A United Nations panel of experts has found evidence that Rwanda has provided support to Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Officials in Congo have often accused neighboring Rwanda of aiding the rebels, a charge Rwanda denies.
The report, released late Friday, charges that Rwandan authorities have been "complicit" in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, and have facilitated the supply of military equipment and sent officers and units of the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) across the border into Congo to support General Nkunda's rebel fighters, known as the CNDP.
Jason Stearns, the coordinator of the independent group of experts, said the five member panel does not speculate in its report on how systematic the involvement is, or who in the Rwandan government has been complicit. "It is obvious that given the fairly organized structure of the Rwandan government, that there is certainly knowledge of this. Given what we have described in the report, they must know about this. They have not done anything to bring it to an end," he said.
Rwandan officials have repeatedly denied giving any assistance to the CNDP.
But the panel's report says it found evidence that CNDP rebels used Rwandan territory as a base for fundraising meetings and bank accounts - including at least one account belonging to General Nkunda's wife.
The panel also obtained evidence showing "extensive collaboration" between the Congolese army and Hutu rebels from the FDLR [Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda] and Mai-Mai tribal militias, including joint operations against Nkunda's CNDP rebels.
Stearns says Congolese authorities have also aided Rwandan Hutu forces. "I would say the same thing for the Congolese army actually and the FDLR. It is obvious to us that they certainly knew about them and did nothing to stop it. We do not want to speculate on who is pulling the trigger here, who is giving the orders. But it is obvious that Rwandan authorities and Congolese authorities are aware of support provided to rebel groups."
Starting in mid-August, the five independent experts spent 12 weeks in Central Africa collecting evidence - including documents, phone records, eyewitness accounts and other testimony.
Their report offers 16 recommendations to the Security Council's sanctions committee. Among them - enforced compliance with the arms embargo and reminding Rwanda of its obligation to prevent any form of support to the CNDP.
There is also a confidential annex recommending individuals and groups to the Security Council for sanctions.
A quarter of a million people have been displaced in eastern Congo since August, when the latest round of fighting between Laurent Nkunda's rebels and the government began.