UNITED NATIONS —
The ambassadors of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo exchanged unusually sharp words Thursday during a U.N. Security Council meeting on their countries' alleged support for rebel groups.
The 15-nation council unanimously renewed sanctions against individuals and armed groups accused of ignoring measures to ease violence in the eastern Congo. It also extended the mandate of the U.N. Group of Experts on the DRC.
The experts' report on eastern Congo led to Thursday's angry outburst between the envoys. Rwanda, a member of the Security Council, had objected to it and did not want it published.
Among its findings, the experts said they had “credible information” that leaders of Congo's M23 rebel group - despite its defeat at the end of 2013 - “were moving freely in Uganda and that M23 continued to recruit in Rwanda.”
The report also said the rebels received support from within Rwanda, including troops and ammunition.
Rwandan Ambassador Eugene Gasana denounced the report in his remarks to the council.
“We rejected this report, which lacks objectivity, which lacks transparency, material evidence and credible sources," he said. "We deplore the flawed methodology used by an unaccountable and unprofessional Group of Experts, allowing itself the right to accuse the whole nation without any single evidence.”
In his remarks, Congolese Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita said the panel's report highlighted the patterns of Rwanda and Uganda, who he said persist in destabilizing the eastern part of the DRC.
He said the experts’ report also documented numerous Rwandan army incursions into the DRC, which he said constituted “an act of aggression.”
“This is a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter; flouting the principles of peaceful co-existence, international humanitarian law, the rules for the protection of human rights and the imperative standards of international law,” said Mavita.
The experts' report also said Congo's military had given some cooperation and weapons to a Congo-based Rwandan Hutu rebel group, the FDLR.
Congo's ambassador said his government would like specific information regarding this allegation but said Rwanda used the FDLR's existence as an excuse to interfere.
“My government is aware that the matter of the FDLR is one of the most frequently used pretexts by Rwanda to destabilize the DRC," he said. "We wish to reassure the Security Council that the settlement of this issue remains a priority, even after the defeat of the M23.”
Things then got more heated, with the Rwandan ambassador scolding his Congolese counterpart, saying the DRC has had problems for decades and could not blame them on either Rwanda or Uganda. He said the two countries had only tried to help Congo and that the envoy’s remarks showed a lack of gratitude.
Ambassador Mavita shot back that Congo wanted a sincere dialogue with Rwanda and that Kigali should end its “arrogant” behavior toward Kinshasa.
His remarks elicited laughs and animated gestures from Ambassador Gasana.
And with that, the council president said the meeting was over - even though the dispute between Congo and Rwanda is clearly not.