UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Rwanda is accusing the United Nations’ new intervention brigade in eastern Congo of discussing collaboration with Hutu rebels linked to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, thereby jeopardizing regional peace efforts.
In a letter to U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo in her role as this month’s president of the U.N. Security Council that was released on Monday, Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said MONUSCO intervention brigade commanders have met with FDLR rebels, the remnants of Hutu killers who carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.
U.N. peacekeeping troops have been in mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than a decade. The world body’s MONUSCO force there is currently 17,000 strong, the largest force of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the world.
The complex conflict has dragged on, killing millions of people through violence, famine and disease since the 1990s. That has led the United Nations to create a new “intervention brigade” - part of the MONUSCO force but assigned the task of not merely peacekeeping but taking active steps to neutralize rebel groups.
The force, comprised of troops from South Africa and Tanzania as well as soldiers from Malawi due in Congo later this month or in August, has already begun patrolling and is approaching full strength.
“Rwanda has credible, reliable and detailed information that various forms of tactical and strategic collaboration with the FDLR were discussed during those meetings,” Gasana said in the letter.
“Their actions, implicating senior United Nations commanders picking sides among the very armed groups whose military activities they are meant to deter, are of serious concern,” he wrote.
Gasana also supported an allegation contained in the latest report by the U.N. Group of Experts that units of the Congolese army (FARDC) have been cooperating with the FDLR.
The Congolese government disputed Gasana’s claims.
“These are allegations which are not backed up by any proof,” Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told a news conference in Kinshasa. “Rwanda is making gratuitous accusations to justify the attacks they are carrying out at the moment.”
Mende said Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels who clashed with the Congolese army at Mutaho on Sunday. Fighting continued on Monday.
Gasana said FARDC-FDLR collaboration often occurs with the knowledge - or even support - of MONUSCO intervention brigade contingents.
“We have reliable information that indicates several instances of FDLR units or commanders being integrated in FARDC commando units near the border with Rwanda,” the Rwandan envoy said. “In some instances, certain Force Intervention Brigade commanders are aware and supportive of such instances.”
The Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions for Congo, also said in its interim report that M23 rebels in Congo continue to recruit fighters in neighboring Rwanda with the aid of sympathetic Rwandan military officers. Rwanda has denied the group’s allegations, accusing it of bias.
Gasana said that “there are increased patterns of large quantities of weapons and ammunition being delivered to FDLR by FARDC officers, which have taken place with the knowledge and support of (MONUSCO) Force Intervention Brigade commanders.”
“The above-mentioned activities and patterns are developments that my government takes seriously, as they constitute a serious threat to the security of my country but also put into question the credibility of MONUSCO and its peacekeeping operations,” he said.
Gasana added that “any hidden agenda driven by political and/or economic interests” would undermine the push for peace in the region.
The U.N. peacekeeping department declined to comment.
Separately, the head of U.N. peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, told Reuters on Sunday in an interview in Paris that MONUSCO will soon have unarmed surveillance drones to monitor developments on the ground in eastern Congo.
Additional reporting by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya in Kinshasa; Editing by Will Dunham