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Congo Wants UN Sanctions on Rwandan Officials Backing Rebels

Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo urged the United Nations to sanction Rwandan officials found to be supporting a rebellion in eastern Congo that’s forced about a half-million people to flee, Communications Minister Lambert Mende said.

All Rwandan officials named in a June UN Group of Experts report as backing the insurgency including Defense Minister James Kabarebe should be sanctioned, he said. Congo and the UN Group of Experts on Congo accuse Rwanda of providing weapons and recruits to the insurgents, known as M23, in contravention of a UN arms embargo. Rwanda denies the charges.

Congo “is asking with insistence that the United Nations Sanctions Committee bring justice to the numerous Congolese victims of this umpteenth unprovoked attack by Rwanda,” Mende told reporters today in the capital, Kinshasa.

Congo and its neighbor Rwanda have fought directly or by proxy since the late 1990s. The two countries improved diplomatic relations after a 2009 peace agreement between Congo and Rwandan-backed rebels, who were integrated into the national army. Rwanda’s backing of the M23 rebellion, which UN says has displaced about half a million people, threatens the alliance, Mende said.

‘Naked Lie’

Several countries, including the U.S., Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands, have withheld some funding from Rwanda because of the allegations.

Reports that 357 Rwandan special forces soldiers returned to Rwanda from Congo over the weekend were proof its neighbor was aiding M23, Mende said. The troops were part of a joint battalion with Congolese soldiers, Rwanda’s government-aligned New Times newspaper said today.

“We had no more than about 100 Rwandan Defense Force observers in Congo” to monitor the shared border, Mende said. Most of the soldiers were “infiltrators” helping M23, he said.

Congo was aware of the border crossing, Brigadier General Joseph Nzabamwita, a Rwandan army spokesman, said in an e-mailed response to questions today.

“The utterances by other DRC officials to the contrary are a naked lie they have used to hoodwink the international community from the gross governance issues and how they are responsible for destabilizing their country and the region,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in Kinshasa at mkavanagh9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net

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