Dec 15, 2008

World - Rwanda, Congo authorities fuel disaster, says U.N.

Julian Borger

A U.N. investigation has presented the most conclusive evidence so far that the Rwandan and Congolese governments are fuelling ethnic militias fighting a conflict in eastern Congo that has created a humanitarian disaster in the region.

In a report delivered to the Security Council on Wednesday, the U.N. panel of experts cites substantial evidence of Rwandan military backing for a Tutsi militia fighting in eastern Congo, including the recruitment of child soldiers, while the Congolese military has been supporting a rival Hutu faction. The battle has driven 250,000 civilians from their homes in the past three months.

A U.N. source said on Friday night the report had stunned the Security Council, which is to debate the issue on Monday. The source said: “This is the most concrete evidence so far of direct government involvement behind the militias. For years, Rwanda and Congo have been dancing around the international community on this issue, saying prove it. This proves it.”

As a result of the report, the Netherlands said it would immediately cut off aid to the Rwandan government.

The revelations come while a U.N. special envoy brokers peace talks in Nairobi and Europe debates whether to send a peacekeeping force to bolster the 17,000 mission already there. Britain has said it would not send its own troops but would not stand in the way of other European countries who want to send forces, as part of the U.N. or under a separate U.N. flag.

The U.N. report will make particularly uneasy reading for the British government, which is one of the biggest aid donors in Rwanda and Congo, alongside the E.U. and the U.S. A spokesman for Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) said the department would not comment until the report had been officially published. Publication was expected over the weekend. The report calls into question the Rwandan government’s insistence it has no direct links with the Tutsi militia, the CNDP, run by General Laurent Nkunda, whose eastern Congo offensive in October precipitated the humanitarian crisis.

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