Fast decision was desk clearing says Minister

Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell yesterday denied he acted as a “rogue minister” when he controversially approved £16m in aid for Rwanda on his last day in the job.

The support raised eyebrows because it came after an interim report to the United Nations alleged involvement by the African country’s government in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, apparently funding rebels accused of atrocities.

Mr Mitchell told a parliamentary committee that he had kept 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office “in the loop” about the aid, and said it was a collective Government decision – and not one made by him alone .

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The former Minister, who resigned as Chief Whip last month after admitting swearing at police, also denied that the UK had “gone out on a limb” in continuing to support President Paul Kagame when other donors were suspending or delaying aid payments in response to allegations linking him to the militia.

Mr Mitchell revealed that, highly unusually, he learnt a week before the September Cabinet reshuffle that David Cameron planned to make him Chief Whip. As a result, he said he tried to finalise outstanding decisions in order to leave a clear desk. The £16m amounted to half the UK’s annual budget support for Mr Kagame’s administration. It had already been delayed from July because of concerns over the situation in the DRC, said Mr Mitchell.

As the Kigali government had failed to observe fully Mr Cameron’s conditions, it was decided to channel half the money directly to education and agriculture projects there rather than direct it to the Rwandan government.

New International Development Secretary Justine Greening will decide whether to approve the remaining £21m aid, due in December, after the experts’ final report reaches the UN this month.