The UN Security council condemns ‘outside’ backing for DR Congo rebels

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN Security Council on Thursday demanded that “outside countries” halt support for rebel forces that have seized territory in a renewed conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

But a council statement that has taken days of haggling between its 15 members did not mention United Nations and DR Congo government accusations that Rwanda has backed the M23 rebels.

The statement said there was an “imminent threat” from the rebels on the key provincial capital of Goma.

“The members of the Security Council reiterate their strong condemnation of any and all outside support to the M23 and demand that all support to the movement, including from outside countries, cease immediately,” said the statement.

“They further call upon all countries in the region to cooperate actively with the Congolese authorities in dismantling and demobilizing the M23.”

The rebels, led by Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, broke away from the DR Congo army in April to launch an uprising. Their well-equipped forces are now closing in on the Nord-Kivu provincial capital of Goma, in the region bordering Uganda and Rwanda.

M23 have taken several towns and villages between the border and Goma, with government forces abandoning positions as they run out of ammunition, according to diplomats and UN officials.

UN peacekeepers in eastern DR Congo have joined attacks on the rebels when they have threatened civilians, UN officials said.

DR Congo has accused Rwanda of sponsoring the M23 rebels. A UN panel of experts report also said that equipment and fighters had been provided by senior Rwandan military officers. The Kigali government has strongly denied the charge.

Resource-rich eastern DR Congo has been at the center of decades of conflict involving several countries that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Security Council statement made a “strong condemnation” of M23 and its offensive and demanded the group halt “immediately all destabilizing activities, including any advances towards the city of Goma.”

M23 is said to be using child soldiers and the United Nations is investigating allegations of sexual violence in the new conflict, which has caused about 200,000 people to flee their homes.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame recently held talks on the tensions and said they had agreed on the setting up of an international border force for the region. However, no details of the force have emerged.

The Security Council on Thursday also called for more talks between the rival neighbors and through regional meetings to end the new crisis.