NAIROBI (Reuters) - Rwanda’s foreign minister on Saturday accused Western governments of using aid to treat African states like children, after three countries cut cash to Kigali because of its policy in Congo.
The United States blocked $200,000 in military aid to the central African nation, the Netherlands suspended 5 million euros of aid, and Germany suspended 21 million euros worth of payments until 2015 after a United Nations interim report said Rwanda was backing rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report, contested by Rwanda, said the country was supporting armed groups in neighboring eastern Congo, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu province in fighting that has displaced over 260,000 people since April.
“This child-to-parent relationship has to end ... there has to be a minimum respect,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in an address to a Kenyan business club called Mindspeak.
“As long as countries wave check books over our heads, we can never be equal.”
She added that Africans had to work hard to develop their economies in order to stop relying on Western donors.
Rwanda, which has been striving to rebuild its economy after more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a 1994 genocide, relies on donors to fund 50 percent of its annual budget, Mushikiwabo said.
Its ties with its much larger neighbor Congo had been thawing since 2009, following years of conflict in which Rwandan troops crossed the border in pursuit of remnants of the Hutu militias that carried out the genocide.
Mushikiwabo said it was too early to tell what kind of damage the withholding of aid would do to the government’s economic development push.
“We have been in much worse situations than dollars being withheld from us,” she said.
Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel said in a statement his ministry had warned Rwanda four weeks ago it would suspend aid payments due to indications of support for rebels.
“Rwanda did not use this time to rebut these serious allegations... suspending budget aid is a clear sign to the Rwandan government.”
The foreign minister accused the international community of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern Congo.
“Do not draw Rwanda into this mess. It is not our business,” she said.
The U.N. report said Kigali had supplied ammunition and communication equipment to the rebels, some of whom are Congolese of Rwandan descent. Rwanda denies the accusations.
Mushikiwabo said the type of ammunition alluded to in the report no longer existed in Rwanda, under regional small arms-reduction programs.
The radio communications gear cited by the report was also not being used by modern armies like Rwanda, proving they could not have supplied it to the Congolese rebels, she said.
Details of a neutral force to eliminate armed groups from eastern Congo, agreed on by the regional group of Great Lakes states that includes Rwanda and Congo, would be discussed by a meeting of the organization’s ministers of defense and security chiefs in Khartoum over the next three days, Mushikiwabo said.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Roche