Mitchell comes blinking into the daylight for Rwanda interrogation

By Ian Dunt

Andrew Mitchell underwent his first public appearance since he resigned as chief whip today, when he appeared before MPs to explain his decision to reverse an aid cut to Rwanda.

Mitchell eventually resigned after calling a policeman a "f***ing pleb" last month, but his appearance in front of the international development committee concerned a second controversy over his support for Rwanda.

The former international development reversed the cut to Rwanda on his last week in the job, despite allegations over its human rights record and involvement in a civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"It might make us feel better to remove budget support but it would not help the people and it would have the effect of damaging the relationship," Mitchell said.

"The British government decided – not some rogue minister – what was the right response."

Mitchell, who is accused of making the decision due to his close personal friendship with Rwandan leader Paul Kagame, appeared slightly angry and irritable during the session. He repeatedly leaned forward in his seat and jabbed his finger as he responded to questions from MPs.

Mitchell refused to answer whether he believed the Rwandan government had supported M23 rebels in the Congo.

He insisted he was right to bring back the budgetary support, despite not knowing the conclusions of the Group of Experts, who are investigating the claims for the international community.

Asked why he made the decision just before leaving his job as international development secretary, Mitchell replied: "I knew for over a week I would be moving on to become government chief whip so I thought all decisions which needed to be made I should make in an orderly way that week.

"But this decision was due to be made that week anyway. For us to have made it later would have been a breach of the budget principles with Rwanda anyway."

As well as the Congo allegations, Rwanda is accused by human rights groups of holding suspects without charge and torturing them.

The Metropolitan police recently had to warn Rwandan exiles in London of plans to assassinate them by the Rwandan government.