Conflict & Justice

Rwanda denies US claim it backs DRC's M23 rebels


Residents of Goma react as they listen to M23 rebel group spokesman at the Volcanoes Stadium in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Nov. 21, 2012. Lt.-Col. Kazarama addressed the population of Goma in an attempt to calm and reassure the civilians following the fall of the city to M23 rebels this week.



Rwanda denied on Tuesday claims by the United States that it backs M23 rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The dismissal came as BBC News reported four Rwandans told the news organization they were forcibly recruited by their country's army to fight for the M23 rebels.

More from GlobalPost: M23 rebels committing serious rights abuses in Congo, says Human Rights Watch

The Rwandan army denied their claim, saying they made up their story in order to be granted asylum, which they were seeking in Uganda.

Rwanda's statement also came as the United Nations announced that its newly deployed Intervention Brigade would start securing a zone around Goma, a strategically located Congolese city in the east, and would forcibly disarm people found carrying weapons in that area.

A statement by the UN mission in DR Congo, known as MONUSCO, gave M23 rebels around Goma until 4 p.m. local time on Thursday "to hand in their weapons to a MONUSCO base" and take part in the demobilization program.

After that time, "they will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement."

Western donors stopped sending some aid to Rwanda last year after UN experts said Kigali was backing rebels in the east of DR Congo, which has been plagued by fighting since the 1990s, in part fuelled by an attempt to control rich mineral deposits there.

The UN also reported last month that M23 continued to recruit fighters in Rwanda with the help of sympathetic Rwandan military officers. The statement led Washington to say it was "deeply concerned" and to ask for Rwanda to stop supporting the DR Congo.