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UN extends peacekeeping in DRC, demands end to Rwandan support for rebels

In renewing a peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a year on Wednesday, the UN demanded an end to “outside support” for a mutiny there that it blames on top Rwandan military officials.

The resolution to renew the long-running DRC peacekeeping force, unanimously adopted on Wednesday by the 15-member, does not name Rwanda.

However, Rwanda is suspected in recent violence in the North Kivu province of eastern Congo, where hundreds of former rebels have defected from the DRC army to support Bosco Ntaganda, a renegade general wanted by the International Criminal Court for conscripting child soldiers for his rebel militia.

An unpublished annex to an interim report by the UN Group of Experts cited “substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials”  for the M23 rebel group linked to Ntaganda in the eastern DRC, according to Reuters.

According to the Associated Press, the soon-to-be released report specifies “the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory” and recruitment of “Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants” by Rwanda for M23.

M23 are former rebels from the Tutsi ethnic group which took power in Congo in 1994 after more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been slaughtered by Hutu militias in neighboring Rwanda. More than a million Hutus fled across the border into Congo. Rwanda twice invaded to take action against Hutu militias.

A 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping force has been in the DRC for more than a decade.

The latest violence stems from rebel claims that the government had failed to hold up their end of the 2009 peace deal that integrated them into the army, the AP wrote.

Any support for the rebels would be in violation of UN sanctions and an arms embargo against DRC.

However, Rwanda has denied that it was backing armed groups in DRC, and on Wednesday described as “deeply regrettable” the UN’s decision to publish the allegations.

A separate Reuters report cited Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo as saying: “This is a one-sided preliminary document based on partial findings and is still subject to verification.” 

On Monday, Mushikiwabo reportedly said that Rwanda was being used as a “scapegoat” for its neighbor’s bloody conflict, which stems from the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rwanda is vying for a spot on the UN Security Council next year and the report could jeopardize its chances, Reuters cited Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa director for International Crisis Group, as saying.

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