NAIROBI (Reuters) - Rwanda’s foreign minister accused Western governments on Saturday of using aid to treat African states like children, after four countries cut or delayed aid to Kigali because of its policy in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The United States last weekend cut military aid for this year while the Netherlands, Germany and Britain followed suit as donors reacted to a United Nations report that accuses Rwanda of backing rebels in the 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 more than 270,000 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 the Kenyan business club Mindspeak.
“As long as countries wave cheque 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 working 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.”
A Reuters reporter said on Saturday that heavily armed rebel forces had moved to Kibumba, around 30 km (20 miles) from the North Kivu capital of Goma, whilst drunk government forces had withdrawn their forces further south towards the city.
Yamina Benguigui, France’s minister for relations with French-speaking countries who is in Congo, said Paris had requested a United Nations Security Council meeting for Monday to discuss the crisis.
“A declaration will be negotiated clearly condemning M23 and its support,” she said.
Mushikiwabo 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. But Mushikiwabo said the type of ammunition alluded to in the report no longer existed in Rwanda, under regional small arms-reduction programmes.
The radio communications gear cited also was not being used by modern armies like Rwanda, proving they could not have supplied it to the Congolese rebels, she added.
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; Jonny Hogg in Kinshasa; Editing by David Lewis and Michael Roddy