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US, AU Want Action on Neutral Force for Rebel-Held Areas of Congo

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the media as African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, listens after their meeting at the Department of State in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
The United States and the African Union want action on a neutral force to take charge of areas controlled by Congolese rebels near the border with Rwanda. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Rwanda must help block support for that rebellion.
Rebels in a group known as M23 say they are preparing to give up control of the eastern Congolese city of Goma. But U.S. officials say it is too soon to determine whether that movement is a withdrawal or simply a military redeployment.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the only way forward for those rebels is to keep to the terms of a deal reached in Uganda.
"They must meet their commitments under the Kampala accords to cease their attacks, withdraw from Goma and pull back to the July lines," she said.

As part of that deal, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame agreed on a neutral force to take charge of rebel areas.
That is complicated by the widely held view that Rwanda is the chief supporter of the M23 rebellion, an allegation that Rwanda denies.
Following talks with Secretary Clinton at the State Department Wednesday, African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said getting regional leaders to help stop the fighting is more important than assigning blame.
"They have taken a decision that there must be a neutral force there. And Rwanda was there. It supported that decision. That M23 must move out of Goma. Rwanda was there. It supported that decision. So for us that's what is important," she said.
Secretary Clinton says all leaders must block efforts to resupply the rebellion.
"We have consistently called on all parties, including Rwanda, to play a positive role in helping to bring about a peaceful resolution of this conflict. And that includes ending any and all support for the M23. Any military assistance from anyone to the M23 is in violation of the U.N. arms embargo," she said.
The United States has been reluctant to accuse Rwanda of backing the rebellion. Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Sarah Margon says it is time for the Obama administration to try a different approach.
"That strategy has failed. We've seen the M23 not only take over Goma, but we've seen them march north. We see them continuing to stay put. We see a potentially weakening President Kabila in Kinshasa," she said.
She says calling Rwanda out for supporting M23 will not resolve the crisis in Eastern Congo, but it is an important first step.
"Rwanda does need to be a part of the conversation. But they also need to understand that they can't continue doing what they've been doing. It's simply unacceptable," she said.
Fighting in Eastern Congo has displaced more than 285,000 people over the last eight months, creating what Secretary Clinton calls a devastating humanitarian situation with health workers in Goma killed and abducted.
"Members of civil society, human rights activists, judicial authorities throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo have received death threats. The United States strongly condemns these tactics of fear and intimidation. And those who abuse human rights must be held accountable," she said.
Human Rights Watch's Margon says it's a very worrisome human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and her group does not see it getting any better any time soon.