Rwanda and Foreign Aid

Aid to Rwanda is inextricably intertwined with geopolitics and Rwanda’s bleak history.  In July of 1994, the Rwandan genocide and the nation’s civil war ended with a military victory for the Rwandan Patriotic Front(RPF).  Before the civil war, France was indisputably the largest donor to the Hutu dominated Rwandan government, contributing $160 million dollars in development aid during the Habyarimana regime; furthermore they offered significant military support to FAR.  This aid was intended in part to safeguard France’s influence in Rwanda, and hedge against perceived ‘anglophone’ incursion into Rwanda. Consequently,  France has been criticized for playing a role in the Rwandan genocide, and has not been able to regain its prior influence in the new regime.

Since the RPF has come to power,  the United States has become the largest donor to Rwanda, which is reflective of the importance of United States – Rwandan bilateral relations. In 2014,  Rwanda received 177 million dollars in foreign aid, of which 126 million came from USAID.  For perspective, Rwanda’s GNI in 2014 was 7.9 billion. This significant Aid has come to symbolize the strong relationship between American and Rwandan leadership, particularly of that between Bill Clinton and Kagame, the former referring to the latter as one of Africa’s ‘new leaders.’


Aid is compromised by Rwanda’s role in committing atrocities in the Eastern DRC. Most recently, in 2012, the United States government suspended military aid to Rwanda, amid speculation that the regime was supporting the M23 rebellion which had overrun much of Kivus including the major city of Goma.




Schraeder, P.J. (2000). Cold War to Cold Peace: Explaining U.S.-French Competition in Francophone Africa. Political Science Quarterly. 115 (3), 395-419.

Melvern, L (2000). A people betrayed: the role of the West in Rwanda’s genocide. London: Zed Books. 24-115.

Kevin Sack and Sheri Fick, ‘Rwanda Aid Shows Reach and Limits of Clinton Foundation,’ New York Times, October 18, 2015.

Reuters, U.S cutting Military Aid to Rwanda, July 2012.

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