Rwanda Backing Nkunda's Rebel Army in Eastern Congo, UN Says

By Franz Wild and Bill Varner

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Rwanda is supporting rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo, while the Congolese government is arming a Rwandan militia, a United Nations report said yesterday.

The report to the UN Security Council “found evidence that the Rwandan authorities have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defense Forces” to the DRC. The support is for the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, led by Laurent Nkunda .

A “Group of Experts” appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to monitor UN sanctions in Congo also cited “extensive collaboration” between Congolese government troops and rebel groups in the country's North Kivu province that fight against Nkunda, the report said. Groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, are getting government support.

Nkunda says he is fighting to protect Congo's Tutsi minority from militias such as the ethnic Hutu FDLR that took refuge in the east of the country after participating in the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. Since August, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, the UN said.

The CNDP is accused of war crimes by the UN. Its military leader General Bosco Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers.

The Congolese rebels' funding sources include local and export taxes, payments from landowners in areas they control and the charcoal trade, the report said.

‘Organized Structure'

Jason Stearns, the coordinator for the Group of Experts, declined to say whether Rwandan President Paul Kagame ordered the assistance to Nkunda's forces.

“We don't want to speculate on who is giving the orders,” Stearns told reporters at the UN in New York. “It is obvious that given the fairly organized structure of Rwanda's government there is certainly knowledge of this. They must know and they haven't done anything to bring it to an end.”

Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, an adviser to Kagame, “plays a role in CNDP financing,” evidence showed, according to the report. Assistance from inside Rwanda would violate a 2007 commitment the country made to stamp out support for Nkunda's army.

Yolande Makolo, Kagame's press officer, said she would e- mail any official government position on the report. Rwanda Investment Group, of which Rujugiro is the chairman, doesn't list a phone number in online directories and no Web address was available.

Laurent N.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila 's government in Kinshasa has long accused Rwanda of supporting Nkunda, a claim that has been denied.

In an e-mail seen by the UN panel, Rujugiro thanked a Dubai- based employee for arranging the payment of “$120,000 to cover the salaries of the soldiers for our friend Laurent N.”

Rujugiro has been in the U.K. facing a South African extradition order on tax evasion charges since October, according to the UN report.

Raphael Soriano, the brother of a provincial Congolese governor, was also behind payments to the CNDP, through intermediaries such as Nkunda's wife, the group said.

A woman who answered Soriano's mobile phone in Belgium hung up when a reporter from Bloomberg News asked to speak to him. Another mobile phone was switched off.

The FDLR makes millions of dollars a year from illegal mining of resources including tin and gold, according to the report. The minerals are sold to international companies including refiners via Congolese exporters, it said.

The FDLR receives most of its weapons and ammunitions from Congo's national army, the report said.

It may not be in the interest of government forces to “end the conflict in eastern DRC as long as their units are able to deploy to, and profit from, mining areas,” the report said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Franz Wild in Kinshasa, Congo, via the Johannesburg newsroom at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net ; Bill Varner at the United Nations at wvarner@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: December 12, 2008 17:37 EST


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UN report finds proxy war in eastern Congo

By Lydia Polgreen

Published: December 13, 2008

GOMA, Congo : A report to the UN Security Council by a panel of independent experts found evidence of links between senior officials of the Congolese and Rwandan governments and the armed groups fighting in eastern Congo. The findings portray a complex proxy struggle between the two nations, with each using armed forces based here to pursue political, financial and security objectives in a region ravaged by conflict.

The report, which was based on months of independent research in the region, gives the clearest picture yet of the underpinnings of the fighting in eastern Congo, revealing a sordid network of intertwined interests in Congo and Rwanda that have fueled the continuing chaos.

Tiny Rwanda and its vast neighbor to the west, Congo, have long been connected by a shared history of ethnic strife. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Hutu militias that carried out the killing fled into Congo, then known as Zaire.

In 1996, Rwanda backed a rebel force led by Laurent Kabila that ultimately toppled Congo's longtime president, Mobutu Sese Seko. The initial aim had been to capture the Hutu fighters who had carried out the genocide, but the fighting devolved into a frenzy of plundering of Congo's minerals, spawning a conflict that drew in half a dozen nations and left as many as five million people dead. Most died of hunger and disease.

The report's findings on the current conflict are likely to strain already tense relations between the two countries, providing ammunition for each. Congolese officials have accused Rwanda of supporting a rebel group led by a renegade general from the same Tutsi ethnic group as much of the Rwandan political establishment.

Rwanda has accused Congo's government of colluding with an armed group led by some of the Hutu militia who carried out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. These are the fighters who fled afterward to Congo and eventually formed the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, or FDLR, which preys on Congolese civilians and enriches itself with the country's gold, tin and coltan, a mineral used in making the tiny processors in cellphones and other electronic equipment.

The independent experts found extensive evidence of high-level communication between the government of Rwanda and the Tutsi rebel group, the Congress for the Defense of the People, led by the renegade general Laurent Nkunda, based on reviews of satellite phone records.

Though the content of the calls is not known, the report said that they were "frequent and long enough to indicate at least extensive sharing of information."

In interviews, several of Nkunda's fighters described Rwandan soldiers helping the rebels inside Congo, according to the report. Rwandan soldiers also helped bring recruits, some of them children, to Congo's border to fight in Nkunda's rebellion, the report said.

It also investigated how Nkunda was paying for his militia, documenting hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for taxes in territory that he controls. The report also named prominent business executives who had backed him financially.

Congo's military, meanwhile, has been collaborating with the Hutu militia that is led by the authors of the Rwandan genocide, according to the report. The weak and undisciplined Congolese army has frequently relied on help from these fighters in battling Nkunda's troops.

In exchange for ammunition, the militiamen have helped in numerous offensives, the report said, citing by name several senior Congolese military officers who had handed over materiel to the Hutu forces. According to satellite phone records, senior military and intelligence figures in Congo have spoken frequently with top Hutu militia leaders.

"It is obvious that Rwandan authorities and Congolese authorities are aware of support provided to rebel groups," Jason K. Stearns, the coordinator for the five-member panel that produced the report, said on Friday at a news conference at the United Nations. "They haven't done anything to bring it to an end."

He said the Congolese government said that it had no policy to aid the Hutu militia but that there might be support from individual military commanders. Both governments said that telephone records showing conversations between officials and rebels did not constitute support, he added.

Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from United Nations, New York.

International Herald Tribune 

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Governments Support Rivals In E. Congo, U.N. Panel Says

By Colum Lynch Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 13, 2008; Page A12

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 12 -- Rwanda and Congo have been backing rival rebel and militia groups locked in a violent conflict in eastern Congo that has displaced more than 250,000 civilians since August, according to a U.N. panel investigating sanctions violations.

The report by a panel of five U.N. experts who monitor Security Council sanctions against armed groups in eastern Congo provided the first evidence that the two governments have violated U.N. bans on military and financial support for armed proxies in eastern Congo.

The panel's 127-page report accuses Rwanda of sending military officers to eastern Congo in support of Laurent Nkunda , a rebel leader who routed the Congolese army and its allies in a military offensive. It also charges that Rwandan forces have repeatedly fired across the border at Congolese government troops and helped Nkunda's movement recruit soldiers in refugee camps inside Rwanda.

The panel found evidence that "Rwandan authorities have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defence Forces" to Congo in support of Nkunda's forces.

Nkunda has presented himself as a defender of the region's ethnic Tutsis from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed Rwandan Hutu movement that played a central role in orchestrating Rwanda's 1994 genocide. A former officer in the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front , which seized power in Rwanda in 1994, Nkunda has denied receiving Rwanda's military support.

The Congolese government has pledged to disarm the FDLR and enable the return of its members to Rwanda, where many would probably by prosecuted for their role in the genocide. But the U.N. panel said it had obtained "strong evidence" showing that the Congolese army has "collaborated extensively" with the FDLR since 2007.

Congo stands accused of supplying the Rwandan militia with large shipments of ammunition in exchange for participating in joint military operations against Nkunda's forces, according to the panel. The panel said that it has documented more than 98 satellite and cellphone calls between Congolese and FDLR commanders over the past year, and that Congolese troops routinely sold military supplies to the Rwandan exiles, including bullets for a dime apiece and uniforms for as much as $3 dollars each.

The report said that the FDLR and Nkunda's forces rely on financial and political support from businessmen and political supporters from as far away as Europe and the United States. They have also raised millions of dollars through a system of local taxation and through the exploitation of eastern Congo's mineral resources, such as gold, charcoal and coltan, a metallic ore that contains ingredients used in consumer electronics. It says that Rwandan authorities seized a shipment of uniforms destined for Nkunda's forces that came from Boston.

Rwanda's ambassador to the United States, James Kimonyo, said that the "allegations are baseless" and that the U.N. panel was simply restating unsubstantiated claims that have been leveled by Congo in the past.

Congo's U.N. ambassador, Atoki Ileka, said the panel's findings "confirm what I have been saying for years: that there is direct Rwandan involvement in what's going on" in eastern Congo. He also conceded that he "was not surprised" by allegations that Congolese government forces were collaborating with the Rwandan militia.

Congo-Kinshasa: UN-Mandated Group Finds Evidence Rwanda, Army Aiding Rival Rebels

13 December 2008

A group of experts monitoring a United Nations arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported today that it had found evidence that the Rwandan authorities and the Congolese army have aided opposing rebel groups in the war-ravaged east of the country.

In its final report to the Security Council the Group of Experts, set up in 2004, said that while there is little documentation available to prove Rwandan material support to the rebel National Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP), it had found evidence that Rwandan authorities have been complicit in recruiting soldiers, including children, facilitated the supply of military equipment, and sent their own officers and units to the DRC to support the CNDP.

It based its research on dozens of interviews with eyewitnesses, including former combatants and officers of the mainly Tutsi CNDP, members of the business community, regional intelligence officials and local eyewitnesses, all of them "consistent and credible in describing the involvement" of the Government of Rwanda.

"Given the nature, however, of the conflict in eastern Congo, much of the financial and military support is informal and does not leave a paper trail," the Group's Coordinator Jason Stearns told a later news conference.

The Group recommended that the Security Council Sanctions Committee "remind the Government of Rwanda of its obligations" under which it pledged last year to prevent any support to CNDP, entry into and exit from its territory of CNDP members, use of Rwandan telephone networks and banking systems, and holding fund-raising meetings in Rwanda.

With regard to the DRC authorities the Group said it had obtained strong evidence that the Government army, known by its French acronym FARDC, collaborated with the mainly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), including through the provision of military equipment and in joint operations against CNDP.

FDLR collaborated extensively with FARDC during the December 2007 clashes with CNDP in Masisi and Rutshuru territories and has continued to collaborate with FARDC during fighting that began this August, it added.

An upsurge of fighting since August between the two rebel movements, the army, and various other militias in North Kivu province in eastern DRC has driven 250,000 more civilians from their homes, in addition to the hundreds of thousands uprooted in earlier clashes.

The Group interviewed over 30 FDLR ex-combatants, of whom 15 provided first-hand, concrete testimony of FARDC-FDLR collaboration. It also interviewed several former and active FARDC soldiers who corroborated this information.

"The Group has identified at least three Congolese army commanders who are guilty of providing support to the FDLR," Mr. Stearns said. "While this collaboration is widespread and regular, the Group has not been able to prove to what extent the top leadership of the army is involved in this practise but it's cleat that they know and have done nothing to bring it to an end."

The Group has put forward several FARDC commanders for sanctions for supporting FDLR and another group called PARECO, and recommended that the Sanctions Committee request the DRC authorities "to issue clear directives to its troops that collaboration and cohabitation with FDLR and PARECO are prohibited." Appropriate disciplinary measures should be taken against FARDC soldiers collaborating with these armed groups.

The report noted that the FDLR obtains millions of dollars a year from the minerals trade, mostly through taxation of mines and traders, and that many traders are complicit since they know the gold, cassiterite, coltran and wolframite come from FDLR-controlled zones.

"We believe that the burden should be on the Congolese buying houses as well as on international mineral traders to conduct due diligence into the source of the product," Mr. Stearns said of one of the planks in enforcing the embargo.

The Group also pointed out that CNDP and FDLR leaders reside or travel through countries in Africa, Europe and North America where they rally support and funds. "The Group believes that such political support is essential for their fund-raising and constitutes a violation of the arms embargo," Mr. Stearns said.

Copyright © 2008 UN News Service.

Rwandan aide 'backs Congo rebels'

By Thomas Fessy
BBC News, Kinshasa

An advisor to Rwandan President Paul Kagame plays a role in financing Congolese Tutsi rebels led by Laurent Nkunda, a UN report says.

Tribert Rujugiro is also the founder of the Rwandan Investment Group, a private conglomerate backed by the government.

The report says he used to hold regular meetings with rebel leaders, including Gen Nkunda, at his farm in North Kivu.

In an email in the report, a top rebel commander explains to Mr Rujugiro that he is prepared to move into the "city".

He has all the "material" and "people" ready, he adds in the e-mail.

The email was sent two months before fighting resumed in North Kivu and according to a former rebel officer who saw it, it clearly referred to military operations.

On 29 October, Gen Nkunda's men broke through the Congolese defences and advanced towards the provincial capital, Goma.

The report says the Rwandan army provided support to the rebels during their offensive.

Tribert Rujugiro is currently in custody in London where he was arrested in October on a South African warrant for tax evasion. He is facing extradition proceedings.

According to the report, another financier of the rebel group is Raphael Soriano, a wealthy Congolese opposition politician now of Belgian nationality.

The UN group of experts has been able to establish that $25,000 (£16,700) was transferred from his wife's bank account held in Rwanda to the wife of Gen Nkunda.



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