US senator doubts aid to Rwanda due to human rights and role in Congo

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

Menendez said he would start by withholding several million dollars in support of Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions, according to a letter that was leaked to the media and whose authenticity was confirmed by his office. Suspension is a Senate procedure that prevents a proposal from being put to a vote.

Menendez said he feared that US support for the Rwandan military during its deployment to the Congo and support for the rebels would send “a wake-up call that the US is tacitly endorsing such actions.”

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

In 2021, the United States provided more than $147 million in foreign aid to Rwanda, making it Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor.

Menendez also cited what he said were credible allegations that the Rwandan government silenced critics at home and targeted dissidents living outside the country.

The US State Department is reviewing its policy in response to developments on the ground and will be consulting closely with Congress on aid to Rwanda, department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

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

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

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