The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) information minister has expressed concern about a recent report which states that M23 rebel group has been recruiting children in the Ituri region of the country to launch another round of insurgency.
Lambert Mende also called on the international community to put pressure on both Rwanda and Uganda to stop supporting the rebel group.
“We are seriously concerned about this information that is coming from a very credible source that is the UN expert groups and the civil society,” said Mende. “We are really astonished to hear that after the signing of the Addis Ababa agreement some neighboring countries and members of the Great Lakes States like Rwanda and Uganda are continuing to help this negative force of M23 to resume their criminal activities against our country.”
Mende says it is unacceptable for neighboring countries to support armed groups against the government.
“That is something we can’t accept and we call upon all the international community, all African states to assemble and exert pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to stop this against our people,” said Mende.
Both Kigali and Kampala have sharply rejected accusations that they support the rebel group. Uganda mediated the peace negotiations between the government in Kinshasa and representatives of the M23 rebel group, which ended in the signing of an accord to end the conflict.
Mende says he is not surprised the two neighboring countries are denying allegations they support the M23.
“It is what they are used to saying to deny, while the [M23 rebels] were killing our people last year and in 2012, they were saying that they are not behind those guys when the entire international community witnessed that they are organizing them, arming them, feeding them and giving them asylum in their country,” Mende said. “So, we are not at all impressed by this verbal denial, we need action.”
Mende says Rwanda and Uganda have so far refused his government’s extradition request for leading members of the M23 accused of committing human rights violations to face justice in DRC.
“We met total refusal to cooperate with our request from our neighbors. They are giving us a lot of arguments not to respond positively to our request and this is a pity for Africa,” said Mende.
Mende says Congo’s national army (FARDC) is prepared to confront and defeat any armed group that aims to create chaos and destabilize the country. He hailed military support from the UN peacekeepers (MONUSCO) in the country, mandated to protect civilians.
“We are ready to meet any aggression against our country [and] we showed it last year by defeating M23. We shall defeat it if they come again as we are waiting for them to do,” said Mende. “We appreciate the assistance we are getting from our partners of MONUSCO."