UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council agreed on Tuesday to publish a controversial document implicating Rwanda’s defense minister and several top military officials in backing an army mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, council diplomats said.
The evidence contained in an addendum to a recent report by U.N. experts is the strongest yet to indicate high-level support within Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government for the so-called M23 rebellion against Congolese forces that has caused thousands to flee their homes in the east of the DRC.
M23 is the name of a group of several hundred soldiers from the Congolese army that have rallied behind Bosco Ntaganda, a mutinous army general with past links to Rwanda who is sought for arrest by the DRC and wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.
Rwanda rejects the allegations.
Reuters had previously seen and reported on the minutes of a verbal briefing by the so-called Group of Experts on the allegations for the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee.
On Tuesday, Reuters obtained a copy of a more extensive 43-page document, the one the 15-nation council has agreed to release. Diplomats said it might take a few days for it to appear on the council’s Congo sanctions committee website.
“Over the course of its investigation since late 2011, the Group has found substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC,” the document said.
“The RDF (Rwandan army) has been providing military equipment, weapons, ammunition and general supplies to M23 rebels,” the addendum said, adding that senior Rwandan officials have been “directly involved” in generating political and financial support for M23.
A senior African diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the report “reflected very badly on Rwanda” and should be seen as a “wake-up call for Kagame’s government.”
Kinshasa had accused permanent Security Council member the United States of blocking the release of the findings of the U.N. Group of Experts - an independent panel that monitors violations of the Congo sanctions regime. The U.S. mission to the United Nations vehemently denied the allegation.
Diplomats said the U.S. and other delegations on the council wanted to postpone the release of the addendum so Rwanda could respond to accusations likely to test ties between the ex-foes.
Originally the addendum was not to be released until next month, but diplomats said the allegations about the report being blocked had motivated council members to expedite its release.
The experts’ regular interim report has already been released, though it does not touch on the Rwanda allegations.
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 DRC’s eastern hills. But this time it has strenuously denied being involved.
The June 13 briefing of the U.N. sanctions committee said the UN Group of Experts had evidence that members of the Rwandan army had entered the DRC to reinforce rebel positions and had provided logistical support and safe passage for Ntaganda and his forces in Rwanda, the notes said.
The document listed those Rwandan officials supporting M23 as Defense Minister James Kabarebe; chief of defense staff Charles Kayonga; and General Jacques Nziza, a military adviser to Kagame. Kabarebe, the report said, “has often been in direct contact with M23 members ... to coordinate military activities.”
Rwanda denies the allegations. On Monday, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo condemned “disingenuous” claims that high-ranking Rwandan officials were backing an army mutiny in the DRC as a bid to make Rwanda a scapegoat for its former enemy’s problems.
An M23 officer contacted by Reuters last week denied receiving Rwandan support, adding that any such backing would have allowed them to gain ground in the battle with regular Congolese forces.
Additional reporting by Jonny Hogg in Kinshasa; Editing by Eric Walsh and David Brunnstrom