Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rwanda / Democratic Republic of the Congo

Gen. Bosco Ntaganda (AP)
UN Report Says Rwandans Recruited to Fight in Congo
By Josh Kron
The New York Times, May 28, 2012
"As the Democratic Republic of Congo teetered on the edge of civil war three and a half years ago, its tiny neighbor to the east, Rwanda, was accused of stirring the conflict by supporting a Congolese rebel leader. Now a leaked United Nations report says that Rwanda may be doing it again -- this time with that rebel leader's successor. The document, first reported by the BBC, was provided to The New York Times under the condition that it not be quoted verbatim. According to the report, dated this month, rebel soldiers who have defected told United Nations officials that they were Rwandans who had been sent across the border to fight in a mutiny in eastern Congo that has displaced tens of thousands of civilians. The report goes on to say that the Rwandan authorities have been seemingly complicit in recruiting soldiers for the new Congolese rebel leader, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a statement on Monday, Rwanda denied and condemned the accusations, calling them 'false and dangerous claims.' 'Rwanda has maintained from the outset that the current instability in the eastern DRC is a matter for the Congolese government and military,' the statement said. 'Rwanda's national interest is served by containing conflict and building deeper bonds of peace with our neighbors.' The relationship between Rwanda and Congo has long been considered crucial to the stability in one of Africa’s least stable regions, an area laid waste by militias over the last two decades. Tensions began soon after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutus. Many organizers of the genocide fled across the border and later established a Hutu rebel group in eastern Congo bent on overturning the Rwandan government. Various militias supported by neighboring countries have been organized in Congo over the years. Rwanda in particular was accused of supporting Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese rebel who is also an ethnic Tutsi, and his movement, known as the National Congress for the People's Defense, or the CNDP, which in 2008 threatened to overturn the Congolese government.
Mr. Nkunda was captured by Rwandan forces in early 2009, and under a peace agreement signed on March 23 of that year, the CNDP, with General Ntaganda as its new leader, was integrated into the Congolese Army, although it kept its own command structure largely intact. General Ntaganda was born in Rwanda, and like Mr. Nkunda, once had military ties to the government there. Although he was accused of orchestrating a massacre in eastern Congo as a rebel in 2008, General Ntaganda became a senior officer in the Congolese Army, working alongside the United Nations as well as Rwanda to subdue the Hutu rebels. But last month, President Joseph Kabila of Congo made an unusual public call for General Ntaganda's arrest, and pressure has mounted to extradite him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. About the same time, General Ntaganda mutinied, leading hundreds of his former followers back into open rebellion. The new rebel group is known as M23, after the date when the 2009 peace agreement was signed. Fighting between the rebels and the Congolese government has left an untold number dead, and more than 10,000 refugees have crossed into Rwanda and Uganda. [...]"

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