UN council plans sanctions on Congo rebels

October 19, 2012 - 6:33 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council announced Friday that it intends to impose sanctions on the leaders of the M23 rebel movement in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence has flared again.

Guatemala U.N. Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, the current Security Council president, read a statement saying that targeted sanctions would be applied to M23 leaders and others who are breaking the arms embargo in Congo.

"The Security Council strongly condemns the M23 and all its attacks on the civilian population, United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian actors, as well as its abuses of human rights, including summary executions, sexual and gender based violence and large scale recruitment and use of child soldiers," the statement said. "The Security Council also condemns the attempts by the M23 to establish a parallel administration and to undermine State authority."

The M23 rebels have a stronghold on the border with Uganda and Rwanda, which has fueled allegations that those East African nations are backing the rebellion as arms are easily smuggled into rebel territory.

On Tuesday, a leaked U.N. Group of Experts report accused both Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebellion, which both countries strongly deny.

The rebels attacked the Congolese army Wednesday in an effort to gain weapons, ending a lull in fighting that had lasted a couple of months.

Congolese Army spokesman Col. Hamuli suggested that Wednesday's attack by the rebels may have been meant to show that they are not backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

The Security Council alluded to the allegations Friday, condemning any external support of the rebellion and calling on all neighboring countries to respect Congo's sovereignty.

"In this regard, the Security Council expresses deep concern at reports indicating that such support continues to be provided to the M23 by neighboring countries," the council statement said. "The Security Council demands that any and all outside support to the M23 as well as other armed groups cease immediately."

The panel of experts' report was leaked ahead of Rwanda's election to the Security Council on Thursday. Rwanda faced no competition in its successful bid, which was opposed by Congo and drew criticism from human rights groups.

Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo rejected the claims in the leaked U.N. report Thursday, dismissing it as the "flawed" work of biased experts and calling the leak's timing "predictable."

Rwanda won a two-year non-permanent seat on the council, starting in 2013, despite a July report by the U.N. experts panel that accused senior Rwandan security officials of supporting the rebellion and sending arms into Congo. Rwanda also rejected that report.

Rwandan and Congolese officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The M23's rebellion has caused at least 320,00,000 villagers in the province of North Kivu to flee their homes this year, according to the U.N. Eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwanda genocide, when fighters escaped across the border to Congo.

Eastern Congo's latest wave of violence exploded earlier this year when former rebels linked to Gen. Bosco Ntaganda defected, claiming that they weren't being paid by the Congolese military and that the government had failed to hold up their end of the 2009 peace deal that integrated them into the army. Ntaganda is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.