NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – International pressure is mounting on Rwanda as France is the latest party to openly accuse the country of supporting armed rebels in neighboring eastern Congo – with the potential repercussions for foreign aid Kigali has long grappled with. Have enjoyed
For months, renewed attacks by M23 rebels have angered Congo’s government and fueled talk of war in eastern Congo, a volatile region rich in minerals vital to much of the world’s technology. Earlier this year a report by UN experts said they had “concrete evidence” that Rwanda’s armed forces were supporting the rebels, and that the United States had openly urged Rwanda to stop it. Where is it?
Now France has joined in the criticism of Rwanda. On Tuesday, its foreign ministry condemned “Rwanda’s support for M23” in a statement, and its junior minister in charge of development during a visit to Congo warned that M23 should “stop fighting” and withdraw. The junior minister, Chrisoula Zacharopoulou, is in charge of implementing aid policies, including Rwanda.
Rwanda’s government has not publicly responded to France’s comments, which could overshadow recent efforts by the countries to improve ties. A government spokesman told The Associated Press on Wednesday it was too early to comment.
On the sidelines of a US-Africa summit last week, longtime President Paul Kagame denied that Rwanda caused trouble in eastern Congo, calling it the “Congo problem”.
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But concerns are growing that international partners could backtrack on their warnings with aid cuts to Rwanda, which has long benefited from outside support in health, defense and other sectors. Belgium, a former colonizer of Rwanda, also asked the country to stop supporting the M23 rebels earlier this month.
The public pressure on Rwanda for its alleged support of M23 is noteworthy. Human rights watchdogs and others have long accused Rwanda of using the international community’s guilt over a delay in responding to the country’s horrific 1994 genocide, in order to deflect criticism of its actions, including from opposition at home and abroad. can be reduced.
The genocide killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu who tried to protect them, and it remains an intensely sensitive subject. Rwanda’s president and his government have expressed concern in recent weeks for the ethnic Tutsi in eastern Congo who are affected by the current violence.
The M23 is largely composed of Congolese Tutsi. It has denied support for the Rwandan armed forces.
Rwanda, in turn, has accused the Congo of supporting another armed group, the FDLR, a Hutu group opposed to Tutsi influence in eastern Congo. Congo has denied this. Efforts at peace talks have made little headway as both sides accuse each other of breaking a fragile ceasefire agreed last month in Angola.
Relations between Rwanda and Congo have been poor for decades. Rwanda alleges that Congo had given refuge to the Hutus who committed the genocide. In the late 1990s, Rwanda twice sent its army into Congo, joining forces with Congolese rebel leader Laurent Kabila to depose the country’s longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Rwandan forces in Congo were widely accused of hunting and killing ethnic Hutu, even civilians.
An example of the significant aid Rwanda has received from partners is the 20 million Euros from the European Union, announced this month to support the deployment of its defense forces against extremists in northern Mozambique.
According to the latest UN figures in October, Rwanda is considered to have one of the strongest armies in Africa and is the third largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.
Associated Press writers Sylvie Corbett in Paris and Ignatius Sasuna in Kigali, Rwanda contributed.
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