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DRC Official Applauds US Aid Cut to Rwanda

M23 rebel fighters rest at their defense position in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in north Kivu province, near the border with Uganda, July 12, 2012.
An official of the Democratic Republic of Congo said he hopes the U.Ss decision to withhold $200,000 of military aid to Rwanda will help enhance efforts to restore peace to the Great Lakes region.

The United States cut its military aid to Rwanda saying it had evidence that Kigali was supporting Congolese rebel groups, including M23. The Rwandan government has repeatedly denied helping the rebels.

Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, told the French Press Agency (AFP) that “Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”

But, Congo’s information minister, Lambert Mende, said the U.S. decision to cut its aid to Kigali reinforces his government’s claim that Rwanda has been supporting Congolese rebel groups.

“We think that this is a very positive signal to have Rwanda cooperate with the pacification of this region that has suffered a lot. It is a good move because it is a matter of life of death for millions of Congolese, who have suffered a lot during the last 20 years,” he said.

Although the U.S. action cuts off aid allotted to a Rwandan military academy, U.S. spokesman Darby Holladay reportedly said Washington will continue to provide assistance to Rwanda to enhance its capacity to support peacekeeping missions.

Mende said, even though the DRC has problems with some criminal elements, it does not want to see a cut-off of aid to Rwanda.

“For us, the problem is not to make Rwanda disappear. It’s a neighboring country; they are brothers and sisters. Though we are having some criminal networks there, we have to live together. So, what we need is such [a] signal that a country like the United States sends such a message to tell Rwanda to be cautious with the security on the Congo and Rwanda border,” Mende said.

The Rwandan government has repeatedly denied helping Congolese rebel groups. Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told the French press agency (AFP) that “Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Mende said Rwandan meddling in DRC is a known fact.

“I think that we are not the only one to have given such information. This information has been confirmed by many other sources, and now I think that the government of the United States is confirming this information,” he said.

Washington's withholding of military aid comes a week after the presidents of Rwanda and the DRC agreed to the deployment of an international force to fight the rebellion in eastern Congo and to patrol their border.

Mende said it is time for Rwanda to move beyond denial to neutralizing the M23 rebels.

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“We think that we [are] in a state of implementing what we have convened with Rwanda and nine other countries of the region in Addis Ababa,” he said.

He said the DRC government has already written to the UN Security Council and the African Union to expedite the implementation of the task force as soon as possible.

“We have even proposed that the mandate of MONUSCO [the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC] be transformed so as to give MONUSCO a way of being that force. But, we have to wait for feedback from New York and from Addis Ababa,” Mende said.

Mende described the M23 rebellion as an aggression from abroad and that the Kinshasa government is not ready to negotiate with people he accused of trying to import ethnic war into the DRC.

“We have chased them from our army; we have launched even warrants of arrest against them, but they are not part of the problem and they are not going to be part of the solution,” he said.

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