The United States would consider resuming military aid to Rwanda if it found Rwandan support for Congo’s M23 rebel group had ended, a senior US official has said.
On October 3, Washington said it would block US military aid to Rwanda because of its “support for the M23, a rebel group which continues to actively recruit and abduct children” and which has posed a threat to the stability of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the rebels.
If it turns out that Rwanda is no longer involved in such activities, if it turns out that their role here has been a positive one... then we would certainly review whether it's appropriate to continue these sanctions.
M23 is a Tutsi-dominated rebellion of former Congolese soldiers that began taking parts of eastern Congo last year, accusing the government of failing to honor a 2009 peace deal.
The group on Tuesday called an end to its 20-month revolt after the army captured its last hilltop strongholds, raising hopes for peace in a region where millions have died in nearly two decades of violence.
Under US sanctions, Rwanda does not get US International Military Education and Training funds, which help train foreign militaries, or US Foreign Military Financing, which funds the sale of US military equipment and services.
Russ Feingold, US special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa, told reporters that the United States would conduct an investigation and could lift the sanctions if it found that any Rwandan support for M23’s use of child soldiers had ceased.
“If it turns out that Rwanda is no longer involved in such activities, if it turns out that their role here has been a positive one – and there is much that they have done during this (peace) process to be positive … then we would certainly review whether it’s appropriate to continue these sanctions,” Feingold said.
“They are based specifically on certain actions that we believe occurred and if those actions cease, there would certainly be a serious review of whether it is appropriate to continue it (the sanctions).”
Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as foreign-backed insurgents have waged a series of rebellions, often for control of eastern Congo’s rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin.
The M23 is just the latest manifestation of simmering anger toward Kinshasa among ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo. The real test will be whether government and rebels can reach a lasting political deal.