June 11, 2012

The Congolese government has confirmed reports by theUnited Nations mission in DR Congo and Human Rights Watch that former rebels led by wanted war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda have received reinforcements from Rwanda.

Information Minister Lambert Mende said on Saturday that between 200 and 300 men were recruited in Rwanda and sent to fight alongside mutinous soldiers in eastern Congo.

“The Rwandan territory was used in the preparation and commission of a conspiracy which, having started as a simple mutiny, is dangerously moving towards a pattern of breaches of the peace between the two countries of the Great Lakes region,” Mr. Mende, who is also the government spokesman, said during a press conference in the eastern Congo city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

Mr. Mende said that among the mutineers led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda and Col. Sylvain Sultani are “between 200 and 300 elements recruited on the Rwandan territory by a network active in the neighboring country.”

“Several of the fighters who were recruited are Rwandans. Infiltrated in the DRC, they underwent a brief training before being deployed against the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), in the Virunga National Park, in North Kivu, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, where the rebels are holed up,” Mr. Mende said.

“The Congolese government denounces the passivity of the Rwandan authorities regarding this serious breach of peace and security in the DRC, hatched from their territory,” Mr. Mende said.

This is a “serious issue that must be resolved urgently between the states of the Great Lakes region in the framework of their fight against the negative forces. This unfortunate development has been the focus of all bilateral meetings between Congolese and Rwandan experts that have taken place the last several days,” Mr. Mende said.

The mutineers are former CNDP rebels integrated into the Congolese army in 2009 under a peace deal. They began their mutiny in April, just as the Congolese government was being pressured to arrest their former commander-in-chief, Bosco Ntaganda, indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2006. They have rebranded themselves as the March 23 Movement, or M23.

Mr. Mende, who arrived in North Kivu province as part of a large government delegation led by Prime Minister Matata Ponyo, said there will be no negociations with the mutineers, or any other armed groups such as the FDLR.

Rwanda has a long history of supporting rebels in eastern Congo under the pretext of fighting against the Rwandan rebels of the FDLR, and to try to maintain military influence in the region to benefit from its vast mineral resources.

UN reports dating as far back as 2001 have documented Rwanda’s involvement in the chronic instability in eastern Congo and the pillaging of its mineral resources.