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US senator questions aid to Rwanda over human rights and role in Congo

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

Menendez said he would start withholding several million dollars in support of Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions, according to the letter, which was leaked to the media and confirmed to be genuine by his office. A stay is a Senate procedure that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote.

Menendez said he feared US support for the Rwandan military while it is deployed in Congo and backing rebels would send “a worrying signal that the United States tacitly approves of such actions.”

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

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

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

The US State Department is reviewing its policies in response to developments on the ground and would consult closely with Congress on the question of aid to Rwanda, department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

“We have said before that we are concerned about the rising tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda,” Price told a regular news conference, 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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