Uganda and Rwanda have dismissed allegations in a leaked UN report that claims the two countries have been supporting rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Okello Oryem, Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the report’s findings that both Uganda and Rwanda had sent troops to support the M23 rebel group in their fight against the DRC government were “rubbish and absurd”.
“The government of Uganda in no way and under no circumstances has sent troops or any sort of assistance to the M23 or [provided] any negative force for that region in the eastern DRC,” said Oryem.
“To the contrary, [Ugandan] President Museveni, has in the past few months, managed to bring the fighting to a low and there has been a resumption of peace.”
Felix Kulayigye, a Ugandan military spokesman, also rejected the report’s conclusions.
“Where’s the evidence for their claims? Some of those so-called experts came here and did not interview anyone,” he said. “Where’s their authentic facts to back those claims? Those accusations are absolute rubbish, hogwash.”
The UN Security Council’s Group of Experts said in a confidential report that Rwanda and Uganda – despite their strong denials – had continued to support M23 rebels in their six-month fight against Congolese government troops in North Kivu province.
The group, who monitor compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo, delivered their report to the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee earlier this month.
“The UN are making up these rubbish allegations because on the ground in the eastern DRC there is the biggest number of UN peacekeeping operations in the workld with the biggest budget, and [yet] they have failed to do anything in the past five to ten years.“
– Okello Oryem, Uganda’s State minister for foreign affairs
“Both Rwanda and Uganda have been supporting M23,” said the 44-page report, which was seen by the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
“Rwandan officials exercise overall command and strategic planning for M23.
“Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo through direct military support to M23 rebels, facilitation of recruitment, encouragement and facilitation of FARDC [Congolese army] desertions as well as the provision of arms and ammunition, intelligence, and political advice.”
“While Rwandan officials co-ordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda’s more subtle support to M23 allowed the rebel group’s political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations.”
Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese general wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, controls the rebellion on the ground and M23 leader Sultani Makenga is in charge of operations and co-ordination with allied armed groups, the UN report said.
Both Ntaganda and Makenga “receive direct military orders from RDF [Rwandan army] Chief of Defence Staff General Charles Kayonga, who in turn acts on instructions from Minister of Defence General James Kabarebe,” it said.
‘De facto administration’
Oryem said the UN was making up the allegations because they had not achieved anything in the DRC despite having the biggest and most resourced peacekeeping force in the world.
“They are making up these rubbish allegations because on the ground in the eastern DRC there is the biggest number of UN peacekeeping operations in the whole world with the largest budget in the whole world, and [yet] they have failed to do anything in the past five to ten years,” he told Al Jazeera.
“They are blaming their shortcomings on Uganda and Rwanda. They should get on with their job of what they are there to do in the eastern DRC instead of blaming others.”
Nearly half a million people have been displaced due to the fighting over the six months.
M23 has proven so resilient that one senior UN diplomatic source told Reuters that Rwanda has effectively “annexed” mineral-rich eastern Congo thanks to the rebel force.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said last month that the rebels had set up de facto administration in eastern DRC, controlling the people and collecting taxes.
The rebellion also is being funded by traders in Rwanda who are profiting from tin, tungsten and tantalum smuggled across the border from mines in the eastern DRC, according to the UN report.
An interim report from the Group of Experts published in June raised similar accusations against Rwanda but with far less detail. Rwanda was furious about that report, saying it was one-side and contained false allegations.
Rwanda has backed armed movements in the Congo during the past two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo’s eastern hills.
The UN’s latest report said that M23 had expanded its control of Rutshuru Territory with extensive foreign support last summer and had taken advantage of a recent informal ceasefire “to expand alliances and command proxy operations elsewhere.”
It said that units of the Ugandan and Rwandan armies “jointly supported M23 in a series of attacks in July 2012 to take over the major towns in Rutshuru Territory, and the [Congolese army] base of Rumangabo.”
During these attacks, the rebels killed a UN peacekeeper and fired on a UN peacekeeping base at Kiwanja.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame reiterated Rwanda’s denials of involvement at a high level meeting in New York last month that both he and Congolese President Joseph Kabila attended.
The Group of Experts said that it had corroborated its findings with multiple intelligence sources.