Friday, July 16, 2004

DRC/Rwanda: draft UN report says Rwanda supported Congolese rebels

David Lewis (Reuters)  got his hands on and wrote a story about a draft UN report that says Rwanda  gave "direct and indirect" support to the forces that attacked the town of Bukavu in early June. 

The draft report was prepared by a panel of security and customs experts for a UN Security Council committee monitoring the arms embargo on eastern Congo.  UN Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the DRC.

When Bukavu was taken over by the rebel forces, the Congolese government almost immediately pointed the finger at Rwanda.  Rwanda quickly denied that it had had anything to do with it.  The rebel leaders, General Laurent Nkunda and Colonel Jules Mutebusi, also denied receiving any help from Rwanda.  And just last week, the AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare delivered a report in which he stated that Rwanda was not involved ... a report that caused Congolese President Joseph Kabila to cancel his trip to the AU Summit.  Kabila has has not wavered from his belief that Rwanda is involved.  
However, the draft report (from the bits quoted in the Reuters story) seems to contain enough detail to raise serious questions about Rwanda's involvement.    Here are the pertinent bits  ...
Rwandan officials rounded up potential fighters in the border town of Cyangugu and promised them phones or $100 to fight with forces loyal to Colonel Jules Mutebutsi and General Laurent Nkunda, said the draft seen by Reuters Friday.

"The group of experts concluded that Rwanda's violations involved direct and indirect support, both in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Rwanda, to the mutinous troops of Jules Mutebutsi and Laurent Nkunda," it said.

"Rwanda has also exerted a degree of command and control over Mutebutsi's forces."

[...] Contrary to Rwanda's claims, its army had not disarmed Mutebutsi's troops after the revolt but offered them refuge, the report said.

"Approximately 300 of them, in uniform, remained in a coherent command structure, under the protection of Rwandan troops. The group concludes that these troops remain a latent threat to the DRC," it concluded after visiting Cyangugu.

Rwandan forces had also maintained "semi-fixed positions" in remote parts of Congo's North Kivu province, the report said, citing satellite images of fixed heavy weapons encasements and discussions with sources in both countries.

It also said trucks had been seen ferrying weapons to Congo through Rwandan and Ugandan border posts and cited weapon serial numbers as well as details of transit dates and routes. (source)
UPDATE: One more piece of information from the report ...
U.N. officials have expressed concern that it [capture of Bukavu] may also mark the beginning of a trend in which former rebel leaders who joined Congo's transitional government in June 2003 take up arms again.

The followers of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader who was appointed vice president of Congo's transitional government, are transporting a "considerable amount" of heavy weapons and ammunition on Bemba's private planes to the airport in Gbadolite, the report says. It adds that Bemba's troops have barred U.N. military observers from entering the airport. (source)