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UN experts find broad Rwandan involvement in eastern DR of Congo conflict

UN experts find broad Rwandan involvement in eastern DR of Congo conflict

A United Nations expert Group investigating the weapons embargo against militias in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has found that Rwanda supported dissident military leaders in the area and violated the ban directly and indirectly.

In a report to the UN Security Council released today, the Group of Experts says shortly after the early June confrontation in the DRC town of Bukavu between the national Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the troops of dissident Col. Jules Mutebutsi, “the Group travelled in two teams at different times to the Rwandan border area of Cyangugu and directly witnessed and documented Rwanda’s non-compliance with the sanctions regime.”

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told journalists that the Rwandan government had rejected the report and a way of discussing it with President Paul Kagame had to be found.

"For the time being, we haven't had an opportunity to do that," he said. "I hope that a detailed response will be forthcoming in writing so we can study exactly what happened."

The four-member Group also calls on Uganda to “consider investigating localized complicity or involvement of Ugandan authorities and agents in certain border areas and restrict the provision of armed escorts, official transportation and other advantages to Ituri armed group leaders, except in the framework of international peace negotiations.”

It acknowledges that a major problem facing the arms embargo regime is that the weak border controls of the nine countries neighbouring the DRC “allow for readily available weapons to flow into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they are recycled.”

Next week, the Security Council will discuss the renewal of the mandate of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), which expires at the end of this month.

Members of the Rwandan military had forced more than two dozen young men in Rwanda’s Cyangugu camp, run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to join Colonel Mutebutsi’s troops, but, under pressure from the men’s families and the refugee agency, had returned them to the camp, the Group says.

The whereabouts of other young men rounded up in and around the Cyangugu market is not known, according to the report.

Still other young men testified that Rwandan officials had offered them the equivalent of $100 or mobile phones to join Colonel Mutebutsi's forces in Kamanyola, DRC, the Group’s report says.

“It may be recalled that from approximately 2 to 9 June, Mutebutsi’s and [Gen. Laurent] Nkunda’s forces systematically looted areas of Bukavu, including $1 million to $3 million from the Central Bank, giving them ample cash for further recruitment, as well as for the payment and supply of troops.”

The Rwandan Government said when Colonel Mutebutsi fled to Rwanda from Kamanyola, it disarmed his troops. The Group of Experts, however, “was denied permission by the Rwandan regional commander to view Mutebutsi’s weapons,” though “it is highly likely that [his heavy weaponry] is in storage in Rwanda.”

Young Rwandan men who had been through the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and resettlement process in the DRC testified that after they were repatriated they were sent back to the DRC “with the complicity of Rwandan immigration officers,” to join the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (RCD) of dissident General Nkunda.

In Gihembe camp in Byumba, Rwanda, in the months before the looting of Bukavu, “in the presence of Rwandan officials, Nkunda personally requested that refugees enrol and conveyed to them that the time had come to continue warfare inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo against the Kinshasa Government,” the experts say.

Among its many recommendations to the Security Council, the Group calls for tightening border security by creating a joint verification mechanism, which would include representatives of the African Union (AU), MONUC and other parties.

To improve MONUC’s capacity to monitor and interdict, the mission needs additional surveillance training, “a more robust deployment” at airports and border flashpoints,” as well as “lake patrol and air surveillance capabilities, including appropriate nocturnal, satellite, radar and photographic assets,” the Group says.