Rwanda have hit back after criticism of their sponsorship deal with Arsenal.
Arsenal struck a sleeve sponsorship deal worth a reported £30m over three years with ‘Visit Rwanda’ prompting outcry from some parts of the media, including the hysterical Daily Mail, while some Dutch MPs have demanded clarification regarding the deal.
The deal, which has generated far more moral outrage than any deals signed with regimes from the Middle East, but which are no less troublesome, is Arsenal’s first sleeve sponsorship and has raised a number of questions.
According to Dutch media outlet, NOS, “Government parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie in the Lower House want clarification from Minister Kaag about the sponsorship contract of Rwanda with the English football club Arsenal.”
In the UK, the DFID was forced to issue a statement declaring that no UK foreign aid has been used to pay for the deal.
“Today’s Mail on Sunday and MailOnline have both implied that UK aid to Rwanda is being used to fund a £30 million sponsorship deal with Arsenal FC. This is misleading,” the department wrote.
A spokesperson then added, “DFID does not give any money to Visit Rwanda or the Rwanda Development Board.
“All UK aid to Rwanda is earmarked for specific programmes only, such as education and agriculture, and we track results to ensure value for money for UK taxpayers. We are helping Rwanda to stand on its own two feet, building education systems that they invest in themselves, and supporting increased trade and investment to grow the economy.”
But Rwanda has hit back at the accusations.
“Anyone who criticises our deal with Arsenal on account of Rwanda being poor or an aid recipient, either wishes for Rwanda to be perpetually so, or doesn’t understand that in any business, marketing costs are a key component of a company’s expenditures,” Ms Clare Akamanzi, the RDB chief executive said.
“The Rwanda Development Board generates revenues from sale of tourism products, from which it uses a portion to market its products for further growth. The Arsenal deal falls within this arrangement, just like our tourism exhibitions, sales consultancies,” she added.
“Our national goal is to double tourism revenues to $800m by 2024, from $404 million currently. This won’t happen by sitting and waiting, but by being proactive, and marketing Rwanda as a tourist destination in innovative ways. Now – Relax and let the world Visit Rwanda.”
Rwanda has come underfire from the international community for its clampdown on political opponents of the country’s president, self-confessed Arsenal fan Paul Kagame.
In addition, there have been reports of enforced disappearances, crackdowns on association and assembly, multiple crimes under international law, and the jailing of journalists, amongst other things.
“Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said in 2017.
“Killings and disappearances in 2017 need to be placed in the context of many years of similar violence for which no one has yet been held to account. In this chilling atmosphere, it is unsurprising that would-be government critics practice self-censorship and that political debate is limited in advance of the elections.”