NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States on Monday called on Rwanda to publicly denounce rebels who have seized swathes of eastern Congo in an appeal that highlighted its frustration over Kigali’s alleged role in its neighbor’s conflict.
Rwanda has repeatedly denied supporting the M23 rebel movement in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, blaming Kinshasa and major world powers for failing to tackle the problems that led to the uprising.
But it has not so far publicly condemned the M23 movement and donors, including the United States, one of Kigali’s closest allies, have slashed aid to the tiny central African nation as the result of a United Nations report which concluded Rwandan officials were supplying the rebels with weapons and logistics.
“It is not and should not be too much to ask the government of Rwanda to denounce a rebel group that is preying on the lives of people or undermining the stability of a neighbor,” Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in a teleconference on Monday.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes by fighting since the M23, which has links to Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, took up arms in April.
“The M23 is led by individuals who are ICC indictees, is led by people who carried out serious human rights violations so it should not be too much to ask the government of Rwanda to do this,” said Carson.
The rebels say they are fighting to try to ensure full implementation of a 2009 peace deal that ended a previous rebellion which U.N. experts said was also backed by Rwanda.
Contacted for reaction after Carson’s comments, a Rwandan foreign ministry official directed Reuters to comments from President Paul Kagame denying accusations his country backed the rebels made during a U.N. meeting in New York last week.
Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly but no breakthrough was made.
Kagame last week said that “solving the crisis will be impossible if the international community continues to define the issue erroneously.”
A proposed African force that would be neutral and tasked with eliminating all rebels operating in eastern Congo has not yet materialized.
Carson said Kabila also had a duty to ensure peace and stability in his own country but Western nations have lined up to punish Rwanda, whose army fought two wars in Congo during the 1990s, for meddling in its neighbor’s latest conflict.
Reporting by Richard Lough; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Osborn