Cut

Rwanda says U.S. aid cut regrettable, denies rebel link

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 26, 2012 11:34 AM
Rwanda says U.S. aid cut regrettable, denies rebel link

By Jenny Clover

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda said on Wednesday it was "regrettable" the United States had decided to cut military aid because of reports the Kigali government supported rebels, and promised it would soon be exonerated.

Washington announced it was withdrawing $200,000 for a planned military academy in Rwanda on Saturday in response to a U.N. report that Kigali was backing insurgents in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The U.S. cut was seen as a significant shift in policy because Washington has stood by Rwanda in the past despite the tiny nation's long history of involvement in wars in its vast, unstable neighbor.

Rwanda has regularly denied having any link to eastern Congolese rebels, including the M23 group, whose fighting has forced 260,000 people to flee since April.

"It is regrettable that a decision like that would be made based on a report that is not even final, a report that is flawed," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters in an interview.

"It would have been better for the U.S. or any other of our partners to actually take a decision based on clear evidence, not on allegations," she said.

Asked if the military aid cut had damaged relations with the United States, Mushikiwabo said: "I don't think so."

Mushikiwabo also brushed aside a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper that a U.S. official had warned Rwanda's leaders they could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for arming groups responsible for atrocities in the Congo.

"Let's just take the wildest guess and say that the U.S. government actually does believe that (the leaders might be charged). They wouldn't announce it through a journalist. That's not how the U.S. government functions," she said.

"There is no truth to that. Not only is there no truth to that but it also shows how people are just going wild with this whole Congo thing."

UNEASY NEIGHBOURS

Rebel advances this month sent the Congolese government army fleeing in droves, displaced thousands of civilians and killed an Indian U.N. peacekeeper.

Congo accused the Rwandan army of equipping and supporting the M23 rebellion.

Mushikiwabo said Rwanda had no reason to support an uprising in a neighboring country.

Rwandan officials had met the authors of the U.N. report in Kigali to give their side of the story, she added. The report's final version is due to be released around November.

"We went through each one of them carefully, every single allegation, and gave our own rebuttal ... I think when the report becomes final in November it should be very clear that this interim report was just a compilation of allegations, a lot of fabrications," she said.

"What does a photo of a uniform prove? I can get a uniform sewn here in Kigali any time and put it in a report. So what I think is that this report is very superficially plausible but people really need to look at it."

The M23 rebellion takes its name from a 2009 peace accord the rebels say was violated by Kinshasa.

It has been swelled by hundreds of defectors from the Congolese army who walked into the bush in support of fugitive Congolese General Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Heavens)