British Government faces demands to review its close relationship with Rwanda, following the revelation that Rwandan expats living in the UK have been warned that they are the target of assassins sent by the African government.

The Independent disclosed yesterday that two Rwandan critics of President Paul Kagame's rule have been warned by Scotland Yard that their lives are in imminent danger from the Rwandan government. The episode threatens to cause a diplomatic crisis for the Government, which has praised President Kagame's efforts to rebuild Rwanda after the genocide of 1994.

The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, has been a regular visitor to the country and the Conservatives send MPs there every summer to undertake voluntary work.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, said: "Clearly such a suggestion of foreign nationals sanctioning violence on the streets of London is a very serious matter. The Government should ensure there is a full investigation and make public its findings where appropriate."

The former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, said: "The Rwandan High Commissioner should be told in the strongest possible terms that conduct of the kind threatened will simply not be tolerated."

Eric Joyce, chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa, urged ministers to regard it "as a priority" to investigate the allegations.

"I have a lot respect for what President Kagame has done, but the Rwandan government has a reputation for not brooking any opposition," Mr Joyce said.

Nicola Blackwood, a Tory member of the group, said: "Rwanda have made such impressive strides in so many areas of development but political freedom is important too, and if these claims are true they are very worrying."

The Rwandan High Commissioner to London, Ernest Rwamucyo, insisted yesterday: "The government of Rwanda does not threaten the lives of its citizens wherever they live."

Both the Department for International Development (Dfid) and the Foreign Office said last night that Britain and Rwanda had a "candid" relationship where the Government raised concerns "on a regular basis and at senior levels".

The Foreign Office said: "We take every opportunity to raise with the Rwandan government our concerns over political space, media freedom and extra-judicial killings."

Dfid made clear last night it had no intention of scaling back its average annual aid payment of £83m to the country. A spokesman said the contribution benefited 135,200 of the country's poorest people.