A leaked United Nations special report identifies Rwanda Defence Minister, General James Kabarebe, as the commanding officer of a major rebel movement in the DRC, indicating that President Paul Kagame and his government are behind much of the instability in the SADC member state.
SADC Heads of State and Government in August said Rwanda must stop fomenting instability in the DRC, with President Kagame repeatedly denying his involvement in the emergence of a rebel group calling itself March 23 (M23) and which has been fighting government forces for months.
But now a second UN-commissioned report has fingered President Kagame, who remains a key US and British ally in the region since they tacitly backed his and Uganda’s sponsorship of rebels in the last DRC war in 1998.
The UN experts report singles out General Kabarebe as the brains behind the M23 rebel group, which has been fighting government forces in North and South Kivu since April this year.
The group started as a rag tag collection of mutineers from the national army, but it has rapidly metamorphosed into a well-organised and significantly equipped military force of more than 2 000 soldiers potent enough to face off with DRC army deployments and securing strategic points in the traditionally volatile eastern region of the country.
The M23 rebel group is ostensibly led by the renegade general, Bosco Ntaganda, who is known as “Terminator”. Gen Ntaganda mutinied from the DRC army earlier this year and is on the International Criminal Court’s wanted list.
Rwanda Defence Minister Gen Kabarebe is nailed in the report as directly involved in providing M23 with military support. The report adds that he has in the past facilitated – and still could be facilitating – recruitment of fighters, transfer of weapons and ammunition, and use of his contacts in the DRC army to organise serving soldiers to mutiny and join the rebels.
“M23’s defacto chain of command … culminates with the Rwandan Minister of Defence General James Kabarebe,” the UN report states.