Rwanda military aid cut by US over DR Congo M23 rebels

M23 rebel fighters in DR Congo (12 July 2012) The M23 rebels are among those the US fears Rwanda is backing

The US has cut military aid to Rwanda following accusations it is backing rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The US state department says the funding - $200,000 (£128,000) - will be reallocated to other countries.

Rwanda has rejected reports by the UN and rights groups that it is supporting the rebels, including the M23 movement, in eastern DR Congo.

As a result of the fighting, 200,000 people have fled their homes.

Troublesome neighbours

Map
  • April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
  • June 1994: Paul Kagame's Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutu fighters flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
  • Rwanda's army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
  • 1997: Laurent Kabila's AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa
  • 1998: Rwanda accuses Kabila of not acting against Hutu rebels and tries to topple him, sparking five years of conflict
  • 2003: War officially ends but Hutu and Tutsi militias continue to clash in eastern DR Congo
  • 2008: Tutsi-led CNDP rebels march on North Kivu capital, Goma - 250,000 people flee
  • 2009: Rwanda and DR Congo agree peace deal and CNDP integrated into Congolese army
  • 2012: Mutiny led by former CNDP leader Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda

Eastern DR Congo has been plagued by fighting since 1994, when more than a million ethnic Hutus crossed the border into DR Congo following the Rwandan genocide, in which some 800,000 people - mostly Tutsis - died.

Rwanda has twice invaded its much larger neighbour, saying it was trying to take action against Hutu rebels based in DR Congo. Uganda also sent troops into DR Congo during the 1997-2003 conflict.

The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse, on the Congo-Rwanda border, says although $200,000 is a tiny sum to cut, it is hugely symbolic.

It means Washington - Rwanda's staunchest international defender - believes the government in Kigali is destabilising the region by supplying the rebels, our correspondent explains.

A recent UN report seen by the BBC accused Rwanda of backing the rebels.

The report cited Rwandan soldiers who had defected from Congolese rebel forces. They told the UN they had been trained in Rwanda under the pretext of joining the army, before being sent over the border to fight.

The Rwandan government denied the allegations.

The Congolese rebels who took up arms in April named themselves "M23" after a failed peace agreement signed with DR Congo's government on 23 March three years ago.

Many of them are ethnic Tutsi - like the majority of Rwanda's leadership.

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