This post is authored by Ivan Bakin, Hopeprint’s International Relations intern. Events discussed are based upon reporting of other news organizations and cannot be verified or officially supported by Hopeprint. Please see further reading for more information and verification.
Tensions have pushed the international community to the brink of breakdown in Central Africa, following a leaked report by UN experts which accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting rebel group M23. M23 operates in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and, due to fighting in the region with the DRC’s army, have displaced half a million people. The 44-page report, leaked to Reuters Friday, alleges that Uganda supports M23 with weapons and allows the group to use Kampala, Uganda’s capital, as their political base of operations.
The report, building upon a similar report published in June, was called by the UN as a preparation for targeted sanctions on M23 and its supporters, in an effort to stop violence in the region. The report states that M23 has been supplied with weapons, support material, and military support from Rwanda, but further goes on to state that Rwanda and Uganda have aided in recruitment. According to the experts’ report Rwanda’s chief of defense, General Charles Kayonga gives direct military orders to M23, and he “in turn acts on instructions from the minister of defense,” General James Kabarebe.
Rwandan and Ugandan ministers have both fervently denied any connection to the rebel militia, but to complicate matters more Uganda has now threatened the removal of their troops in regional peacekeeping operations. Current President of the UN Security Council, Ambassador HS Puri, noted Uganda is an important troop-contributing country for regional operations, particularly Somalia. Removal of Ugandan troops could cause collapses of those operations, principally Somalia, where roughly one third of the 17,000 strong African Union mission.
In addition to the threat of pulling out of operations, Uganda’s government has issued statements that its involvement in the DRC conflict only arose out of a call by the DRC itself and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Those calls came as rebels closed in on Kivu’s capital Goma. Uganda offered to “host” leadership of M23 in Kampala to facilitate peace talks among involved parties. These actions stem from Uganda’s chairmanship of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, a regional effort to curtail the chronic violence in Kivu Province.
Rwanda and Uganda’s firm opposition and use of troop withdrawal is negating the impact of the experts’ report. Already Ambassador Puri has stated the views of the independent experts “do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations”, and that the report had not yet been considered by the Sanctions Committee concerning the DRC. However the DRC’s ambassador to the UK, Kikaya Bin Karubi, said the UN “must act” according to information from the report.
UNSC members will meet with Ugandan officials on Monday.
Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, has accused the report as a way for placing blame of peacekeeping failures on Rwanda and Uganda, such as the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Rwanda won a seat in recent elections for the UNSC, as it ran unopposed for the open African seat. Rwanda’s troop contributions and identity as a regional “peacekeeper” were its platforms during the run up to elections.
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