The Independent (Kampala)

18 December 2012

Rwanda: U.S. Rejects Further Sanctions

The U.S. has rejected as "unnecessary" calls to cut aid further, appoint a special envoy, and place a sanctions regime against Rwanda, according to an Inter Press Service report.

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, on Tuesday December 11 told a subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives that further punitive actions, including squeezing aid to Rwanda, were unnecessary, noting that the U.S. government has no proof that any aid given to Rwanda has been "misused or rechanneled into the conflict in DRC".

Over the past fiscal year, the United States has given some 195 million dollars in development assistance to Rwanda, primarily for use in health and agriculture programmes.

Washington, however, earlier this year suspended around US$200,000 in military aid to the Rwandan military.

Johnnie Carson appeared before the subcommittee amidst accusations that the U.S. administration's response to the continued crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was inadequate.

Since April, violence has spiked in the eastern part of the DRC, perpetrated in part by an armed group known as the M23 - a group that three U.N. reports this year have found to be receiving support from the Rwandan government, a key U.S. ally. Rwanda has rejected the accusations.

Johnnie Carson said the U.S. has repeatedly pressed Rwanda to halt and prevent any and all forms of support to Congolese armed groups. Some Western countries, including the U.K., E.U. and several Scandinavian countries want to impose sanctions on Rwanda.

Earlier, according to a New York Times story, Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State reportedly defended Rwanda in a meeting with the French.

At the meeting with the British and French two months ago, according to an unnamed diplomat familiar with the meeting, Ambassador Rice objected strongly to a call by the French envoy, Gerard Araud, for explicitly "naming and shaming" Kagame and the Rwandan government for its support of M23, and to his proposal to consider sanctions to pressure Rwanda to abandon the rebel group.

"Listen Gerard," she said, according to the diplomat quoted by The New York times. "This is the DRC. If it weren't the M23 doing this, it would be some other group."

Ambassador Rice is known to be an admirer of President Kagame's government from the days when she worked at Intellibridge, a strategic analysis firm in Washington that worked closely with Rwanda.

Her spokesperson, Payton Knopf, howeve said her brief consultancy at Intellibridge would have no impact on her work at the United Nations.

"She implements the agreed policy of the United States at the U.N," Knopf said.

Over the past eight months, the renewed conflict in Eastern DRC has displaced some 2.4 million people, culminating in the recent fall of Goma, the largest city in the eastern part of the country, to the rebels.

The IPs r eport said although the M23 leadership has now pulled out of Goma and entered into difficult peace talks, many analysts worry over the fact that these are being sponsored by Uganda, thought to be hardly a neutral player, and the lack of Rwanda's representation in the negotiations.

Aaron Hall, a policy analyst with the Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide watchdog, reportedly told IPS that the current peace talks between the M23 and the Congolese government only constitute a "band-aid solution".

"First off, it's being chaired by Uganda, which has been implicated for supporting the M23. Second, the talks are only being held between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels, when clearly other groups have stated that they understand the involvement of Rwanda, which is not at the table," Hall reportedly said.

Hall appeared to back a position proposed by several Rwandan politicians and diplomats that involves addressing the "long-term, systemic issues" of the crisis in DRC.

According to IPS, Hall said this would include tackling not only Rwandan and Ugandan policies and actions, but also the inability of the Congolese government to create viable judicial and political institutions in the east.

"But the leaders currently appear interested only in the cosmetic issues," Hall said. "What we need is a commitment from the international community to create a comprehensive framework to move towards the resolution of underlying issues that bubble up every few years but never actually get resolved."

In a recent speech to parliament in Kigali, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, denounced the western world's use of aid as a means of coercion against Rwanda for allegedly supporting M23.

"There is no country in this world that receives aid and accounts for it better than Rwanda. There is none. So, I am not sure if these people who give us aid want us to develop," Kagame said, "They give us aid and expect us to remain beggars. They give you aid so that you forever glorify them and depend on them. They keep using it as a tool of control and management."

Kagame added: "You follow what goes on in the Congo. One part, actually the main part, where crimes are committed in broad daylight, that's none of their business. It's okay because people who are being killed, who are being raped, maybe deserve it. And then they turn to the other part and say everything wrong that has happened in the Congo now has to have people who should be responsible - the so-called M23. People who are raped and killed in Kinshasa, M23 is blamed and Rwanda must condemn it. People killed in Kindu, in Uvira, wherever, M23 is responsible and Rwanda must condemn it. People who raped young girls who are in those refugee camps, it's M23. Even now in the territory that is occupied by representatives of that international community (the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO)."

Finally, Kagame said, "They say: 'Freeze, freeze aid to Rwanda, suspend...' What is the connection?"

He appealed to Rwandans to fight for Rwandans so as to have what they deserve and that is no less than dignity. "Agaciro - the dignity that we have," he said.

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