Rwanda’s foreign minister accused Western governments on Saturday of using aid to treat African states like children, after four countries cut or delayed aid to Kigali because of its policy in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo).
The US last weekend cut military aid for this year while the Netherlands, Germany and Britain followed suit as donors reacted to a UN report that accuses Rwanda of backing rebels in the DR Congo.
The report, contested by Rwanda, said the country was supporting armed groups in eastern DR Congo, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu Province in fighting that has displaced more than 270,000 people since April.
“This child-to-parent relationship has to end ... there has to be a minimum respect,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in an address to the Kenyan business club Mindspeak.
“As long as countries wave checkbooks over our heads, we can never be equal,” she said.
She added that Africans had to work hard to develop their economies in order to stop relying on Western donors.
Rwanda, which has been working to rebuild its economy after more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a 1994 genocide, relies on donors to fund 50 percent of its annual budget, Mushikiwabo said.
Its ties with its much larger neighbor DR Congo had 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.
German Development Minister Dirk Niebel said in a statement that his ministry had warned Rwanda four weeks ago it would suspend aid payments because of indications of support for rebels.
“Rwanda did not use this time to rebut these serious allegations ... suspending budget aid is a clear sign to the Rwandan government,” Niebel said.
A reporter said on Saturday that heavily armed rebel forces had moved to Kibumba, about 30km from the North Kivu capital of Goma, while drunk government forces had withdrawn their forces further south towards the city.
Yamina Benguigui, France’s minister for relations with French-speaking countries who is in DR Congo, said Paris had requested a UN Security Council meeting for today to discuss the crisis.
“A declaration will be negotiated clearly condemning M23 and its support,” she said.
Mushikiwabo accused the international community of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern DR Congo.
“Do not draw Rwanda into this mess. It is not our business,” she said.