Rwandan troops have helped rebels battling Democratic Republic of Congo and UN troops in a new offensive, a top UN official told the Security Council on Thursday, according to diplomats.
UN forces had also seen M23 rebels, who allegedly receive backing from Rwanda, firing artillery into Rwanda, assistant secretary general Edmond Mulet was quoted as saying.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon has telephoned Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame to urge “restraint” over the mounting tensions in eastern DR Congo, Mulet told the closed Security Council meeting, diplomats said.
But Mulet’s briefing is set to ignite new controversy over external backing for the rebels who have been battling the DR Congo government around the key eastern city of Goma for the past 18 months.
UN experts and the DR Congo government have repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the rebellion. Kigali has strongly denied the allegations.
The M23 launched a new offensive just north of Goma last week and a Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed on Wednesday. Four other UN troops have been wounded in the fighting.
The United Nations has “consistent and credible reports” of Rwandan troops entering DR Congo in recent days, Mulet was quoted as telling the 15-nation council, which currently includes Rwanda.
The United Nations has deployed a special intervention brigade in DR Congo which has been given the first ever mandate by the UN Security Council to launch offensive peacekeeping operations against armed groups.
UN forces have been fighting the M23 alongside government troops.
A Tanzanian member of the intervention brigade was killed by an M23 shell on Wednesday. Four UN troops from Tanzania and South African have also been wounded in the recent fighting.
Rwanda has accused DR Congo forces, the FARDC, of shelling Rwandan territory and killing one woman on Wednesday.
But Mulet said that the UN force, MONUSCO, “has witnessed M23 shelling into Rwanda.”
“MONUSCO has not witnessed any shelling by the FARDC into Rwanda. These are areas where FARDC are not present,” Mulet was quoted as saying. His comments were confirmed to reporters after the meeting by senior French diplomat Alexis Lamek.
Rwanda’s deputy UN ambassador Oliver Nduhungirehe said he was “surprised” by the UN allegations and repeated accusations that DR Congo forces are firing onto Rwandan territory.
Mulet said that the new surge in fighting in eastern DR Congo was “untenable.”
On top of Ban’s talks with Kagame, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo, Martin Kobler, has gone to Kigali for talks and the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, has held talks with Rwandan and DR Congo ministers, UN officials said.