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Trump set to meet with Rwandan President in Davos

President Donald Trump is poised to meet...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 10:12 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 10:12 AM

President Donald Trump is poised to meet with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on Friday, an important meeting in a series of high-profile, one-on-ones with world leaders at the World Economic Forum following controversial comments by the US President.

The two leaders will "reaffirm the US-Africa relationship and discuss shared priorities, including trade and security," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing earlier this week.

Earlier this month, Trump came under fire for reportedly disparaging African nations

The comments set off a wave of diplomatic uproar

Earlier this month, Trump came under fire for remarks reportedly describing African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries" during a discussion with senators on immigration in the Oval Office. Trump has denied making the comments.

The comments set off a wave of diplomatic uproar from foreign leaders and their citizens, with Rwanda's foreign ministry describing them as "demeaning and unnecessary." South Africa, Haiti, Senegal, Ghana and several others summoned top US diplomats in their nations over the remarks.

Kagame is the incoming chairman of the African Union, an organization comprised of the leaders of the continent's 55 member states.

Kagame, who has served as Rwanda's president since 2000, is a strongman leader known for his discrediting and targeting of journalists and other political opponents.

Kagame is credited by supporters with modernizing a nation once at war with itself and helping it develop a flourishing economy. But allegations of repression, violence and politically motivated murder have created a climate of fear in the country, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch highlighted restrictions on freedom of speech and said the Rwandan government had limited the ability of opposition parties and civil society groups to operate freely in the run-up to his 2017 re-election, his third term in office.

Pro-government views dominate the country's media, and journalists who question the official narrative are harassed or detained, it added.

In September, Diane Rwigara, a leading critic of Kagame, was arrested on charges of tax evasion and forgery.

Rwanda natives are currently eligible to apply for the 2019 diversity visa, according to the State Department.

US aid to Rwanda

The US gave $268 million in aid to Rwanda in 2016, the most recent completed year of overall aid data.

Of that, $56 million largely went to HIV and AIDS efforts, with $41 million for emergency response, $38 million for conflict, peace, and security, and $34 million for basic education, and $23 million for basic health. Other aid areas include maternal and child health, agriculture, operating expenses, water supply and sanitation, and general health.

Most of the funding, $138 million, was implemented through USAID, with $69 million from the State Department, $50 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, $3.3 million from Department of Defense, $2.7 million from the Peace Corps, and $2 million from the Department. of Agriculture, among others.

Aid data from last year is partially reported, but so far is $110 million. No breakdown is currently available, and that number is expected to rise.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that "more than 3.4 million Rwandans refugees have been assisted to return home since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi."

In 2013, the UNHCR announced that Rwandans' status as refugees would end because the reasons that led people to flee the country no longer exist -- the initial deadline was June 30, 2013, but it has been extended several times, most recently to December 31, 2017.

And the US currently provides financial support for refugees who flee to Rwanda; in June of 2016, the US had provided about $24 million to refugee assistance programs so far that year.

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