The US and the UK have a responsibility to demand answers and clarify what is happening in the Congo, instead of burying their heads in the sand.
The Rwandan government has breached international sanctions by supplying soldiers, weapons and ammunition to rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a UN report.
The press in the UK and the US have been relatively quiet on the issue, which is alarming considering those two nations are Rwanda’s biggest donors. This year alone, the UK has committed £75m of taxpayers’ money to the African State.
Baroness Kinnock wrote in the Guardian on Friday:
“The UN details how the March 23 (M23) revolt enjoys direct support from senior levels of Rwanda’s government, including the defence minister, General James Kabarebe.
“Findings like these should create political shockwaves across Rwanda’s donor community. The UK and US in particular, as the country’s two largest single donors, have a key role to play.
“Donor funds constitute 26% of Rwanda’s 2012-15 budget and donors should be using the influence this kind of support affords to ensure Rwanda immediately stops supporting the M23.
“Instead, the donor community has been largely silent since the report came out. Rather than condemning Rwanda, the US government’s first reaction was to attempt to block the report’s publication, although it later issued a statement of deep concern.
“The UK, which this year alone has committed £75m of taxpayers’ money to Rwanda, has shied away from public comment and expects us instead to be reassured by personal expressions of “concern” made by the international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, to Rwanda’s foreign minister.”
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported progress over the weekend:
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said both sides had agreed “in principle” to accept the force. He was speaking after his first face-to-face meeting with President Joseph Kabila of Congo since a United Nations report in June accused Rwanda of supporting Congolese rebels who make up the so-called the March 23 Movement, or M23.
Mr Kagame, who rejects accusations by United Nations experts and Congo’s government that he supported mutinous Congolese troops, said details of the force – including size and mandate, which countries would supply troops and deployment details – had yet to be worked out.
In an interview with the BBC, however, President Kagame denied any involvement with rebel forces:
“We are not connected at all with the cause of the uprising of M23. We are not supporting them. We do not intend to because we don’t know what they are about or what they want.”
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Rwanda and Congo have had a rocky history, dating back to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, but recent clashes have shattered two years of relative peace.
The BBC explains:
After Rwanda’s genocidal Hutu regime was overthrown, more than two million Hutus are thought to have fled into DR Congo fearing reprisals against them by the new, Tutsi-dominated government.
Among them were many of the militiamen responsible for the genocide. They quickly allied themselves with Mobutu’s government and began to attack DR Congo’s sizeable population of ethnic Tutsis, who had lived in the country for generations.
Rwanda’s Tutsi government started to back rival militias, fighting both the Hutu militias and Congolese government troops.
A long war between the two states ensued, resulting in the death of five million people, mostly from starvation or disease in the aftermath of the war. Most of the Congo has recovered from the war that ended in 2003, but the East is still suffering from resulting unrest.
The DRC rebels are being led by Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda who is wanted by the international court for war crime charges. The M23 movement is ironically named after the date a peace deal was signed by the DRC government and Tutsi rebels in 2009.
As big donors to Rwanda, the US and the UK have a responsibility to demand answers and clarify what is happening in the Congo, instead of burying their heads in the sand.