Britain was accused of sending a "disastrous signal" on Wednesday after London resumed aid for Rwanda's government, despite claims that President Paul Kagame has sponsored a rebel movement guilty of displacing almost half a million people.
A United Nations investigation found that Rwanda gave weapons, training and recruits to the "M23" insurgents in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, whose leader, Bosco Ntaganda, has been indicted for alleged war crimes.
Britain, a long-standing ally of Mr Kagame and Rwanda's biggest bilateral donor, responded on July 27 by "delaying" £16 million of aid. Andrew Mitchell, the outgoing International Development Secretary, used his last day in office to restore this funding, with half the money being released straight into Rwandan government coffers, and half tied to education and agriculture.
The M23 mutiny has swept across eastern Congo, forcing 470,000 people to flee their homes and inflicting more suffering on a blighted country. Mr Mitchell said his decision had been justified by an improved situation on the ground.
"Rwanda has engaged constructively with the peace process initiated through International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and there is a continuing ceasefire," he said. In the light of this "progress", British aid would resume after a delay that lasted for 39 days.
Mr Mitchell cautioned that London still had "concerns" and would "continue to closely monitor the government of Rwanda's role in bringing about peace" in Congo. But Congo's leadership, which blames Rwanda for aiding civil war in its eastern provinces, denounced Britain's decision. Lambert Mende, the Congolese information minister, said he "could not understand what Britain was playing at," adding: "We are not happy with this decision, not at all. It sends a disastrous signal to the region."
Mr Mende added: "People are dying, hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced, and we don't know from where our partners in the UK got the information that Rwanda is moving in a positive direction." Britain's resumption of aid "does nothing to help bring peace", he added.
After the UN accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, a group of countries suspended their aid. Britain has become the first to resume payments to Rwanda.
Germany froze £16.6 million in planned budget support at the end of July, and a spokesman in Berlin confirmed that its position had not changed. Sweden withheld some of its £20 million programme. Its aid remains "suspended," said Evin Khaffaf, a spokesman for the country's development minister. The Dutch government confirmed that almost £4 million of aid was still frozen.
Aid workers in eastern Congo disputed Mr Mitchell's suggestion that a "continuing ceasefire" is now in force in the provinces of North and South Kivu, saying that M23 rebels fought the national army in Rutshuru district on Tuesday and, previously, on Aug 26.
Carina Tertsakian, of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said Rwanda has continued to help the insurgents. "The evidence that we're getting is that throughout July the Rwandan military were continuing to provide support to the M23 rebel group in the form of training and recruitment, including of children."----
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