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GREAT LAKES: Rwanda backed dissident troops in DRC - UN panel

KIGALI, 21 July 2004 (IRIN) - A UN panel has accused Rwanda's government of supporting dissidents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who seized the eastern town of Bukavu in June, and thus breaking an arms embargo instituted a year ago by the UN Security Council.

The accusation came in a report issued on Wednesday by the UN Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the DRC.

The panel also accused Rwanda of recruiting and sheltering some of the dissident soldiers led by Col Jules Mutebutsi and Gen Laurent Nkunda, who were involved in the latest round of fighting in eastern DRC.

The report states "arms and ammunition caches [were] hidden in the waters of Lake Kivu on the DRC side, near areas in Bukavu recently controlled by Mutebutsi's mutinous forces. According to local reports, the weapons and ammunition were brought over from Rwanda by pirogue at night and dropped in the water with a bamboo stick demarcating the hiding place".

It added "Rwanda's violations involved direct and indirect support, in both the DRC and Rwanda, to the mutinous troops of Jules Mutebutsi and Laurent Nkunda during their armed military operations against FARDC [Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo - national army]."

The report concluded that Rwanda's "ongoing assistance, which includes the supply of arms and ammunition, continues to threaten the stability of the [DRC] transitional government and, if unchecked, could lend itself to a renewed outbreak of hostilities and further jeopardise regional stability".

However, contrary to media reports based on a leaked version of a draft of the panel's report, the panel has not accused Rwanda of training the dissident troops. According to one of the panel's experts, who co-authored the report, "Rwanda did not train Mutebutsi's troops, but they were spotted inside Rwandan army training camps".

Rwanda's minister for regional cooperation, Protais Mitali, described the report as a "fabrication lacking credible evidence", and accused it of being biased. "We have no soldiers in DRC, we have not helped, trained or recruited for any dissident group in eastern DRC," he said.

Rwanda sent troops into the DRC in August 1998 to back Congolese rebels seeking to oust former President Laurent Kabila. But Rwanda officially withdrew its forces in July 2002, following an agreement signed in Pretoria, South Africa. Rwanda maintains that the DRC has done little to fulfil its obligations to round up and disarm Rwandan Hutu extremist militias held responsible for the 1994 genocide.

Theme (s): Conflict,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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