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Belgium suspends new military aid to Rwanda over Congo rebels

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 12 Nov 2012 16:42 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Brussels joins EU, US, donors in pressing Rwanda

* Kigali denies backing Congo's M23 rebels

* Near half million have fled fighting

BRUSSELS, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Belgium said on Monday it would halt all new military aid to Rwanda after a United Nations panel said the country was supporting rebels in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Brussels joined a line of donors, including the EU and Washington, to press Rwanda over its alleged support of the M23 uprising, which has raised fears of fresh turmoil on the region. Rwanda denies the accusation.

"To continue to inspire Rwanda to become a part of the solution and not the problem, (Belgium) ... has decided to plan no new activities in its military partnership with Rwanda," the Belgian government said in a statement.

A Rwandan foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Monday Kigali had not received any official communication about Brussels' decision.

Rwanda, which gained independence from Belgium in 1962, has regularly sent its army officers to study at the Belgian military academy.

Belgium gave 56 million euros (${esc.dollar}73 million) to Rwanda last year, which made it the Central African country's third largest bilateral donor.

The U.N. Security Council's Group of Experts said in a report seen by Reuters in October Rwanda's defence minister was commanding a rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that is being armed by Rwanda and Uganda.

Nearly half a million people have been displaced by the fighting. M23 has proven so resilient that one senior U.N. diplomatic source told Reuters Rwanda has effectively "annexed" mineral-rich eastern Congo.

Rwanda relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget. Its Finance Minister John Rwangobwa said this month aid freezes could damage the country's burgeoning economy.

The head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) - Donald Kaberuka, a Rwandan - urged the West to life the aid freezes to avoid creating a new economic crisis in the region. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; additional reporting by Jenny Clover in Kigali; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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