Pressure grows on UK to halt Rwanda aid after damning UN reports

Defence chief commands rebels guilty of huge human rights abuses, says dossier
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Pressure was mounting on Britain yesterday to withdraw its backing for the government in Rwanda after a UN report said the country was running an armed rebellion guilty of massive human rights abuses in neighbouring DR Congo.

The M23 rebels, who use child soldiers and have attacked UN peacekeepers in Eastern Congo, are being directly commanded by Rwanda's Defence Minister, according to a confidential report to the UN Security Council.

The latest evidence from the UN experts, obtained by the news agency Reuters, comes after the UK reinstated aid to Rwanda, claiming that the government there had taken "constructive" steps to halt the conflict over the border in the DRC.

The latest revelations include accusations that another British aid recipient, Uganda, is also backing the Congolese rebels with arms and recruits. Between them Rwanda and Uganda are receiving some £175m in UK aid this year.

Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame, has angrily denied accusations of his involvement with M23 and denounced the UN panel as "so-called experts". The Ugandan government echoed those denials yesterday calling the new 44-page report "hogwash" and demanding to see the evidence.

Prior to his departure as Britain's International Development minister last month, Andrew Mitchell praised Rwanda's efforts and said an earlier decision to freeze a £16m tranche of aid had been reconsidered. The government in Kigali depends for half its budget on foreign aid, much of it from the US, UK and the Netherlands.

"The government of Rwanda has continued to demonstrate its strong commitment to reducing poverty and improving its financial management," Mr Mitchell, who is now Chief Whip, said in early September as he restored aid to the country.

Despite the furious response from the governments in Kigali and Kampala the UN panel of experts have compiled two reports – one of more than 130 pages released in June and the latest one, given to the Security Council last month. The dossiers show that Rwanda, with support from Uganda has been commanding an effective buffer state in Eastern Congo, supporting an ethnic Tutsi rebel army, the M23, which controls much of the mineral and agricultural wealth in the area.

Donors, such as Britain, have been reluctant to withdraw aid from Rwanda where the government has been widely praised for the efficiency with which its deployed development cash inside its own borders. The economy in Rwanda has been growing strongly and the central African nation has shot to the top of comparative indices for ease of doing business and anti-corruption efforts.

However, the legacy of the 1994 genocide has continued to lurk across the border in Rwanda's huge and chaotic neighbour.