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Rift Valley Institute

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Analysis: African U.N. troops raise stakes for Rwanda in Congo crisis

An analysis of the situation in Eastern DRC from Reuters: The deployment of a U.N. force of African troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo threatens to draw Rwanda into a damaging conflict with African powers and derail its economic 'miracle' if donors again cut aid over Kigali's involvement there…

Rwanda's fortunes took a tumble last year, when donors' patience snapped and they cut back on aid that accounts for about 40 percent of the budget after U.N. experts detailed Rwandan support for the M23 – charges Kigali vigorously denies.

Now Kigali faces a new test after a flare-up last month drew in a new U.N. intervention brigade of South African, Tanzanian and Malawian peacekeepers with a robust mandate to "neutralize and disarm" armed groups…

"The arrival of Tanzania and South Africa on the scene … with boots on the ground is a new aspect," Jason Stearns, a project director at regional think-tank the Rift Valley Institute, told Reuters.

"The political role that contributors to that intervention brigade play is at least as important as the military role," said Stearns. "Often peer pressure matters more than donor dollars," he added.

A misstep in Rwanda's diplomatic and military balancing act risks derailing its economic "miracle" if increasingly anxious donors turn off the taps again. It could also push Kigali into a damaging tussle for influence with powerful African rivals like South Africa and Tanzania whose troops are on the frontline….

The United States, a big aid contributor, weighed in on August 25 telling "Rwanda to cease any and all support to the M23."

"There is a strong perception (Rwanda is supporting M23), there seems to be some evidence for that," said U.N. special envoy to the Greak Lakes Mary Robinson before the regional summit this week in Uganda. "This is having an impact on how donor countries perceive the situation."…

South African President Jacob Zuma this week expressed strong support for the new U.N. brigade, including more than 1,000 of his country's troops, which last month went into action for the first time against the M23 rebels..

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