$250,000 in US Taxpayer Money to teach Rwandan citizens to lobby their government

Photo: Former Chief of Staff to Rwandan President Kagame lives in exile in the U.S.

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Rwanda is a country with a complicated past, including a horrific genocide just a little more than two decades ago.

Today, the country has made progress, but some say it’s still a country plagued with problems.

“There is no press freedom in Rwanda there is no political freedom in Rwanda. The same human rights abuses are still going on within the country,” said Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa in an interview Friday. Rudasingwa used to serve as the Rwandan Ambassador to the United States, as well as the Chief of Staff to current President Paul Kagame. Now he lives in exile in the United States for criticizing Kagame, who recently won a third term with 99 percent of the vote. This, after his country, approved a constitutional Referendum allowing him to be president until 2034.

Still - it turns out the U.S. State Department has given millions of dollars to the country, including a recent grant of between $200,000 to $250,000 to teach Civil Society Organizations in Rwanda how to lobby their elected officials, or in more specific terms “To understand and engage in the government budget process.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called the grant a waste of taxpayer money.

“We’ve got a trillion dollar deficit this year. I just don’t think we have the moral high ground to tell the Rwandans how to budget or how to lobby or how to run their government,” he said.

Dr. Rudasingwa agreed and said it’s part of a long trend of rewarding bad behavior.

“The grant, beyond simply being a waste of taxpayer’s money it has also something that has enabled President Kagame to abuse human rights within the country,” he said.

The U.S. State Department declined a request to be interviewed on camera but issued this statement:

"The Department of State’s outreach and programs in support of fiscal transparency are crucial to strengthening good governance in Rwanda and around the world. Fiscal transparency is a critical element of effective public financial management, helps in building market confidence, and underpins economic sustainability. It fosters greater government accountability by providing a window into government budgets for citizens, helping citizens to hold their leadership accountable and facilitating better-informed public debate. Our annual fiscal transparency reviews provide opportunities for dialogue with governments on the importance of fiscal transparency.

The program referenced is part of the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund (FTIF) intended to provide assistance to improve fiscal transparency to countries identified in the 2017 Fiscal Transparency Report. The FTIF was created in FY 2012 to support government and civil society organization efforts to enhance budget transparency, advance best practices in public financial management, and improve the transparency of natural resource management."

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