Tag Archives: M23

DR Congo unrest: Rwanda ‘recruiting for M23 rebels’

31 Jul

31 July 2013

The M23 denies receiving weapons from Rwanda

Four Rwandans have told the BBC the army forcibly recruited them to fight for the M23 rebel group in neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The four said they were seeking asylum in Uganda after fleeing the fighting.

The Rwandan army dismissed their claim, saying they must have made up their stories to get asylum.

Last week, the US called on Rwanda to stop backing the M23. UN experts and DR Congo officials say Rwanda has been sending troops to support the rebels.

‘Kagame implicated’

Some 800,000 people have been displaced in resource-rich eastern DR Congo since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012.

Like Rwanda’s leadership, the group mostly comes from the Tutsi community.

But Rwanda denies backing the rebels.

The UN has given residents of the main city in eastern DR Congo, Goma, until 1400 GMT on Thursday to disarm, warning force will be used if they fail to do so.

A new 3,000-strong UN intervention brigade is in the area to tackle various rebels, including the M23.

The four deserters, who included a man who described himself a captain in the Rwandan army, spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity.

He deserted after seeing many innocent people die, the man said.

He described Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame as the commander-in-chief of the M23.

“Whatever he says has to be done,” he said.

Mr Kagame has repeatedly denied backing the rebels.

Another deserter, who described himself as a medical student, told the BBC he was “kidnapped” by soldiers in the border town of Gisenyi in August 2012, and taken across the border where he treated more than 300 fellow recruits wounded in fighting.

“They took them to the frontline before finishing their training,” he said.

Rwandan military spokesman Joseph Nzabamwita said he could only comment if the BBC divulged the names of their sources, adding the men must have manufactured the stories to claim asylum.

Source: BBC

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DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda in ICC custody

22 Mar

22 March 2013

Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda has left Rwanda and is on the way to The Hague in the custody of the International Criminal Court.

Bosco Ntaganda, who handed himself in to the US embassy in Kigali, addresses a news conference in January 2009. Photograph: STR/Reuters

Gen Ntaganda, a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo, surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which Gen Ntaganda denies.

A date for his first appearance before judges is expected to be set soon.

Gen Ntaganda is the first suspect to surrender himself voluntarily to the ICC’s custody.

“This is a good day for victims in the DRC and for international justice,” said ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

“Today those who have long suffered at the hands of Bosco Ntaganda can look forward to the future and the prospect of justice secured.”

Known as “The Terminator”, Gen Ntaganda has fought for a number of rebel groups as well as the Congolese army.

Most recently, he was believed to be one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which has been fighting government troops in the east.

He is accused of seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ituri, DR Congo, between 2002-2003. The charges include enlisting child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery.

The DR Congo government has said that Gen Ntaganda, who comes from the Tutsi ethnic group, crossed into Rwanda on Saturday after he and some of his followers were defeated by a rival faction of the M23 group.

Eastern DR Congo has long suffered from high levels of violence linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for the control of mineral resources.

Source: BBC

Bosco Ntaganda: Kagame promises to help transfer to ICC

21 Mar

21 March 2013

Bosco Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC since 2006

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has given his backing for the speedy transfer of Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Known as “The Terminator”, he surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

Rwanda would help facilitate his transfer to The Hague “as fast as possible”, Mr Kagame said.

Gen Ntaganda has been a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, accusing him of using child soldiers, keeping women as sex slaves and participating in the murder of at least 800 people in 2002 and 2003.

Gen Ntaganda denies the charges.

Transfer ‘within days’

He has fought for various rebel groups as well as the Congolese army in a country riven by ethnic divisions and a battle for control of its mineral resources.

Most recently, he was believed to be one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which is fighting government troops in the east.

He has also fought for the army of Rwanda, which denies UN accusations that it backs the M23.

“We will work to make what the US embassy needs in relation to Bosco Ntaganda’s case happen as fast as possible,” Mr Kagame said in a statement.

His comments came a day after US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnny Carson, said it was important that Gen Ntaganda’s movement from the embassy to the airport was “in no way inhibited”.

Mr Carson said he hoped that ICC officials, who were en route to Rwanda, would be allowed into the country.

Neither Rwanda nor the US recognise the ICC.

On Wednesday, the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she expected Gen Ntaganda to be handed over in “a couple of days”.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gen Ntaganda seven years ago.

The DR Congo government said Gen Ntaganda, who comes from the Tutsi ethnic group, crossed into Rwanda on Saturday after he and some of his followers were defeated by a rival faction of the M23 group.

Rwanda denies helping Gen Ntaganda to flee DR Congo, or arranging his surrender to the US embassy, which is near the defence ministry in Kigali.

Rwanda’s government is also dominated by Tutsis and Gen Ntaganda fought with the former rebels who are now in power in Kigali.

Source: BBC

Will Bosco Ntaganda’s surrender bring peace to DR Congo?

19 Mar

19 March 2013

By Farouk Chothia, BBC Africa

On the retreat in the battlefield, wanted war crimes suspect and Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda has raised the white flag, fleeing to Rwanda and handing himself into the US embassy in Kigali.

Known as “the Terminator”, over the last two decades Gen Ntaganda has fought for several rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as well as serving as a general in the Congolese army – and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is unclear why he has chosen to surrender to the ICC – or why he chose Washington’s embassy in Rwanda – neither the US nor Rwanda recognise the tribunal, unlike many other states in Africa and Europe.

But they will now have to co-operate with the ICC so that he can be transferred to The Hague to stand trial – or risk a diplomatic outcry at a time when the United Nations is spearheading new efforts to end the conflict in a country two-thirds the size of western Europe.

Despite denials by Rwanda’s government, DR Congo has repeatedly accused it of backing Gen Ntaganda.

“The fact that he showed up in Kigali raises a lot of questions. He could have also showed up in Uganda [another neighbour of DR Congo], but he decided to do that in Kigali,” Thierry Vircoulon, of the think-tank International Crisis Group, told the BBC.

“Was it because it was the only way out or because he also wanted to embarrass his former sponsor?”

‘Shot at’

Born in Rwanda and raised in DR Congo, Gen Ntaganda and President Paul Kagame’s government in Kigali were once staunch allies, bound together by ethnic ties – both come from the minority Tutsi ethnic group which feels threatened since the genocide that saw hard-line Hutu militias kill some 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994.

Gen Ntaganda fought for Mr Kagame against Rwanda’s Hutu-led government in the early 1990s.

After Mr Kagame took power in 1994, Bosco Ntaganda served as a bulwark in eastern DR Congo against the Hutu militias that took refuge there after being driven out of Rwanda at the end of the genocide.

Gen Ntaganda also fought the Congolese government, accusing it of oppressing DR Congo’s own Tutsi population living in the east, near the border with Rwanda.

He fled to the US embassy after his M23 rebel movement, which was formed last year after an army mutiny, split last month.

The M23 rebel movement has been hit by fighting between rival factions

There was heavy fighting between rival factions in eastern DR Congo, which reportedly left Gen Ntaganda on the back foot.

It is not clear what caused the split, but forces loyal to Gen Ntaganda and ousted M23 political head Jean-Marie Runiga appeared to lose ground to troops allied with the movement’s military chief Sultani Makenga.

An ally of Col Makenga, Col Innocent “India Queen” Kahina, told Associated Press news agency that he saw Gen Ntaganda in the battlefield last week.

“We shot at him, but he got away,” Col Kahina is quoted as saying.

“Apparently, he thought an almost sure prison sentence was better than his other options,” DR Congo analyst Jason Stearns writes on his blog.

Mr Vircoulon says Rwanda will be worried about Gen Ntaganda appearing in the dock at The Hague.

“He will have a lot of things to say at the ICC and his testimony may potentially be very damaging and could have huge consequences for Kigali.”

For New York-based pressure group Human Rights Watch (HRW), should Gen Ntaganda stand trial, it would help end the culture of impunity in DR Congo.

“Ntaganda’s appearance in the dock at a fair and credible trial of the ICC would send a strong message to other abusers that they too may face justice one day,” HRW Africa researcher Ida Sawyer said.

The DR Congo conflict has been a major focus of the ICC since its formation more than a decade ago, with two cases finalised so far – the acquittal of militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui in December 2012 and the sentencing some six months earlier of his rival, Thomas Lubanga, to 14 years in jail for recruiting children into his rebel army in 2002 and 2003.

Gen Ntaganda was once allied with Lubanga, serving as his chief of staff in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) rebel group.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gen Ntaganda in 2006, accusing him of committing atrocities, along with Lubanga, in 2002 and 2003 – charges that are unrelated to the latest conflict involving the M23.

With more charges added against Gen Ntaganda in 2012, he now faces 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

‘Meat on bones’

While Lubanga was captured by the DR Congo government in 2006 and put on trial, Gen Ntaganda evaded arrest and was integrated into the Congolese army.

But fighters loyal to him defected from the army last year after DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila hinted that the Congolese authorities would put the general on trial.

His appearance at the US embassy suggests the Rwandan government forced him to hand himself in, says Mr Stearns.

“Or he was so afraid of what would happen if they arrested him (or Makenga got a hold of him) that he made a run for the embassy?” he asks.

Despite the ICC’s efforts to punish rebel leaders and various peace initiatives spearheaded by foreign governments – and 19,000 UN troops on the ground, violence has continued in eastern DR Congo – a largely lawless area hit by ethnic conflict and a battle over its mineral resources.

Currently, Uganda is mediating between the government and the M23 to end the conflict that has left hundreds of thousands homeless since last year, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed former Irish president Mary Robinson as his special envoy to the region.

Her appointment on Monday followed the signing of an agreement last month by 11 African leaders – including Mr Kagame, Mr Kabila and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni – to help end the conflict in eastern DR Congo and possibly set up a special African Union intervention brigade.

“I plan to work closely with the leaders of the region to ensure that the presence of combatants in their territories is addressed by their respective governments, in the context of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework [signed by the leaders],” Ms Robinson said.

“In this respect, I call on states of the region to work with the International Criminal Court,” she added.

Some analysts believe that with diplomatic pressure on Rwanda growing, it could not give refuge to Gen Ntaganda, leaving him with no option but to surrender in the face of the setbacks his forces suffered in the latest fighting.

Mr Stearns doubts that the conflict will end anytime soon, saying the agreement reached by African leaders was “very vague”.

“Robinson will have to put meat on its bones. However, if Kabila manages to strike a deal with Makenga’s M23, then logic of the framework [agreement] could easily fray,” he writes.

“Kabila thought it was necessary to sign up to a relatively intrusive deal in order to bring an end to the M23 threat.”

With the M23 splitting and Gen Ntaganda surrendering, DR Congo’s government may be feeling more buoyant, but there is no room for complacency in international efforts to achieve peace – there are enough battle-hardened men in the region to fill the vacuum left by Gen Ntaganda.

Source: BBC Africa

 

U.N. chief suggests Congo rebels had outside help to take Goma

22 Feb

UNITED NATIONS | Tue Feb 19, 2013

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves during a visit to the Heal Africa hospital in Goma, eastern Congo, February 28, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O’Reilly

(Reuters) – The command, equipment quality and fighting ability of rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when they captured the frontier city of Goma in November suggests they had external support, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

While Ban did not say from where the external support came to help the M23 rebels take Goma on November 20, U.N. experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of aiding the revolt in the resource-rich region. Both governments strongly deny any involvement.

In a three-month report on the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, Ban said the M23 rebels had shown uncharacteristic capacities during the offensive to take Goma. The rebels eventually withdrew from the city 11 days later.

“The subsequent speed, efficiency and success of the M23’s renewed offensive were rendered possible by a sudden increase in the group’s combatants, coordinated multi-pronged attacks, and attacks with coordination between infantry and fire support,” Ban said in the February 15 report released on Tuesday.

M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honor a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels’ integration into the army. They have since deserted the army.

“MONUSCO’s observations of the command and control ability of the attacking force, the effective coordination of its fire support, the quality of its equipment and its general fighting ability, particularly during night time, all suggested the existence of external support, direct and indirect,” Ban said.

At the time of the advance on Goma, U.N. officials said they were surprised by the increased strength of the rebels but appeared reluctant to officially blame it on outside support.

Despite Rwanda’s strong denials, the U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo, said in a report late last year that Rwanda’s defense minister was commanding the M23 revolt and Kigali was arming the rebels and sending troops.

Some countries criticized MONUSCO for failing to stop the fall of Goma. But the world body defended its actions, saying the peacekeepers could only have taken on the rebels in support of the Congolese army, who had fled the city.

In the wake of the blow to MONUSCO’s image, Ban is due to recommend to the U.N. Security Council shortly that it approve the creation of an enforcement brigade within MONUSCO to take on the armed groups in eastern Congo, according to U.N. officials.

Peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an already existing ceasefire, diplomats and U.N. officials say.

An uneasy truce is now in place between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels, and Uganda is currently hosting talks between the two parties. But progress towards a negotiated settlement to the crisis has been slow.

Separately a delayed U.N.-mediated regional peace deal aimed at ending two decades of conflict in the east of Congo is due to be signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on February 24, the United Nations said on Saturday.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: Reuters

Germany resumes Rwandan aid

3 Feb

02 Feb 2013

German spokesperson says it has recognised steps that Rwanda is taking and these are in the “right direction” [EPA]

Germany unfreezes aid to Kigale after suspending it after a UN report of Rwandan military assistance to M23 rebels.

Germany has said it will unblock seven million euros in frozen aid to Rwanda, which the UN accuses of helping arm rebels in neighbouring Congo.

Germany joined the United States and several other European states in partially suspending aid to Rwanda after UN experts said senior Rwandan military officials have equipped, trained and directly commanded M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, a spokesman for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development said Germany had decided to unfreeze around seven million euros in aid because Rwanda was taking steps “in the right direction” on the issue.

“We recognise the steps that Rwanda is taking and these steps are going in the right direction but things are not getting back to normality yet – we still need to discuss issues and we will continue to put pressure on Rwanda,” the spokesman told Reuters news agency.

The M23 rebels, in November briefly seized the city of Goma in eastern DRC, announced a unilateral ceasefire last month and the group is currently engaged in peace talks with the Congolese government in neighbouring Uganda.

Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget, has repeatedly denied the charges

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Dirk Niebel met in Berlin on Thursday and agreed to use the unfrozen aid for economic development and vocational training rather than direct budget support, Mushikiwabo said.

Rwanda is “delighted this support is back on track,” Mushikiwabo said in an email on Friday.

Rwanda has been badly hit by the aid suspensions. Finance Minister John Rwangombwa said in December that the country might have to cut its 2013 economic growth forecast down to six percent from 7.6 percent if the aid remained suspended.

Source: Aljazeera

UN peacekeeping mission dismisses rumours related to armed group in eastern DR Congo

3 Jan

MONUSCO peacekeepers on patrol. UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

2 January 2013 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today dismissed several rumours related to the presence of an armed group in the country’s east.

In a news release, the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) stated that it had sent a fact-checking team to the areas of Mpati, Nyange and Bibwe, located in the Masisi territory in the eastern province of North Kivu, to look into claims that up to 4,000 fighters belonging to the armed group known as the Forces Démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda(FDLR), were there, amongst other rumours.

Made up primarily of ethnic Hutu fighters linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the FDLR has been active since late 1994, mainly in the eastern DRC.

Operating between 21-24 December last year, the evaluation team was composed of members of MONUSCO’s brigade in North Kivu, as well as staff dealing with disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration issues.

At the end of the fact-checking mission, the team was able to declare that several rumours were baseless. These included the one that claimed that 4,000 FDLR fighters and their families had arrived in the location of Kazibake; another which asserted the presence of two white helicopters without UN signage in the area between Nyange and Lwama on 13 December; a rumour which claimed that a new FDLR commander named ‘Bakota’ had arrived in Kivuye; and a rumour that weapons and munitions were being supplied to the FDLR.

However, according to MONUSCO, the team did confirm the presence of FDLR forces in several places and villages in the Bashali and Mpati areas. It noted that these fighters had been in these locations since April 2012, as part of their efforts to avoid the advance of another armed group, the Mai Mai Rahiya Mutomboki.

The fact-checking team also confirmed that the FDLR and other groups are present in the Bibwe-Kitso-Nyange area, leading to concerns over the protection of the civilian population there as these groups are said to be demanding illegal taxes and making the agricultural production cycle more difficult.

MONUSCO has urged national and local authorities to take appropriate measures to help these civilians. Its peacekeepers have previously conducted joint operations with the DRC national army to limit the impact of such armed groups, including the FDLR.

According to the peacekeeping mission’s estimates, there are no more than a few hundred FDLR fighters present in the region.

MONUSCO has 6,700 and 4,000 troops in the provinces of North and South Kivu, respectively. North Kivu alone is four times the size of Belgium.

Source: UN News Centre

DR Congo M23 rebels placed under UN sanctions

1 Jan

1 January 2013

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on leaders of the M23 rebel movement in DR Congo.

M23 rebels mutinied from the Congolese army in April in eastern DRC

Under the measures, those linked to the group will have their assets frozen and be barred from travel. Similar measures were taken against Rwandan FDLR rebels.

Made up of deserters from the army, the M23 captured Goma – on DRC’s eastern border with Rwanda – from government and UN troops last month.

It later withdrew from the city, following international condemnation.

The New Year’s Eve sanctions come the day before Rwanda joins the Security Council for a two-year term.

The UN and DR Congo government accuse Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels, an allegation they strongly deny.

Rwanda is widely seen as having backed armed groups in the east of DR Congo as a way to fight Hutu rebels who fled there after the genocide of the 1990s.

It has been accused of using militias as proxies in an on-going battle for the region, which is rich in minerals. The Rwandan government strenuously denies the accusations.

The M23 rebellion started when a militia that had been absorbed into the Congolese army mutinied and went on the rampage in the eastern part of the country.

Since then nearly half a million people have been displaced by fighting between the M23 and the army.

Source: BBC

U.S. under pressure over Rwanda involvement in Congo fighting

21 Dec

December 20, 2012

As evidence mounts of Rwandan backing of eastern Congo rebels, pressure is on the U.S. to cut aid for the regime.

A youth identified as a 16-year-old corporal in the Rwandan armed forces sits with other prisoners in Kinshasha, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government accuses Rwanda of supporting rebels fighting in eastern Congo. (Junior D. Kannah / AFP/Getty Images / December 11, 2012)

GOMA, Congo — It was not the bullet lodged in the officer’s gut, or the botched operation he’d had in a field hospital, that made the case so difficult for doctors in a Goma hospital.

It was trying to save the life of a Rwandan officer injured in the recent Congolese battle for the eastern city when Rwanda’s government insisted it wasn’t involved in the Goma fighting.

Doctors were convinced the officer would die if he wasn’t sent home to Rwanda, where he could get better medical care.

“His family in the military in Rwanda came and took him from here,” Dr. Jo Lusi, founder of the Heal Africa Hospital, said in an interview last month. He said the hospital treats wounded people from all military groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The move apparently infuriated the Rwandan military. “They said, ‘Why did you allow this [officer] to go to Rwanda? If you take back wounded to Rwanda, it’s like proof,’ ” Lusi said. The Rwandan government has long denied it is supporting rebels in eastern Congo, its neighbor.

That assertion conflicts with the reports of outside observers. A November report by United Nations experts on the conflict in eastern Congo said Rwandan authorities had frequently facilitated the evacuation of casualties to Rwanda. It accused the regime of Rwandan President Paul Kagame of arming and commanding a group known as M23, associated with war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda. The British government said it had “compelling” evidence of such a link.

“The government of Rwanda continues to violate the [U.N.] arms embargo by providing direct military support to the M23 rebels, facilitating recruitment, encouraging and facilitating desertions from the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and providing arms, ammunition, intelligence and political advice,” the report says. “The de facto chain of command of M23 includes Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and culminates with the minister of defense of Rwanda, Gen. James Kabarebe.”

Analysts say that without Rwandan forces, M23 would not have made its recent territorial gains. In a report leaked this month, the U.N. experts alleged that Rwandan forces took part in M23’s October attack and capture of Goma.

“If it was difficult before, now it is almost impossible to justify this belligerence from Kagame’s government,” Congo analyst Jason Stearns said in a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine.

Critics and human rights groups have criticized the Obama administration’s support for Rwanda despite evidence of chronic interference in Congo, where conflicts have killed more than 5 million people. However, there are signs of change in Washington’s position. President Obama called Kagame this week and asked him to end support for any rebel groups in Congo, according to a White House statement.

Rebels tied to M23 have perpetrated atrocities and human rights abuses, including recruitment of child soldiers, among them girls, the burning of houses and the killing of hundreds of people in ethnically motivated attacks, according to Human Rights Watch and the U.N. report. Dozens of forced recruits and prisoners of war were executed by M23, the report alleges.

Human Rights Watch also reported in September that M23 rebels were involved in killings, rape and forced recruitment of child soldiers, and summary executions of men and boys who tried to escape forced recruitment. The group has called for sanctions against Rwandan officials it says are responsible for backing the movement.

Human rights advocates have strongly criticized Susan E. Rice, American ambassador to the U.N., saying she was among those most responsible for America’s support for a government that continues to fuel the Congolese conflict.

Rice, who is close to Kagame, met with British and French diplomats in New York in October to discuss the crisis in eastern Congo, according to another article in Foreign Policy magazine last month. She also strongly opposed a push by France’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, for the U.N. to implicate Rwanda as a supporter of the rebels and hold up the threat of sanctions, according to the article.

“Gerard, it’s eastern Congo,” Rice said, according to the article. “If it were not the M23 killing people, it would be some other armed groups.”

America has long held that it’s better to work with Kagame than to alienate him with sanctions, but critics see the chronic fighting in eastern Congo as proof that protecting the Rwandan president from international censure hasn’t worked. Obama made his call a week after 15 prominent think tanks and rights organizations wrote him saying that the policy of quiet diplomacy had failed to stop Rwanda from incursions into eastern Congo and support for rebel groups.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned M23 and issued sanctions against its Congolese leaders, including Ntaganda. Last month the council said further sanctions against M23 and its supporters would be considered — without naming Rwanda. Analysts accuse Rice of delaying the release of the U.N. report on the conflict and intervening to prevent a council resolution on the Congo crisis from naming Rwanda.

An October report by the International Crisis Group, a think tank, called on the international community to suspend assistance to Rwanda, which relies on foreign aid to support its budget, and to consider a weapons embargo against it.

The British government last month cut aid to Rwanda, citing evidence that the regime in Kigali, the capital, backed the M23 rebellion. The U.S. has also cut some military aid, but it continues to provide substantial assistance.

In June, Human Rights Watch reported that 200 to 300 Rwandans were recruited in their homeland in April and May and taken across the border to fight alongside M23 forces. “Rwandan military officials have continued to recruit by force or under false pretenses young men and boys, including under the age of 15, in Rwanda to augment the M23’s ranks. Recruitment of children under age 15 is a war crime and contravenes Rwandan law,” it said in a later report, in September.

Rice’s intervention to protect Rwanda left Kagame’s government confident that international criticism would be minimal, according to a Rwandan official quoted in Stearns’ article.

“The question is not whether Rwanda is the Beelzebub or the savior of Central Africa; it is neither,” Stearns wrote. “But given the gravity of the crisis, and the significant support the United States was providing to the Rwandan government, simply giving Kigali a pass for repeated mass abuses was unacceptable and sent the wrong signal.”

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Source: Los Angeles Times

Obama tells Rwanda: end DRC rebel support

19 Dec

December 19, 2012 2:42PM

US President Barack Obama has called on Rwandan President Paul Kagame to end all support for rebels in the conflict-wracked Democratic Republic of Congo.

The White House issued the strongly worded statement about the leaders’ call after Washington imposed sanctions on two top leaders of the M23 rebel group, saying they had used child soldiers and singled out children as targets.

In his telephone conversation with Kagame, Obama “underscored that any support to the rebel group M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace”, the White House said on Tuesday.

Obama stressed to Kagame “the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC, abiding by the recent commitments he made … and reaching a transparent and credible political agreement that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others” who committed rights abuses, it said.

The DR Congo government has been battling the M23, former army soldiers who UN experts say are backed by Rwanda, since they launched a mutiny in April.

Several of the group’s leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities.

Obama called for a political agreement in DR Congo that “addresses the underlying regional security, economic and governance issues while upholding the DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The White House said he had delivered the same message to DRC President Joseph Kabila.

During their talks, Obama and Kagame also discussed the DRC’s “longstanding governance problems”, according to the White House.

“President Obama welcomed President Kagame’s commitment to moving forward in finding a peaceful solution for eastern DRC,” it added.

Also on Tuesday, the United States launched a fresh appeal for the arrest and prosecution of two rebel leaders from Rwanda and DR Congo wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Sylvestre Mudacumura, the head of Rwanda’s main Hutu rebel group and DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda, an ex-general who spurred the ongoing mutiny in the east, are both the subject of outstanding ICC warrants.

Source: The Australian