When the M23, a Rwanda-backed militia, launched a rebellion last year in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), few could have guessed the fallout it would cause in Kigali.
For years, credible reports had documented a host of Rwanda-sponsored abuses in the region, from civilian massacres to the plundering of minerals. Yet Rwanda’s Western backers, wary of undermining a country considered a major development success, generally looked the other way.
But when a series of U.N. Group of Experts reports found evidence of systematic Rwandan support for the rebels, including the provision of weapons and troops, and direct Rwandan command over rebel operations, international condemnation was swift. Several Western donors cut or suspended aid, which makes up approximately 40 percent of Rwanda’s budget. The about-face was shocking for President Paul Kagame, who has long deflected criticism of an unsavory human rights record by citing his engineering of Rwanda’s dramatic rebirth from genocide.