U.N. renews Congo peacekeepers amid Rwanda tensions

UNITED NATIONS Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:32pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council renewed a peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday and demanded an end to "outside support" for a mutiny in the country's east after U.N. experts accused top Rwandan military officials of involvement.

The eastern Congo province of North Kivu has been swept by waves of violence since March, after hundreds of former rebels defected from the army in support of a renegade general, Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

An addendum to a recent report by U.N. experts found "substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC." Rwanda has repeatedly denied the allegations.

A Security Council resolution - unanimously adopted on Wednesday by the 15-member body to renew a long-running DRC peacekeeping force for another year - did not name Rwanda and instead condemned "all outside support to all armed groups and demands that all forms of support to them cease immediately."

It also "demands that all armed groups ... immediately cease all forms of violence and human rights abuses against the civilian population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular against women and children, including rape and other forms of sexual abuse and child recruitment, and demobilize."

The renewed fighting in North Kivu province was partly triggered by President Joseph Kabila's announcement that he would arrest former rebel Ntaganda, who was integrated into the army along with other insurgents as part of a 2009 peace deal.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has sought Ntaganda's arrest since 2006 on charges of conscripting child soldiers for his rebel militia. The court announced new charges in May, including murder, ethnic persecution and rape.

The U.N. Security Council resolution stressed "the importance of the Congolese government actively seeking to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country" and "calls upon MONUSCO (the U.N. peacekeeping force) to support the Congolese authorities."

The current U.N. peacekeeping force has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than a decade and is made up of some 17,000 troops.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo on Monday condemned "disingenuous" claims that high-ranking Rwandan officials were backing the mutiny in DRC and raised doubts about the effectiveness of the U.N. peacekeepers.

"It's important to demand accountability. This large force (MONUSCO) with so much money, why is it that we still have instability in the region?" Mushikiwabo told a news conference in New York. "The objective has not been fulfilled so clearly there is a problem."

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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