UNITED NATIONS, United States – The UN Security Council on Thursday renewed a sanctions regime against Democratic Republic of Congo in a vote that sparked a furious row between Congo and Rwanda.
The council backed a sanctions committee report which says the M23 rebel group is recruiting in Rwanda despite its military defeat and that its leaders are moving freely in Uganda.
Rwanda, as a temporary member of the 15-nation Security Council, voted for resolution 2136 but then lashed out at the sanctions report and DR Congo.
Kigali’s UN ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana called the sanctions committee report “baseless” and said his DR Congo counterpart was a “cry baby” always complaining to the council about Rwanda.
DR Congo’s ambassador Ignace Gata Mativa said the sanctions experts had clearly shown “grave violations” by Rwanda and Uganda by aiding “destabilization” in eastern DR Congo.
“Such an attitude constitutes an act of aggression that the Security Council must record and condemn,” Gata added.
“Dear friend, it is time to stop acting like a cry baby each time, each time to come here and hit out at Rwanda,” Gasana responded.
M23 launched an uprising against the DR Congo government in 2012 and briefly occupied the key city of Goma before it was defeated by government forces late last year. It is one of a host of groups that have brought strife to eastern DR Congo over the past two decades.
UN experts have repeatedly said Rwanda and Uganda support the rebels. The two countries deny any role in the uprising.
Gasana repeated accusations that the experts are “unprofessional” and that their work threatens peace efforts.
The council resolution renewed the mandate of the experts and expressed “full support” for their work, however.
The council expressed “strong condemnation” of “internal or external support to armed groups active in the region, including through financial, logistical and military support.” But it did not mention Rwanda or any alleged backing for M23.
The resolution did highlight “deep concern” over accusations in the sanctions report that DR Congo forces had been in “collaboration” with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which includes some fighters who took part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
The Security Council ordered that individuals and entities arming DR Congo groups “through illicit trade of natural resources, including gold or wildlife as well as wildlife products” should be included on the sanctions list.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement that the move was a “critical step” in the battle against elephant poaching and illicit ivory trading.
A resolution passed Tuesday starting a sanctions regime in neighbouring Central African Republic also said poachers linked to armed groups should be targeted.
WWF said that more than 20,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks, many of them in Central Africa conflict zones.