In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council this week, Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, Eugene-Richard Gasana, said that UN intervention brigade commanders in Congo met with rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The FDLR is made up of the remnants of Hutu fanatics who committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also wrote a letter to the UN secretary general about the same issue.
In a letter to the Rwandan foreign minister, Ban “notes with deep concern the allegations that meetings have taken place between senior commanders of the MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade and the (FDLR),” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Friday.
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has 17,000 peacekeepers in Congo — the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world.
On March 28, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, which not only renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo for one year, but also created a special intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups, above all March 23 movement (M23) rebels in eastern Congo.
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army.
Ban said there was nothing substantial thus far to back up the allegations of the Rwandan government.
“Following initial inquiries within MONUSCO, (Ban) has no reason to believe that senior commanders of the Force Intervention Brigade would meet with the FDLR to discuss matters related to their ‘tactical and strategic collaboration’,” Ban said in the letter, according to Nesirky.
The UN spokesman added that it was “important to ensure that these allegations are properly addressed… (and) has thus requested that the Rwandan government share as soon as possible any concrete evidence it may have to substantiate these claims.”
The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.