The EU has frozen further budgetary support to Rwanda over allegations that the Central African state supports anti-government rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), the EU’s ambassador to the DR Congo said on Wednesday.
The EU is the latest Western partner to impose aid suspensions against Kigali over an independent UN report saying Rwanda was behind a six-month rebellion in the DR Congo’s eastern hills that has forced 470,000 people to flee their homes.
“It was agreed to freeze the program of budgetary assistance and to not agree to any supplementary budgetary credit for Rwanda without them giving signs of co-operating,” the EU’s ambassador in Kinshasa, Jean-Michel Dumond, told the UN-backed broadcaster Radio Okapi.
A spokesman for the EU in Brussels had said on Monday that existing projects would continue, but that a decision on additional budget support would be delayed until Rwanda’s role in the unrest is clarified.
Although the scale of cuts was not given, the EU’s Web site says that the EU agreed a six-year budget support deal with Kigali in 2009, worth up to 175 million euros (US$225 million).
Rwanda has repeatedly denied any involvement with the M23 rebel group in the DR Congo.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo responded to news of the cuts on the social networking site Twitter: “EU suspending ‘new aid’ to Rwanda is either old news or designed to mislead. No such decision has been taken,” she wrote.
Last month, Rwandan President Paul Kagame hit out at donors who cut aid and launched a so-called “dignity fund” to help wean the country off its dependence on outside help.
Kagame and DR Congo President Joseph Kabila were due to join a UN crisis meeting in New York yesterday.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met both leaders to push for a solution, only for Kabila to make indirect reference to Rwanda’s alleged support for M23 in his speech before the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
Other countries, including the US, Sweden and the Netherlands, have all suspended aid to Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget. However, Britain unblocked part of its cash this month, praising the Rwandans for constructively engaging in the search for peace.
Aid agencies say the situation on the ground remains serious and the UN’s refugee agency has called for an additional US$40 million to help those displaced by fighting.
Rwanda and the DR Congo have a long history of tensions and Kigali has repeatedly backed armed movements in its neighbor, citing the need to tackle Rwandan rebels who use the DR Congo as a base.
Critics say that Kagame’s government has used its influence to build lucrative networks in its resource-rich neighbor, with officials and rights groups saying that minerals continue to be smuggled through Rwanda.