Inside Story
Fuelling the DR Congo conflict
A leaked UN report has implicated Rwanda and Uganda in a regional unrest but who really benefits from the instability?
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2012 11:36

Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of backing a new rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), according to a leaked UN report.

The UN Security Council's Group of Experts in the report says the uprising is being commanded by James Kabarebe, the Rwandan defence minister.

"This is not a judgement; this is not the final word. This is just simply a list of accusations that will not stand scrutiny in the lowest imaginable court of law... This report has zero credibility, it is nonsense. There is no evidence at all, just hearsay - second- or third-hand witnesses... "

- Olivier  Nduhunigirehe, a Rwandan diplomat

Both governments have denied supporting the M23 armed group, who are battling the Congolese government. The DR Congo, wracked by conflict and corruption, seems unable to shake free from the cycle of violence.

The confidential report says both countries have sent weapons and troops to support the M23 rebels and the group's leader receives military orders directly from Rwanda.

The UN group, which monitors compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the DR Congo, delivered the report to the Security Council's Congo sanctions committee earlier this month.

M23 fighters have been waging a six-month fight against the Congolese army in North Kivu province. The UN believes both Rwanda and Uganda jointly supported a series of attacks in July, in which a UN peacekeeper was killed.

"Of course these are very serious findings and it’s a very serious thing for a defence minister to be found responsible for such activities. Is it a surprise? Well, as you mentioned, there is some history of support for rebellions… These are alarming developments."

- Fred Robarts, a former  member of the UN Group of Experts on DRC

The key players in the ongoing conflict are:

  • Bosco Ntaganda, who controls the rebellion in DR Congo, according to the UN report. He is a former Congolese general and wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
  • Sultani Makenga, the head of M23 who is said to be in charge of operations and coordination with allied armed groups.
  • The UN says the rebels are getting orders directly from Rwanda's defence minister, General James Kabarebe.
  • Rwanda's President Paul Kagame strenuously denies backing M23 fighters.
  • DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila, who at 30 became the world's youngest head of government.

Inside Story asks: With both nations denying any involvement with M23, who is driving the rebellion. Are the militias being used as proxies in a battle for the country's vast mineral wealth?

To answer these questions presenter Dareen Abughaida is joined by guests: Olivier Nduhunigirehe, a Rwandan diplomat and first counsellor to Rwanda's permanent mission to the UN; Fred Robarts, a former co-ordinator of the UN Group of Experts on the DR Congo, who is based in Congo for six years and has worked for the UNDP, ICRC and Human Rights Watch; and Kris Berwouts, a political analyst and historian specialising in central Africa.


  • It has had a turbulent past. It gained independence from Belgium in 1960 but immediately faced an army mutiny, and the UN voted to send in troops to establish order.
  • In 1965, Joseph Mobutu seized power and later renamed the country Zaire. Mobutu retained power until 1997, when Rwanda invaded to flush out Hutu militias.
  • Then Laurent Kabila was installed as president and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • A year later, rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda rose up against Kabila.
  • Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe were drawn into a five-year conflict known as Africa's world war, in which an estimated three million people died.
  • During this time, Kabila succeeded his father who was shot dead by a bodyguard. In 2006, he won the first free and fair presidential elections in 40 years. Last year he was re-elected in a disputed election and his tenure has been dogged by violence, which continues until today.


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