US halts military aid to Rwanda over DRCongo mutiny

The United States said Sunday it is suspending military aid to Rwanda because of "deep concerns" over evidence it is supporting a mutiny in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

State Department spokeswoman Darby Holladay said Washington "has decided it can no longer provide foreign military financing appropriated in the current fiscal year to Rwanda."

"The United States government is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23," Holladay said in a statement emailed to AFP.

The M23 are Tutsi ex-rebels from the Rwanda-backed National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

They were integrated into the regular army in 2009 as part of a peace deal that followed their failed 2008 offensive on the eastern city of Goma.

But they mutinied in April, demanding better pay and the full implementation of the March 23, 2009 peace deal for which they are named. They have been engaged in running battles with the regular army in the eastern region of Kivu.

Kinshasa accuses Kigali of sponsoring the rebellion -- a complaint supported by a UN panel which said in June that Rwanda was supplying the rebels.

Holladay said the United States had been actively engaged at the highest levels to urge Rwanda to halt its support for the M23, which "threatens to undermine stability in the region."

"Restraint, dialogue, and respect for each other's sovereignty offer the best opportunity for Rwanda and the DRC, with the support of their partners, to resume the difficult work of bringing peace and security to the broader region," Holladay said.

Funding of $200,000 was intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers, she said, but the money will now be allocated to another country.