Rwanda is coming under increasing pressure to halt its alleged support for the rebellion in eastern DR Congo, with Germany becoming the latest donor to suspend planned aid.
Germany’s development ministry said on Saturday it suspended $26m in contributions to Rwanda’s budget planned from this year through 2015. Britain and the Netherlands already have suspended support and the US cut planned military aid of $200,000.
A report by UN experts last month accused Rwanda of helping create, arm and support the M23 rebel movement in violation of UN sanctions. Rwanda denies the charges.
Dirk Niebel, the German development minister, said he expects “unreserved co-operation” by Rwanda with the UN experts. “The accusations must be cleared up completely, and it must be clear that Rwanda does not support any illegal militias in eastern Congo,” he said in a statement.
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, expressed regret on Friday at the “hasty decisions based on flimsy evidence”.
The Netherlands said it was suspending $6.1m promised to improve Rwanda’s judicial sector while Britain, Rwanda’s biggest donor, said it was delaying a budget support payment scheduled this month.
London’s Financial Times newspaper quoted a Swedish aid official on Thursday saying Scandinavian countries on the board of the African Development Bank also forced the delay of a decision on the disbursal of $38.9m in budget aid to Rwanda from last week until September.
Damning UN report
The pressure comes as a group of UN experts who made the allegations in a damning report was visiting Rwanda. Their report published last month accused Rwanda of helping create, arm and support the M23 rebel movement.
The uprising has brought the worst violence in years to eastern DR Congo. It has forced more than 260,000 people from their homes in the past three months and it is draining the resources of an already overstretched UN peacekeeping mission in the country.
Mushikiwabo maintained Rwanda’s vigorous denial of the charges despite overwhelming evidence, including from surrendered rebels who told UN officials that they were Rwandans who had been recruited and trained in Rwanda. The UN report also said some Rwandan soldiers were fighting alongside the rebels against Congo’s army.
Mushikiwabo said in a statement that she had just “comprehensively rebutted” all the allegations to the visiting UN experts.
“We have just concluded discussions with the [UN] Group of Experts and comprehensively rebutted every one of the allegations with conclusive documentary evidence,” she said.
While the amounts of the suspended aid are relatively small, the actions are considered a major rebuke of Rwanda, a darling of Western donors dependent on aid for nearly half its budget.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has avoided sanctions despite numerous past transgressions of standards supposedly required in exchange for Western aid. His government has consistently suppressed all opposition at home.
It denies charges that it sends hit squads to assassinate opponents abroad, though Britain’s Scotland Yard has warned several Rwandans living in exile there that Rwanda’s government has been plotting to kill them.
Western donors demanded no sanctions after the publication last year of a long-delayed UN report accusing Kagame’s army of a possible genocide of Congolese and Rwandan Hutu people after they invaded Congo in 1994.
Some of the West’s lenience toward Kagame is motivated by guilt over their failure to halt the 1994 genocide of about 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which was ended by Kagame’s rebel movement.
Western nations also are reluctant to cut aid because Rwanda has proved a stellar example of how well-managed aid can improve people’s lives.
British aid to Rwanda, set at $125.5m this year, is considered to have played a major role in helping the one million Rwandan who have climbed out of poverty in the past five years – the fastest ever rate of poverty reduction ever achieved in Africa.