Congo asks U.N. to sanction Rwanda officials for rebel support
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo said on Friday it has asked the U.N. Security Council to place sanctions on Rwanda's defense minister and two top military officials for backing an army mutiny in the country's east.
M23 rebels, who have links to Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, have been fighting government soldiers in North Kivu province since April, displacing some 470,000 civilians.
Congo's Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda met with the members of the Security Council and the body's sanctions committee this week to discuss a report on the country's security issues by an U.N. expert panel.
"We believe that all the consequences must be drawn from the conclusions in the report of the group of experts and that sanctions should eventually be envisaged," Tshibanda told a news conference at the United Nations.
"We also believe, and this is what we have requested, is that these sanctions also relate to foreign personalities in addition to personalities in the Democratic Republic of Congo that are involved in this situation," he said.
Tshibanda said the foreigners named in the U.N. experts report should be targeted.
The report accused Rwanda's Defence Minister James Kaberebe; chief of defense staff Charles Kayonga; and General Jacques Nziza, a military adviser to President Paul Kagame, of being "in constant contact with M23." [ID:nL5E8HLF7S]
DRC WANTS UN FORCE TO ACT
Kigali has repeatedly rejected the allegations and accused the U.N. report's authors of failing to verify their information or consult Rwandan authorities. Rwanda Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also met with U.N. Security Council members and the sanctions committee this week to defend her country.
Major donors the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany have all suspended some of their financial aid to Rwanda over its alleged backing of the rebels.
Rwanda has repeatedly backed armed movements in its eastern neighbor during the last two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo's eastern hills.
Tshibanda also echoed earlier calls by Congo's President Joseph Kabila for a new mandate for the country's U.N. peacekeeping mission that would include stamping out the armed groups that have destabilized the east for nearly two decades.
The U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, has more than 17,000 troops, but the force is stretched thin across a nation the size of Western Europe and already struggles to fulfill its current mandate of protecting civilians.
"It is important that the mandate of MONUSCO be amended and be strengthened," the foreign affairs minister told reporters.
"Right now it does not have the mandate of monitoring and protecting the border, it does not have the mandate of neutralizing, eradicating the negative forces," he said.
U.N. helicopter gunships frequently back up outgunned government forces but even that firepower failed to prevent rebels from taking several towns last month.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)