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October 18, 2012

DRC Demands Uganda Explain Role in N. Kivu

by VOA News

The Democratic Republic of Congo has asked Uganda to explain what involvement it may have with rebels in Congo's North Kivu province.

DRC Information Minister Lambert Mende spoke to VOA's English to Africa service, a day after a leaked U.N. report said both Uganda and Rwanda are giving military support to the rebel group known as M23.

Besides an explanation from Uganda, Mende said Congo wants to know Uganda's position on certain officials named in the report. 

"We are very eager to know what measures they are going to take on those people, maybe to punish them or not," he said.

He said the response will help officials determine whether Uganda is taking hostile action against the DRC.

Uganda and Rwanda have both denied supporting M23, which has battled Congo's army and taken control of the Rutshuru territory.

Rwanda was one of five countries elected to non-permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council Thursday. Before the vote, the DRC voiced an objection, saying Rwanda is a destabilizing force in eastern Congo.

Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told VOA Wednesday that her country is cooperating with the DRC.

Mende rejected that idea, and said Congo has asked the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Rwandan officials.

"We think that the Security Council must take into account the necessity of saving human lives," said Mende. "So, they should act as quickly as possible."

Eastern Congo has endured years of conflict involving the government and various armed groups, including Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army and Rwandan Hutu rebels.  Fighting and unrest have displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The area is home to productive mines that many groups seek to control for financial gain. Efforts to integrate the Congolese groups into the army have met with only limited success.

M23 consists of former soldiers who deserted the army earlier this year.

The U.N. report leaked Wednesday was prepared by the Group of Experts, a U.N. Security Council committee.

It says M23 is commanded by Rwandan Minister of Defense James Kabarebe. It also says the rebels' chain of command includes former Congolese General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, including the alleged recruitment of child soldiers.