US Senate lawmaker to hold on Rwandan security aid

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US Senate lawmaker to hold on Rwandan security aid

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations CommitteeSenate Foreign Relations Committee said he would hold on US security assistance to Rwanda in Congress because of concerns about the Rwandan government's human rights record and role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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

According to the letter, which was leaked to the media, Menendez stated that he would begin by placing a hold on several million dollars in support for Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions. A hold is a procedure used in the Senate that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote.

Menendez said he feared that US support for the Rwandan military would send a troubling signal that the US tacitly approves of such actions, while it is deployed to Congo and backing rebels. The M 23 rebel group began a major offensive in Congo's eastern borderlands with Rwanda at the end of March. Kigali denies that Rwanda supports M 23. Congo has accused Rwanda of backing it.

In 2021, the United States gave more than $147 million in foreign aid to Rwanda, making it Rwanda's largest bilateral donor.

Menendez cited allegations that the Rwandan government muzzling critics at home and targeting dissidents living outside the country.

The U.S. State DepartmentState Department reviews its policies in response to events on the ground and will consult with Congress on the question of aid to Rwanda, department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

In a regular press briefing, Price urged both sides to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue, as we said before that we were concerned about the rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda.

A Rwandan government spokeswoman did not respond immediately to a request for comment.