US Calls on Rwanda to Stop Supporting M23

by Kevin Jon Heller

Outside of Kigali, no one really doubts that the Rwandan government and military have financed, supplied, and at times even directed M23’s actions in the DRC. But it’s still nice to see the US government acknowledging that fact:

It is the first response by Washington to recent M23 clashes with Congolese government forces near Goma, the largest city in the DRC’s mineral-rich eastern region, but stayed clear of directly implicating Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a U.S. ally whose poverty-fighting programs are often heralded by donors.

“We call upon Rwanda to immediately end any support for the M23 (and) withdraw military personnel from eastern DRC,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The call comes two days before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chairs a special session of the U.N. Security Council on Africa’s Great Lakes region.

M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honour a 2009 peace deal.

A U.N. report in June this year said the M23 recruited fighters in Rwanda with the aid of sympathetic Rwandan army officers, while elements of the Congolese army have cooperated with the Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR.

The report prompted the United States and European states to suspend military assistance to Kigali.

Psaki said the latest concerns over M23 follow credible evidence from Human Rights Watch that said the rebels were to blame for executions, rapes and forcible recruitment of men and boys while receiving support from Rwanda.

It’s a shame that the US didn’t specifically place blame on Kagame, whose close relationship with the US can be explained far more by his love of western multinationals than by his commitment to fighting poverty. But the US statement is still welcome.

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