The New Times (Kigali)

23 July 2012

Rwanda: U.S. Aid Cut 'Based On Misinformation'

Photo: Rwanda Govt
Rwandan military.

Following the decision by the United States to cut military aid to Rwanda on grounds that the latter allegedly supports rebel mutinies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, has said the donor is free to dispense or withhold support, but that the premise is ill-informed.

The U.S. government, Saturday, said it has cut this year's planned military assistance to Rwanda amid concerns that the government in Kigali is supporting rebel movements in neighbouring Congo.

The aid cut by the US is equivalent to US$200,000 which was part of initially pledged military aid for a training academy. The State Department said they would relocate the amount to another country.

"While we respect the rights of any development partner, at the same time we must make it clear to our friends in Washington and elsewhere that this decision is based on bad information, and is wrong on the facts. As we have made clear from the outset, Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in the eastern DRC," Mushikiwabo said.

A report by a Group of UN Experts say there is evidence Rwanda is backing the M23 mutineers but Kigali has refuted the allegations.

Minister Mushikiwabo, who also doubles as the government spokesperson, pointed out that Rwandan officials are meeting with the UN Group of Experts in Kigali next week to discuss the Group's interim findings on the current eastern DRC conflict as outlined in a recent report to the UN Security Council.

Rwanda has previously stated that a "media frenzy" had forced the UN's decision to publish the report - without allowing Kigali an opportunity to respond systematically to the allegations, which implicate Rwanda's senior defence and military officers.

"We will go through each allegation contained in the interim report (Of the UN Group of Experts) and debunk them line by line. We will present our rebuttal to our development partners, including the United States, said Mushikiwabo.

"In the meantime, we will focus on the Joint Verification Mechanism with the DRC and will work with regional partners to implement a new border patrol initiative. Peace in the eastern DRC is the outcome desired by all parties, none more so than Rwanda," she added.

In blocking their aid to Rwanda, the U.S. State Department cited evidence of Rwandan support for the rebels.

"The United States government is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23," said Hilary Fuller Renner, a State Department spokeswoman, in a statement.

"We will not obligate $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Military Financing funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers. These funds will be reallocated for programming in another country," she said.

She, however, added that the United States would continue to help Rwanda support peacekeeping missions. Rwanda has a major peacekeeping presence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Washington's move comes a week after President Paul Kagame and his Congolese Counterpart, Joseph Kabila met on the sidelines of the 19th African Union Summit and agreed in principle to back a neutral international armed force to combat Congo's newest rebellion and other fighters like the FDLR terrorising civilians in the DRC, and the African Union said it could help by sending soldiers. Details, however, have remained sketchy.

Congo already has the world's largest peacekeeping force of nearly 20,000 U.N. soldiers and police that cost nearly $1.5 billion in 2011 - the heavily equipped and financed force has been accused of failing to execute its mandate.

Congolese troops have tried for years, with little success, to subdue rebel groups in the volatile eastern provinces.

The east DRC's conflict is a hangover from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda that claimed over a million lives. Most of those who participated in the Genocide escaped into Congo and still fight there todate.

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