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US to cut military aid to Rwanda over support of Congo rebels

The US has said it will cut military aid to Rwanda because of evidence that Kigali was supporting rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda M23 rebels Enlarge
M23 rebels sit at the back of a pick-up truck captured a week before and formerly used by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as they carry supplies through Bunagana, on July 15, 2012. (MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images)

The US has said it will cut military aid to Rwanda because of evidence that Kigali was supporting rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Guardian called the decision "a significant step by one of Rwanda's staunchest allies," with Washington standing by Kigali despite the tiny nation’s long history of involvement in wars in vast neighboring Congo.

In response, Rwanda said that next week it would debunk “line by line” a UN experts’ report, which said Kigali was backing eastern Congolese rebels, including the M23 group that has seized parts of eastern North Kivu province.

Over 260,000 people have been displaced by clashes in the region since April.

Agence France-Presse cited US State Department spokeswoman Darby Holladay as saying Washington "has decided it can no longer provide foreign military financing appropriated in the current fiscal year to Rwanda."

"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 said in a statement emailed to AFP. 

Reuters quoted Hilary Fuller Renner, a US state department official, as saying: "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."

Ms Renner said the US would still help Rwanda support peacekeeping missions, including in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Rwanda sent its army into Congo, then Zaire, in the mid 1990s to hunt down Hutu rebels who fled there after the 1994 genocide.

In the decade of conflict that followed, Rwandan forces helped Congolese rebels topple the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

The M23 — Tutsi ex-rebels from the Rwanda-backed National Congress for the Defense of the People — were integrated into the regular Congo army in 2009 as part of a peace deal but they staged a mutiny in April, demanding equivalent pay to regular soldiers, among other claims. 

Kigali, meantime, said that Washington’s was based on incorrect information.

"While we respect the rights of any development partner, at the same time we must make clear to our friends in Washington and elsewhere that this decision is based on bad information, and is wrong on the facts," Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo reportedly said.

"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."

And Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan foreign minister, told Reuters: "Rwanda is [meeting] with the [UN's group of experts] next week to go through each allegation in the interim report and debunk them line by line.

"We will present this to partners, including [the] US, while focusing on joint verification process [with Congo] and new border patrol plan."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120722/rwanda-us-military-kigali-congo-rebels-m23-hutu-tutsi-africa