Human rights

US senator questions aid to Rwanda on human rights and its role in Congo

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, April 26, 2022. Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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NAIROBI, July 25 (Reuters) – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has said he will suspend U.S. security assistance to Rwanda in Congress over concerns about the Rwandan government’s human rights record. human beings and its role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senator Robert Menendez called for a comprehensive review of US policy towards Rwanda.

Menendez said he would start by blocking several million dollars in support for Rwandan peacekeepers serving in UN missions, according to the letter, which was leaked to the media and whose authenticity his office has confirmed. A suspension is a Senate procedure that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote.

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Menendez said he feared that US support for the Rwandan military while it is deployed in Congo and backing the rebels would send “a troubling signal that the United States tacitly condones such actions.”

The M23 rebel group launched a major offensive in Congo’s eastern border regions with Rwanda in late March. Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, which Kigali denies. Read more

The United States has allocated more than $147 million in foreign aid to Rwanda in 2021, making it Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor.

Menendez also cited what he said were credible accusations that the Rwandan government was muzzling critics at home and targeting dissidents living outside the country.

The US State Department is reviewing its policies in response to events on the ground and will consult closely with Congress on the issue of aid to Rwanda, department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

“We have already said that we are concerned about the rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda,” Price said during a regular press briefing, urging both sides to show restraint and engage in dialogue.

A Rwandan government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Simon Lewis in Washington DC, Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali; Editing by Estelle Shirbon, Mark Heinrich and Cynthia Osterman

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