Rwanda asks for U.N. report on Congo sanctions to be dismissed

UNITED NATIONS Fri Jan 17, 2014 3:46pm EST

A Congolese soldier from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) looks at their burning vehicle after an ambush near the village of Mazizi in North Kivu province January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

A Congolese soldier from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) looks at their burning vehicle after an ambush near the village of Mazizi in North Kivu province January 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Rwanda asked a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Friday to dismiss a report that says the defeated M23 rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo are still recruiting fighters in Rwanda and Congolese troops are involved in rights abuses.

The confidential report by independent experts, seen by Reuters last month, also said it had "credible information that sanctioned M23 leaders are moving freely in Uganda and that M23 continued to recruit in Rwanda." [ID:nL2N0JV20N]

The experts monitor U.N. sanctions on Congo and report on violations to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, which is made up of all 15 council members. The committee was meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the experts' report.

"Considering the many flaws indicated in this document, the U.N. Sanctions Committee should consider dismissing the Group of Experts' final report," Rwanda said in a seven-page document submitted to the committee, which was obtained by Reuters.

Rwanda, which just started its second year of a two-year term on the Security Council, said the allegations against it in the report "have no relevance in the current circumstances," and could undermine regional efforts to bring peace to the volatile, resource-rich eastern Congo.

"The Sanctions Committee should thus consider removing these allegations against Rwanda in the final report," it said.

The U.N. experts have repeatedly accused neighboring Rwanda of backing the 20-month rebellion by M23 in eastern Congo, a claim the Rwandan government has fiercely rejected. The U.N. Security Council has blacklisted M23.

Congolese troops and the U.N. peacekeeping mission - which includes a unique Intervention Brigade mandated to eliminate armed groups - defeated M23 in November and the group signed a peace deal with the Congo government last month.

But Martin Kobler, the top U.N. official in the Democratic Republic of Congo, warned on Monday that there were "credible reports of emerging M23 activities in Ituri in northeastern Congo." [ID:nL2N0KN1IZ]

M23 is one of dozens of rebel groups in eastern Congo. Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger in the region since the 1990s as armed groups have fought for control of the area's vast deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium.

'BLAME RWANDA'

In the document given to the committee, Rwanda said: "A clear pattern has been established whereby the Group of Experts seeks to entrench a 'blame Rwanda' narrative by endorsing any account that incriminates the government of Rwanda and dismissing those that exculpate or vindicate it."

"It should be made clear that the use of a U.N.-sanctioned mechanism to launch deliberate attacks against a U.N. member state through grave but unsubstantiated and damaging accusations without any credible evidence to back them are unacceptable," it said.

Uganda also wrote to the Security Council committee to deny accusations in the report that sanctioned M23 leaders were moving freely within Uganda and that most of the gold produced in Congo was traded in Uganda.

"It is difficult to understand why the group (of experts) came up with falsehoods and misconceived conclusions against Uganda in this way," Uganda's minister of state for international affairs, Okello Henry Oryem, wrote in a letter to the committee, also obtained by Reuters.

"The report in our view is obstructive in the ongoing efforts ... in bringing peace and stability to Democratic Republic of Congo," Oryem wrote.

Rwanda and Uganda both argued that they had cooperated with the U.N. experts and that information they had provided to the group had been ignored.

Several council diplomats said neither of Rwanda's requests to the committee were likely be successful. The committee works on the basis of consensus, which means it would only take an objection from one country to block Rwanda's requests.

Rwanda could go on to demand that the council place a hold on the report, which could relegate it to a kind of limbo and indefinitely prevent its official publication.

Theoretically, the Security Council could vote to publish it, but that would be unlikely if Kigali found support from council members like Russia and China, which have in the past delayed or prevented publication of U.N. experts' reports on other issues and repeatedly criticized U.N. experts' broad mandates.

In August, Rwanda blocked a joint U.S.-French proposal for the U.N. Sanctions Committee to impose U.N. sanctions on two senior commanders in the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo, arguing that the evidence against the men was weak.

Rwanda has repeatedly intervened in Congo, saying it had to hunt down the Hutu militia which fled after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda and Congo have fought two wars over the past two decades in eastern Congo.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)

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