26 June 2012

UN Panel Finds Strong Evidence of Rwanda Backing Congolese M23 Mutiny

The controversial annex to a report by a UN Group of Experts on the M23 mutiny in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was leaked to Foreign Policy's Colum Lynch and published earlier this evening. Originally blocked, the annex outlines the ways that the Rwandan government has supported the M23 and the destabilization of the eastern DRC.

Notable sections:
Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group [of Experts] has gathered evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations committed by the Rwandan Government. These violations consist of the provision of material and financial support to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC, including the recently established M23, in contravention of paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 1807. The arms embargo and sanctions regimes violations include the following:
*Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory;

*Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23;

*Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23;

*Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23;

*Direct Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23;

*Support to several other armed groups as well as FARDC mutinies in the eastern Congo;

*Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals.
In turn, M23 continues to solidify alliance with many other armed groups and mutineer movements, including those previously benefiting from RDF support. This has created enormous security challenges, extending from Ituri district in the north to Fizi territory in the south, for the already overstretched Congolese Army(FARDC). Through such arms embargo violations, Rwandan officials have also been in contravention of the sanctions regime's travel ban and assets freeze measures, by including three designated individuals amongst their direct allies.

In an attempt to solve the crisis which this Rwandan support to armed groups had exacerbated, the governments of the DRC and Rwanda have held a series of high-level bilateral meetings since early April 2012. During these discussions, Rwandan officials have insisted on impunity for their armed group and mutineer allies, including ex-CNDP General Bosco Ntaganda, and the deployment of additional RDF units to the Kivus to conduct large-scale operations against the FDLR. The latter request has been repeatedly made despite the fact that: a) the RDF halted its unilateral initiatives to weaken the FDLR in late February; b) RDF Special Forces have already been deployed officially in Rutshuru territory for over a year; c) RDF operational units are periodically reinforcing the M23 on the battlefield against the Congolese army; d) M23 is directly and indirectly allied with several FDLR splinter groups; and e) the RDF is remobilizing previously repatriated FDLR to boost the ranks of M23.
Also noteworthy is the section on standards of evidence. It seems that the group did a rather thorough job in its analysis work for the section and even elevated its usual standards for evidence.
In light of the serious nature of these findings, the group has adopted elevated methodological standards. Since early April 2012, the Group has interviewed over 80 deserters of FARDC mutinies and Congolese armed groups, including from M23. Amongst the latter, the Group has interviewed 31 Rwandan nationals. Furthermore, the group has also photographed weapons and military equipment found in arms caches and on the battlefield, as well as obtained official documents and intercepts of radio communication. The Group has also consulted dozens of senior Congolese military commanders and intelligence officials as well as political and community leaders with intricate knowledge of development between DRC and Rwanda. Moreover, the Group has communicated regularly with several active participants of the ex-CNDP mutiny, the M23 rebellion, and other armed groups. Finally, while the Group's standard methodology requires a minimum of three sources, assessed to be credible and independent of one another, it has raised this to five sources when naming specific individuals involved in these case of arms embargo and sanctions violations.
You can read the full excepts in the original article for FP. Much smarter and well informed people than I will certainly weigh in over the next few days. What this does is raise further questions about the US support for Rwanda. Can we fully stand behind a regime that is acting to support armed rebellion in another country? What are the implications of these findings on diplomatic discussions with neighbors like Sudan? What actions will be taken in response by the international community to these findings?

David Aronson writes, "It's every bit as bad for Rwanda as you might have imagined it could be" in his quick post on the release. More will weigh in as the annex is released. I will try to keep an eye out for responses and collect them at the end of this post.

Feel free to jump in and share your initial thoughts in the comments section.

Jason Stearns weighs in and asks more questions.
[T]here is extensive evidence of systematic Rwandan intervention in the DRC in violation of the UN sanctions regime, not to mention of Congolese sovereignty. Many questions, however, remain open: Why is Rwanda doing this? What is their ultimate goal? When did they decide to back these rebellions? What will the international community, which provides almost half of Rwanda's budget - including military cooperation and support to the demobilization commission - do? And what will the Rwandan reaction be, given that donors have invested billions in successful development projects, and Rwanda provides much-needed troops to the African Union mission in Darfur?