DRC warns of more fighting with Rwanda

2012-06-21 10:21
Two March 23 Movement (M23) rebels patrol on Kavumu hill in North Kivu, eastern DRC where the rebel movement is embroiled in cat-and-mouse clashes. (Melanie Gouby, AFP)

Two March 23 Movement (M23) rebels patrol on Kavumu hill in North Kivu, eastern DRC where the rebel movement is embroiled in cat-and-mouse clashes. (Melanie Gouby, AFP)

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New York - The Democratic Republic of Congo warned on Wednesday that the presence of Rwandan fighters in an anti-government mutiny could unleash new hostilities between the neighbours.

DR Congo Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda said in a letter to the UN Security Council that evidence of Rwandan involvement meant the crisis in the east of his country was "evolving dangerously toward a rupture of the peace" between the two.

Tshibanda demanded that the 15-nation Security Council "remind Rwanda of its international obligations and demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of armed forces members hiding in the ranks of the rebellion".

The DR Congo government has stepped up complaints in recent weeks about Rwanda's link to the mutineers - followers of Bosco Ntaganda, a renegade general wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Fighters holed up in national park

Rwanda, which has regularly been involved in affairs in DR Congo since Rwanda's 1994 genocide, strongly denies supporting Ntaganda or the rebels.

A report by a UN group of experts on DR Congo has prepared a report for a UN sanctions committee which diplomats says supports the accusations against Rwanda.

An estimated few hundred fighters are now holed up in the Virunga national park in eastern Congo, near the frontier with Rwanda, according to the government.

Tshibanda said between 200 and 300 of the rebels were recruited in Rwanda and some were minors.

"It appears that Rwandan territory was used to prepare and perpetrate a conspiracy which, having started as a simple mutiny, is evolving dangerously toward a rupture of the peace between two countries," the minister said in the letter.

The rebel fighters were incorporated into the DR Congo army in 2009 as part of a peace deal in the troubled, mineral-rich eastern region. They quit the army this year in a dispute over salaries and poor conditions.

US blocking report - HRW

UN Security Council sanctions experts have prepared a report which DR Congo ambassador Ileka Atoki said "documented military support coming from Rwanda to the so-called mutineers".

Atoki and Human Rights Watch said the US was blocking the report. The US has strongly denied the charge.

"Weapons, ammunition and recruits are coming in from Rwanda to the mutineers on a daily basis," the ambassador said. "The people of eastern Congo cannot wait a day longer and certainly cannot wait till the United States and other council members find a convenient way to protect Rwanda's reputation."

"The US and other Security Council members should be doing everything they can to expose violations of UN sanctions and the arms embargo, including by Rwanda, and not attempt to cover them up," said Philippe Bolopion Human Rights Watch's UN representative.

Studying findings

"The US is not blocking a report by the DRC group of experts," Payton Knopf, US mission deputy spokesperson, said in a statement.

At a UN sanctions committee meeting last week, "the United States asked a number of relevant questions and is carefully studying the information presented by the experts in anticipation of Council discussions on June 26," Knopf added.

"We and the other members of the committee are studying the findings carefully and will continue to discuss their implications once the report is public," he added.

A Security Council diplomat said the report would be published and that UN efforts now are being concentrated on making DR Congo and Rwanda work together to end the rebel threat.

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