A UN report seems to confirm Rwanda's role in the destabilizing M23 rebellion, so why isn't Obama following through on his 2006 law threatening to cut U.S. aid?
Midway through Barack Obama's Senate term, the man who would later take charge of U.S. foreign policy turned his attention to a country that few Americans knew or cared about. The Obama-sponsored -- and Hilary Clinton co-sponsored -- Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 was meant to commit U.S. policy to fostering peace and stability in central Africa as the region emerged from a decade of upheaval and war. Outside of its requirement that the president appoint a special envoy to the region, the bill is an exercise in the kind of open-ended, bureaucratic language that characterizes official policy pronouncements. But it included potential consequences for any country meddling in the Democratic Republic of Congo: "The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo." It was a warning to the DRC's sometimes-intrusive and aid-dependent neighbors: make things worse in Congo, and there could be tangible consequences.
Six years later, Obama is president and an American ally is blatantly destabilizing the DRC. The Rwandan government is supporting something called the M23 rebellion, a military uprising that began in the eastern DRC in April. This could theoretically trigger the kind of repercussions that Obama's 2006 legislation allows for. But, so far, it looks like it won't, and it's not because of any particular hypocrisy on Obama's part. In practice, U.S. policy in Central Africa is split between conflicting objectives human rights and regional stability on the one hand, and strategic and humanitarian commitments on the other.