August 30, 2013

DRC CRISIS: Rwanda Officers Fueling Violence – UN

Rwandan military officers are fueling deadly violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations has said.
UN forces in Congo (file photo)
UN forces in Congo (file photo)

The UN said on Thursday it had “consistent and credible reports” of Rwandan troops entering Congo to back March 23 movement (M23) rebels fighting against the Congolese army and UN troops.

Deputy UN peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in eastern Congo. He told the Security Council that Rwandan soldiers had assisted the rebels, according to the diplomats.

The UN and Kinshasa have accused Rwanda and Uganda of helping the rebels in Congo. Rwanda and Uganda have repeatedly denied the charges that they are backing the M23, but Kigali and Kampala have never publicly condemned the militia, which occupied the city of Goma in eastern Congo for 10 days last November.

On Thursday, the Congolese army forces backed by new United Nations intervention brigade shelled M23 rebels near Goma.

The Intervention Brigade has been given a stronger mandate by the Security Council to launch offensive operations against armed groups in eastern Congo.

Earlier on Thursday, Rwanda accused the Congolese army, the FARDC, of shelling into its territory, adding that such “provocation” could no longer be tolerated.

A Rwandan woman was killed and her baby injured, reports said.

However, the UN mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, has seen only M23 rebels firing artillery into neighboring Rwanda, Mulet said.

“MONUSCO has not witnessed any shelling by the FARDC into Rwanda. These are areas where FARDC are not present,” Mulet was quoted as saying.

On February 8, leaders from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) approved the deployment of a special intervention force to Congo.

On March 28, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, which not only renewed the mandate of MONUSCO for one year, but also endorsed the 4,000-strong Intervention Brigade, which consists of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian soldiers.

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.

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