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Rwanda Denies Supporting M23 in DRC, Cites 'Historical Reality'

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Rwanda is rejecting United Nations allegations that it is backing a militia group in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants an end to outside support for those rebel groups.

Secretary-General Ban said the militia group known as M23 is consolidating its control over areas of Congo's North Kivu province.

"Its members are raping, murdering and pillaging local populations as part of a campaign of terror," he said.

In a meeting Thursday on the crisis, Ban said Congo's neighbors must abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting outside interference.

"I am very concerned about continuing reports of external support for the M23. I call on all those responsible to end this destabilizing assistance. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC is inviolable and must be fully respected by all of the DRC's neighbors," said Ban.

Charges and denials

A U.N. report in June accused Rwandan defense officials of backing M23, prompting the United States and some European countries to suspend military assistance to Kigali.

In a written statement following Thursday's U.N. meeting, Rwanda's government again denied those allegations, saying that solving the crisis will be impossible "if the international community continues to define the issue erroneously."

The statement quotes President Paul Kagame as saying it is "perplexing" the degree to which the international community focuses on M23 at the expense of "much broader challenges," and warning that "externalizing" the crisis "effectively absolves blame from those with primary responsibility."

His statement says the many armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo "are the outcome of a complex, long-standing historical reality. Therefore singling out one group out of many is running away from the actual issue."

Asked if Kagame responded directly to the allegations in the closed session, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said it is not for him to speak for any of the participants.

"So you should ask them. But I do say that the overwhelming majority of participants did state their total opposition to any form of external support both to M23 and to the other armed groups," said Ladsous.

Failure to reach consensus

Thursday's session failed to produce a joint communique on the crisis, something that the United Kingdom Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds said is deeply regrettable because London sought a document that "not only correctly diagnosed the roots of today’s crisis, but also mapped out how all parties can work to end it."

Simmonds said there is credible evidence of external support for M23, for which he said there can be no possible justification, whether it be military hardware or strategic advice.

Human Rights Watch said the U.N. session failed to properly acknowledge Rwanda's continued military support for M23. So long as that support continues, said the rights group's United Nations director Philippe Bolopion, Congolese civilians will continue to bear the brunt of the fighting, regardless of how many summits the U.N. holds.

On the sidelines of this week's General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met together with Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila. A senior State Department official said Clinton emphasized the need for an "honest and sustained dialogue" between the countries to find a solution that includes respecting territorial integrity and bringing to justice M23 leaders.

Article by Scott Stearns, VOA News