WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama warned Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Tuesday that any support for the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo is “inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace” in the war-torn region.
The White House said Obama stressed to Kagame in a phone call “the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups” in Congo, where the M23 is operating despite a major peacekeeping operation there.
A recent U.N. report accused the Rwandan government of backing the rebels, a charge that Kagame’s government has denied. The rebels have been accused of rape, using child soldiers and conducting summary executions in eastern Congo.
In the call with Kagame, the White House said Obama “underscored that any support to the rebel group M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace.” The president urged Kagame to abide by recent commitments he made with the leaders of Congo and Uganda to address the crisis and said an agreement needs to emerge from the crisis “that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others who have committed serious human rights abuses.”
The White House said Obama “welcomed President Kagame’s commitment to moving forward in finding a peaceful solution” in eastern Congo.
Members of Congress and human rights groups have pressed the Obama administration to do more to address the security and humanitarian crisis in Congo, where an estimated 5 million people have been killed since a second regional war began in 1997.
On Nov. 20, M23 rebels seized the town of Goma in Eastern Congo, which is estimated to have mineral deposits worth trillions of dollars.
Human rights groups have asked Obama to appoint a presidential envoy to the embattled country and to cut off aid to Rwanda.