Report: Rwanda Arming Rebels in Eastern DRC

Posted June 4th, 2012 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
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A human-rights group says Rwandan military officials have been arming rebels fighting the government in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says it has evidence the officials have provided weapons, ammunition and up to 300 new recruits to the rebel forces of renegade DRC General Bosco Ntaganda.

It says some of the 300 are civilians recruited by force and include children under 18.

The Rwandan government has denied providing support for Ntaganda's forces, as well as having any involvement in the eastern Congo conflict.

Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of recruiting and using child soldiers back in 2002 and 2003, when he commanded a militia in Congo's Ituri province.

In March, the ICC convicted Ntaganda's associate Thomas Lubanga on similar charges.

HRW is urging Rwanda to investigate the allegations of support for Ntaganda within its military ranks, and to help Congo's government arrest Ntaganda and transfer him to the ICC.

The rights group says the Rwandan army officials have provided assault rifles, grenades, machine guns and anti-aircraft artillery, and have also allowed the rebels to cross the border to evade capture and elude attacks from Congolese forces.

Ntaganda and his troops were integrated into the Congolese army in 2009 as part of a peace deal to end years of fighting in the area. But indications the government was about to arrest Ntaganda prompted him and several-hundred soldiers to mutiny against the army.

The eastern DRC has been plagued by continuing armed conflict and violence since the end of a civil war in 2003. The area is home to many militia groups, including the Rwandan FDLR rebels, and efforts to integrate the groups into Congo's army have largely failed.