M23 rebel group soldiers patrol in Rangira, near Rutshuru, DRC, October 17, 2012.
M23 rebel group soldiers patrol in Rangira, near Rutshuru, DRC, October 17, 2012.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s information minister has called on the international community to impose sanctions on Rwanda, following the latest fighting with the M23 rebel group.

“To stop this aggression, you have to stop the hands of the aggressors,” said Information Minister Lambert Mende.  “They must stop Rwanda, and the only way of stopping Rwanda is sanctions against Rwanda.”

Fresh fighting broke out near the restive North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, after the DRC government dismissed a demand for peace talks from M23.

“The government will never negotiate with terrorists,” continued Mende, “If there is a question of negotiating, [we will] negotiate with Rwanda instead of negotiating with the puppets of Rwanda.”

Analysts say there is diplomatic tension between Kinshasa and Rwanda following accusations that the Kigali government has been supporting rebels fighting the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in north Kivu province.  But, Rwanda has rejected accusations that it is supporting rebels, including the M23 group. 

Mende said Kinshasa has also stepped up coordination efforts with the U.N. peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) to protect unarmed civilians affected by the fighting.

“There is a very good coordination between MONUSCO and the governmental army, and we really appreciate what MONUSCO is doing to protect civilians,” said Mende.

“We are protecting civilians,” continued Mende. “For example, when they [rebels] fired at the civilian camp, we helped in [sheltering] displacing 50,000 people, women, disabled people, elders, to bring them to Bugunda, very far from there.  This was organized under the protection of the FARDC and MONUSCO.”

He also said the national army is fighting and repelling attacks by the rebels as a means of protecting the civilians.

MONUSCO is mandated by the U.N. Security Council to protect unarmed civilians who have been affected by the conflict in the DRC.

Some humanitarian agencies have expressed concern that the escalation of insecurity in North Kivu will increase the number of internally-displaced People (IDPs) living in the province.

Clottey interview with Lambert Mende DRC information