WASHINGTON — The United States announced Sunday it will suspend military aid to Rwanda on allegations that the southern African nation is backing the rebellion in the neighboring DR Congo.
"In light of information that Rwanda is supporting armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Department of State has decided it can no longer provide Foreign Military Financing (FMF) appropriated in the current fiscal year to Rwanda," said State Department spokeswoman Darby Holladay.
Although the $200,000 originally allotted to a Rwandan military academy "will be reallocated for programming in another country," the United States "will continue to provide assistance to Rwanda to enhance its capacity to support peacekeeping missions," Holladay said in a statement.
The US government "is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23," Holladay added.
The M23 are Tutsi ex-rebels from the Rwanda-backed National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).
They were integrated into the regular Congolese army in 2009 as part of a peace deal that followed their failed 2008 offensive on the Congo's eastern city of Goma.
But the ex-rebels mutinied in April, demanding better pay and the full implementation of the March 23, 2009 peace deal for which they are named, and have been engaged in running battles with the Congolese army in the eastern Nord Kivu region.
Kinshasa accuses Kigali of sponsoring the rebellion -- a complaint supported by a UN panel, which said in June that Rwanda was supplying the rebels.
Rwanda has repeatedly denied the accusations, and authorities in Kigali issued a response to Washington's decision to suspend military aid Sunday, saying it is based on "bad information."
"As we have made clear from the outset, Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo," Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told AFP.
Mushikiwabo said Rwandan officials will meet with the UN panel in Kigali later this week to discuss the group's findings on the conflict in eastern Congo.
"We will go through each allegation contained in the interim report and debunk them line by line. We will present our rebuttal to our development partners, including the United States," Mushikiwabo said.
"Peace in the eastern DRC is the outcome desired by all parties, none more so than Rwanda," she said of her country, where a historical ethnic divide resulted in the mass murder of some 800,000 people in 1994, according to UN estimates.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila have agreed to deploy a joint task force to neutralize the M23 rebels.
The UN Security Council has encouraged the nations to pursue their dialogue on the unrest, which resulted in the death of an Indian UN peacekeeper earlier this month.
Washington echoed the United Nation's call for diplomacy.
"Restraint, dialogue, and respect for each other's sovereignty offer the best opportunity for Rwanda and the DRC, with the support of their partners, to resume the difficult work of bringing peace and security to the broader region," Holladay wrote.
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