By Duncan Miriri
Rwanda has accused Western governments of using aid to treat African states like children, after three countries cut cash to Kigali because of its policy in Congo. The three countries include the United States which has blocked $200,000 in military aid to the central African nation; the Netherlands which has suspended five million Euros of aid; and Britain which announced announced this week it was delaying £16m ($25m) in budget support due to Rwanda this month while it considered whether aid conditions had been met.
The actiuon by Western donors came after a United Nations interim report said Rwanda was backing rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report, hotly contested by Rwanda, said the country was supporting armed groups in neighbouring eastern Congo, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu province in fighting that has displaced over 260,000 people since April. “This child-to-parent relationship has to end … there has to be a minimum respect,” Louise Mushikiwabo, the country’s Foreign Minister said in an address to a Kenyan business club called Mindspeak. “As long as countries wave chequebooks over our heads, we can never be equal.”
She added that Africans had to work hard to develop their economies in order to stop relying on western donors. Rwanda, which has been striving to rebuild its economy after more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide, relies on donors to fund 50 per cent of its annual budget, Mushikiwabo said. Its ties with its much larger neighbour Congo have been thawing since 2009, following years of conflict in which Rwandan troops crossed the border in pursuit of remnants of the Hutu militias that carried out the genocide.
Mushikiwabo said it was too early to tell what kind of damage the withholding of aid would do to the government’s economic development push. “We have been in much worse situations than dollars being withheld from us,” she said. The foreign minister accused the international community of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern Congo. “Do not draw Rwanda into this mess. It is not our business,” she said.
The U.N. report said Kigali had supplied ammunition and communication equipment to the rebels, some of whom are Congolese of Rwandan descent. Rwanda denies the accusations. Mushikiwabo said the type of ammunition alluded to in the report no longer existed in Rwanda, under regional small arms-reduction programmes. She said the radio communications gear cited by the report, were also not being used by modern armies like Rwanda, proving they could not have supplied it to the Congolese rebels.
Details of a neutral force to eliminate armed groups from eastern Congo, agreed on by the regional group of Great Lakes states that includes Rwanda and Congo, would be discussed by a meeting of the organisation’s ministers of defence and security chiefs in Khartoum over the next three days, Mushikiwabo said.
Duncan Miriri writes for Reuters