The UN’s Group of Experts report on Rwandan support and backing of the M23 mutiny in Congo paints a very scary picture. M23 is a group of soilders and officers who have revolted against the central government in Kinshasa. Led by alleged war criminal Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda, M23 has been fighting in the Kivus region of Congo for several months now. Along with Laurent Nkunda and Sultani Makenga, the DRC and now the UN allege that M23 has been receiving direct support from the government of Rwanda including ammunition, arms, health care, fresh recruits, and training. The Group of Experts also alleges that Kigali was instrumental in starting the rebellion; hoping to dominate Congo as well as annex the Kivus, whose population has strong ethnic ties to the Tutsi dominated government in Rwanda. High level face to face meetings between M23 members and Rwandan military and intelligence officials have also allegedly taken place on a regular basis. Rwanda has long interfered in the internal politics of its large neighbor, as well as exploiting it vast mineral wealth in the east. The Unites States, which counts Rwanda as a close ally, is beloved to have been behind the lobbying effort at the UN to stop the report from coming out. For more detailed information on M23 and Congo in general check out Jason Stearns blog Congo Siasa
Below are excerpts from the report obtained by Colum Lynch and published in Foreign Policy Magazine:
Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group [of Experts] has gathered evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations committed by the Rwandan Government. These violations consist of the provision of material and financial support to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC, including the recently established M23, in contravention of paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 1807. The arms embargo and sanctions regimes violations include the following:
*Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory;
*Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23;
*Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23;
*Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23;
*Direct Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23;
*Support to several other armed groups as well as FARDC mutinies in the eastern Congo;
*Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals.
Over the course of its investigation since late 2011, the Group has found substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials to armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. Initially the RDF [Rwandan Defense Forces] appeared to establish these alliances to facilitate a wave of targeted assassinations against key FDLR [The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the armed remnants of Rwanda’s former genocidal government] officers, thus significantly weakening the rebel movement (see paragraphs 37 & 38 of interim report). However, these activities quickly extended to support for a series of post electoral mutinies within the FARDC [The Congolese Armed Forces] and eventually included the direct facilitation, through the use of Rwandan territory, of the creation of the M23 rebellion. The latter is comprised of ex-CNDP officers integrated into the Congolese army (FARDC) in January 2009. Since M23 established itself in strategic positions along the Rwandan border in May 2012, the Group has gathered overwhelming evidence demonstrating that senior RDF officers, in their official capacities, have been backstopping the rebels through providing weapons, military supplies, and new recruits.
In turn, M23 continues to solidify alliances with many other armed groups and mutineer movements, including those previously benefiting from RDF support. This has created enormous security challenges, extending from Ituri district in the north to Fizi territory in the south, for the already overstretched Congolese Army(FARDC). Through such arms embargo violations, Rwandan officials have also been in contravention of the sanctions regime’s travel ban and assets freeze measures, by including three designated individuals amongst their direct allies.
In an attempt to solve the crisis which this Rwandan support to armed groups had exacerbated, the governments of the DRC and Rwanda have held a series of high-level bilateral meetings since early April 2012. During these discussions, Rwandan officials have insisted on impunity for their armed group and mutineer allies, including ex-CNDP General Bosco Ntaganda, and the deployment of additional RDF units to the Kivus to conduct large-scale operations against the FDLR. The latter request has been repeatedly made despite the fact that: a) the RDF halted its unilateral initiatives to weaken the FDLR in late February; b) RDF Special Forces have already been deployed officially in Rutshuru territory for over a year; c) RDF operational units are periodically reinforcing the M23 on the battlefield against the Congolese army; d) M23 is directly and indirectly allied with several FDLR splinter groups; and e) the RDF is remobilizing previously repatriated FDLR to boost the ranks of M23.
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Elevated Standards of Evidence:
In light of the serious nature of these findings, the group has adopted elevated methodological standards. Since early April 2012, the Group has interviewed over 80 deserters of FARDC mutinies and Congolese armed groups, including from M23. Amongst the latter, the Group has interviewed 31 Rwandan nationals. Furthermore, the group has also photographed weapons and military equipment found in arms caches and on the battlefield, as well as obtained official documents and intercepts of radio communication. The Group has also consulted dozens of senior Congolese military commanders and intelligence officials as well as political and community leaders with intricate knowledge of development between DRC and Rwanda. Moreover, the Group has communicated regularly with several active participants of the ex-CNDP mutiny, the M23 rebellion, and other armed groups. Finally, while the Group’s standard methodology requires a minimum of three sources, assessed to be credible and independent of one another, it has raised this to five sources when naming specific individuals involved in these case of arms embargo and sanctions violations.
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Rwandan Support to M23:
Since the earliest stage of its inception, the Group documented a systematic pattern of military and political support provided to the M23 rebellion by Rwandan authorities. Upon taking control over the strategic position of Runyoni, along the Rwandan border with DRC, M23 officers opened two supply routes going from Runyoni to Kinigi or Njerima in Rwanda, which RDF officers used to deliver such support as troops, recruits, and weapons. The Group also found evidence that Rwandan officials mobilized ex-CNDP cadres and officers, North Kivu politicians, business leaders and youth in support of M23.
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Direct Rwandan assistance in creation of M23 through Rwandan territory:
Colonel Sultani Makenga deserted the FARDC in order to create the M23 rebellion using Rwandan territory and benefiting directly from RDF facilitation (See paragraph 104 of interim report). On 4 May, Makenga crossed the border from Goma into Gisenyi, Rwanda, and waited for his soldiers to join him from Goma and Bukavu. Intelligence sources, M23 collaborators and local politicians confirmed for the Group that RDF Western Division commander, General Emmanuel Ruvusha, welcomed Makenga upon his arrival to Gisenyi. The same source indicated that Ruvusha subsequently held a series of coordination meetings with other RDF officers in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri over the following days with Makenga.
Rwandan officials have also been directly involved in the mobilization of political leaders and financial backers for M23. Based on interviews conducted with M23 members, ex-CNDP officers and politicians, intelligence officers, FARDC [Congolese Army] senior commanders, the Group [of Experts] has established that Rwandan officials have made extensive telephone calls and organized a series of meeting with Congolese politicians and businessman to promote and rally support for M23.
Throughout the Group’s investigations, it has systematically gathered testimonies from former M23 combatants, M23 collaborators, ex-RDF [Rwandan Defense Forces] officers, Congolese intelligence, FARDC commanders, and politicians which affirm the direct involvement in the support to M23 from senior levels of the Rwandan government.
a) General Jacques Nziza, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, supervises all military, financial, and logistic support as well as mobilization activities related to M23. He has recently been deployed to Ruhengeri and Gisenyi to coordinate M23 assistance and recruitment.
b) General James Kabarebe, the Rwandan Minister of Defense, with the support of his personal secretary Captain Celestin Senkoko, also is a central figure in recruitment and mobilizing political and military support to M23. Kabarebe has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.
c) General Charles Kayonga, the RDF Chief of Staff manages the overall military support to M23. Kayonga is frequently in communications with Makenga and oversaw the transfer of Makenga’s troops and weapons through Rwanda.
d) The military support on the ground has been channeled by General Emmanuel Ruvusha, RDF Division commander based in Gisenyi, as well as General Alexi Kagame, RDF Division commander based at Ruhengeru, Both facilitate recruitment of civilians and demobilized soldiers to M23 as well as coordinating RDF reinforcements in Runyoni with M23 commanders.
e) Colonel Jomba Gakumba, a native of North Kivu, who used to be an RDF instructor at the Rwandan Military Academy at Gako, was redeployed to Ruhengeri since the creation of M23, where he has been in charge of commanding locally military operations in support of M23.
Ex-RDF officers, politicians, M23 collaborators also informed the Group that Ntaganda and Makenga have been regularly crossing the border into Rwanda to carrying meetings with any of the above mentioned senior RDF officers at Kinigi, on several occasions. Those same sources also stated that former CNDP chairman General Laurent Nkunda, officially under house arrest by the Rwandan government since January 2009, often comes from Kigali to participate in these meetings.