Leaks from a an interim UN report suggest Rwanda played a central role in training and arming a rebel group in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), initiating a large-scale mutiny by rebel-factions in the country.
According to the leaked document, senior Rwandan military officials encouraged a mutiny in neighbouring DRC, by providing rebels with arms and ammunition.
The rebels, known as the M23 or March 23 movement – a group of roughly 300 – are Congolese defectors from the military.
The rebel group is led by General Bosco Ntaganda, also known as “The Terminator,” a prominent African rebel who has fought for several militias and is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes including the recruitment of children under the age of 15 into armed groups.
The east of the country has been suffering from mounting violence since the release of the report.
If the UN’s findings are proved to be correct, not only would Rwanda be implicated in state-sponsored violence in another state, they would also be in violation of the UN Security Council’s arms embargo – and other UN Security Council sanctions – on the DRC.
The arms embargo was established in 2003, prohibiting the flow of illicit arms into the hands of anyone but the government of the DRC. Violating the embargo could result in travel bans being levied against Rwandan officials as well as the freezing of assets.
Field research by Human Rights Watch suggests Rwandan officials have been recruiting rebels to join the M23 movement – some of whom were boys under the age of 18 recruited by force in Musanze and Rubavu – in order to start a mutiny in the Rutshuru territory of eastern Congo.
The violence has escalated in recent weeks after Congolese government forces moved to the east near the border of Rwanda and Burundi in response to the mutiny, according to United States campaign group “Enough.”
DRC Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raymond Tshibanda, wrote a letter to the UN Security Council, warning that the evidence implicating Rwanda of inciting rebels against the DRC was “evolving dangerously towards a rupture of the peace between the neighbours.”
Tshibanda also asked of the Security Council to remind Rwanda of its international obligations. Rwandan officials strongly refuted the accusations, accusing the UN report of spreading false allegations against the war-torn African country.
Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, said the “allegations” also threatened the personal safety of Rwandans living in the DRC.
“Last week, 11 Rwandan men were beaten, tortured, some of them burned and then dumped at the border post between Rwanda and the DRC,” Mushikawabo told reporters.
Violence between the two African states has resurfaced several times since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
After the genocide committed by the Hutus against the Tutsis in 1994, Tutsi rebels came to power in Rwanda and thus several Hutus fled to neighboring DRC in fear of retaliation.
Both countries have been mired in conflict with one another since, including the Great War of Africa which broke out in 1998. A truce was reached between the nations in 2009.
Fears the tension due to the accusations in the leaked report will fracture the peace resurfaced yesterday when several agencies, and nations, cautioned to await the release of the full, official report.