Photo: Demonstrators are stopped by police as they try to march towards the border with Rwanda, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 15, 2022. Source: France 24 - Photo: 2022

New Jersey Senator Seeks Review of Aid to Rwanda For Rights Abuses in DR Congo

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — The Rwandan government’s human rights record is under a harsh spotlight over its role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sen. Robert Menendez, chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would place a hold on U.S. security assistance to Rwanda in Congress over concerns about the Rwandan government’s human rights record.

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

Menendez is pursuing a hold on several million dollars in support for Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions, according to his letter to Blinken, which was leaked to the media and his office confirmed was authentic. A hold is a Senate procedure that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote.

Menendez feared that U.S. support for the Rwandan military, deployed to Congo and backing rebels, would send “a troubling signal that the U.S. tacitly approves of such actions.”

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 U.S. State Department reviews its policies in response to events on the ground and would consult closely with Congress on the question of aid to Rwanda, department spokesperson Ned Price said on August 8.

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

“We’ve said before that we’re concerned about the rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda,” Price told a regular press briefing, urging both sides to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue.

Numerous rights organisations have raised the issue of human rights violations in Rwanda, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

According to the State Dept’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, significant human rights violations in Rwanda include “unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearance by the government, torture by the government, life-threatening conditions in some detention facilities, arbitrary detention,” among many.

Most recently, according to a UN group of experts, Rwandan troops attacked soldiers inside the Democratic Republic of Congo and aided the M23 rebel group with weapons and support, citing “solid evidence” despite reiterated denials by Kigali.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the militia, which stems from the long fallout from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and has captured swathes of territory in recent months. Kigali repeatedly denied supporting M23, and the armed group maintains it does not receive Rwandan support.

A Rwandan government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 August 2022]

Photo: Demonstrators are stopped by police as they try to march towards the border with Rwanda in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 15, 2022. Source: France 24

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