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Kerry demands end to foreign backing for Congo rebels

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on July 25, 2013 in New York City
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C), arrives to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R), ahead of a meeting of the UN Security Council on July 25, 2013 in New York City. Kerry led calls at the United Nations for an end to foreign backing for rebel

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday led calls at the United Nations for an end to foreign backing for rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Without naming any country -- but in a message aimed at Rwanda -- Kerry told the UN Security Council the United States is "deeply concerned" about reports of new external support for M23 rebels battling government forces.

"I want to be emphatic here today, all parties must immediately end their support for armed rebel groups. All governments must hold human rights violators and abusers accountable," Kerry told a special meeting on the region where millions have died in conflict in the past two decades.

The 15-nation Security Council, which currently includes Rwanda, also agreed a statement calling for all countries to stay out of DR Congo affairs and support a UN-brokered regional peace accord signed by 11 countries in March.

France, Britain and other powers all called for an end to outside support for the rebels.

No minister or ambassador at the meeting mentioned Rwanda, which strongly denies any involvement. But the US State Department this week called on Rwanda to withdraw its forces from DR Congo and end its support for M23.

US Secretary of State John Kerry presides over a meeting of the UN Security Council on July 25, 2013 in New York City
US Secretary of State John Kerry presides over a meeting of the UN Security Council on July 25, 2013 in New York City. Kerry on led calls at the United Nations for an end to foreign backing for rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN experts have said Rwanda is helping the M23 rebels now massed around the key eastern city of Goma. Fighting around Goma in the past two weeks has left hundreds dead, according to diplomats.

Mary Robinson, the former Irish president who became the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region in March, told the meeting: "Sadly, there are credible reports of some activities in support of armed groups by different signatory parties to the framework."

Robinson said that in her four months in the post "not a day goes by without a report of killings, rape, sexual assault and displacement of people in eastern DRC."

She added: "What strikes me is the lack of outrage and horror at this daily toll. It has become the accepted normal."

Rwanda and DR Congo are both signatories to the UN-brokered peace and security framework signed in March in which countries agreed not to interfere in each others affairs. DR Congo in turn agreed to reform its security forces and take new efforts to spread government authority.

Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that for her country to secure its own long term stability it needed "a peaceful and prosperous Democratic Republic of the Congo.

FARDC Lieutenant Solomon Bangala sits on July 25, 2013 at a military courthouse in Goma before his trial
FARDC Lieutenant Solomon Bangala sits on July 25, 2013 at a military courthouse in Goma, before his trial, for having desecratied the corpse of a M23 rebel fighter during heavy fighting near Goma last week.

"And as long as conditions persist and allow more than 30 rebels groups to roam in eastern DRC with impunity, or as long as men and boys who see nothing in their future beyond crime violence and conflict such a transformation will remain beyond reach.

Mushikiwabo said that "profound and necessary change" is needed in DR Congo, where the army has also been accused of human rights abuses.

The UN is reviewing support for DR Congo army units accused of mass rapes and desecrating the bodies of captured rebels.

Rwanda says that the DR Congo army has colluded with Rwandan rebels who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon has called on the Rwandan government to give evidence of its allegations. But Mushikiwabo said: "It is a concern that needs to be addressed."

The Rwandan foreign minister also said that a new UN intervention brigade in eastern DR Congo that will soon have the use of surveillance drones, "must take great care to respect all relevant international laws and adhere strictly to their mandate."

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