US ally Rwanda gets bipartisan lashing at hearing on Congolese crisis

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Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the subpanel, said the Rwandan government has denied its involvement, but “a growing body of evidence raises questions that suggest otherwise.”

Bass also entered into the record a letter spearheaded by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and signed by 12 other Democrats calling on President Obama to nominate a presidential envoy to the area and advocate strongly for a U.N. envoy.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson acknowledged Rwanda's involvement in the conflict during Tuesday's hearing.

“The M23 would not be the threat it is today without external support, and we will continue to discourage outside parties from providing any assistance to the M23,” Carson testified. “There is a credible body of evidence that corroborates key findings of the Group of Experts’ reports, including evidence of significant military and logistical support, as well as operational and political guidance, from the Rwandan government to the M23.” 

“Based on this evidence, we continue to press Rwanda to halt and prevent any and all forms of support to Congolese armed groups.”

Carson went on to defend the administration's efforts to diffuse tensions in the region, and pointed out that the United States recently suspended $200,000 in military aid.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), however, scoffed at that figure, pointing out that the United States set aside $195 million for Rwanda in last year's budget. Carson countered that U.S. aid funds needed agricultural and other development projects and said the funding doesn't go to the Rwandan government in the form of a check or cash.

The U.S. aid cut is a “drop in the bucket,” Marino said. “It doesn't seem that we're very serious about this.”