NAIROBI (Reuters) - Rwanda dismissed on Tuesday U.S. charges that it was supporting M23 rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and said leveling accusations would not help pacify the region.
Western donors halted some aid to Rwanda last year after U.N. experts said Kigali was backing rebels in eastern Congo, a region racked by fighting since the 1990s that has in part been fuelled by a struggle to control rich mineral deposits there.
In a report last month, U.N. experts said M23 continued to recruit fighters in Rwanda with the aid of sympathetic Rwanda military officers, prompting Washington to say it was “deeply concerned” and to call for Rwanda to stop offering backing.
“Those whose policy is to keep pulling countries of the region into a conflict that is not of their making, we don’t think that is helpful,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said. “Scapegoating is not going to help DRC.”
When asked if that amounted to a denial, she told Reuters in Nairobi: “I think my comment is very clear. There are many complex issues in Congo and those have to be looked at with a view to try to reach a peaceful situation in DRC.”
Rwanda has in the past denied charges it backed the M23.
Mushikiwabo was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of ministers from the Great Lakes region in the Kenyan capital, which included discussions about eastern Congo and regional efforts to broker peace between the rebel group and Kinshasa.
“What Rwanda is saying is there is no reason whatsoever for Rwanda to want instability outside its borders,” she said.
“The conflict in DRC has to do with many actors and many many players,” the Rwandan minister said. “Rwanda continues to do everything it can to reach that state of peace.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week led a U.N. Security Council debate on the Great Lakes and urged 11 African nations which signed a February deal brokered by the United Nations on ending fighting to respect Congo’s sovereignty.
Alongside that peace initiative, Uganda has been hosting talks between Kinshasa and the M23 group.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told Reuters a draft deal had been given to Kinshasa and the rebels, and that representatives from both sides were expected to meet soon in the Ugandan capital to discuss it. She did not give a date.
But another delegate at the Nairobi meeting said the two sides remained far apart and little progress was being made in the Kampala talks.
The United Nations has deployed a 3,000-member U.N. Intervention Brigade to fight and disarm rebels in eastern Congo. The brigade is part of a 17,000-strong peacekeeping force, which has been stretched thin by the M23 rebellion.
Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alistair Lyon