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Rwanda Bars UN Return of Alleged Defectors from Congo Rebellion

Rwanda has blocked a United Nations attempt to repatriate 29 men who say they are Rwandan and defected from a rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations said.

The East African nation said the men had not finished the identity-verification process coordinated by the two countries and the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUSCO. Rwanda stopped the men from being repatriated on July 14, saying they were Congolese and not Rwandan, MONUSCO spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai said by phone today from Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.

“The decision by MONUSCO to attempt the sudden repatriation of this group without warning or prior notification is highly irregular and well outside established procedures,” Rwanda’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Joseph Nzabamwita, said in an e-mailed statement today from Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

The Congolese and a UN Group of Experts have both accused Rwanda of providing recruits for a rebellion that has displaced more than 220,000 people in mineral-rich eastern Congo. Rwanda has denied involvement.

Eleven of the men are still being investigated by Congolese and Rwandan authorities, while there is “no basis for knowing the background or nationality of the other 18,” Nzabamwita said.

The defectors are still in Goma, the capital of Congo’s North Kivu province on the Rwandan border, Mounoubai said.

“The mission will be working together with the Congolese authorities and other UN agencies to see what course of action to take,” he said. “We still continue to work with the Rwandans.”

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