Rwanda must "immediately end any support" for M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States said Tuesday, after a report from Human Rights Watch blamed the rebels for numerous rapes and summary executions.
The United States Tuesday toughened its tone against Rwanda, demanding it withdraw troops from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and end support to M23 rebels accused of atrocities there.
In its strongest comments to date against Rwandan leaders, Washington said there was "a credible body of evidence" linking top Rwandan officials to the rebels who have brought months of terror to the central African country.
"We call upon Rwanda to immediately end any support to the M23, withdraw military personnel from eastern DRC and follow through on its commitments," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Her comments came after a damning report by Human Rights Watch and ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on the Great Lakes meeting to be chaired in New York on Thursday by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The HRW report found M23 rebels have summarily executed some 44 people and raped 61 women and girls since March 2013 in eastern DR Congo.
Residents had reported regular movements of men dressed in Rwandan army uniforms into Congo, while food, ammunition and other supplies were coming from Rwanda to the M23.
"Not only is Rwanda allowing its territory to be used by the abusive M23 to get recruits and equipment, but the Rwandan military is still directly supporting the M23," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"This support is sustaining an armed group responsible for numerous killings, rapes and other serious abuses."
The M23 are Tutsi fighters formerly of the Rwanda-backed rebel group National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP.
They were integrated into DR Congo's regular army in 2009 as part of a peace deal following their failed 2008 offensive on the eastern city of Goma.
Rwanda has long denied any complicity in the violence, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame -- a US ally -- last year dismissing the allegations made by the UN and various human rights groups as "ridiculous."
Psaki said: "We believe there is a credible body of evidence that supports the key findings of the Human Rights Watch report, including support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23 and of Rwandan military personnel in the DRC."
She refused to say whether there had been any direct contact between the US administration and Kigali following the release of the HRW report on Monday, but she said the State Department's views were shared by the White House.
Last year the US froze $200,000 of military aid to Kigali amid concerns over support for M23 rebels but did not go as far as accusing the Rwandan military and officials of specific involvement.
Fresh fighting raged in the DR Congo's restive east for several hours Monday as army helicopters attacked positions of the M23 rebels, who fired mortars in return, both sides said.
The latest clashes in the central African country's mineral-rich but conflict-torn east broke four days of relative calm, further damaging a tattered truce that had lasted from late May, when UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited the region, until July 14.
Date created : 2013-07-23