UN Security Council puts sanctions on Congo rebels
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to sanction the leaders of Congo's M23 rebel force, which hours earlier occupied the eastern Congolese city of Goma as U.N. peacekeepers stood by without resisting.
But it did not name two countries accused by Congo of supporting the rebels: Rwanda and Uganda.
The council demanded that the M23 rebels withdraw from Goma, disarm and disband, and insisted on the restoration of the crumbing Congolese government authority in the country's turbulent East.
The resolution adopted imposes targeted sanctions, including a travel ban and assets freeze, on the M23 rebel group leadership. Individual nations are supposed to enforce the sanctions and report to the council.
The resolution also calls for an immediate end to external support to the rebels and asks the U.N. secretary-general to report on the allegations of foreign support while expressing its readiness to take appropriate measures.
It took the rare step in a resolution of singling out two M23 commanders by name: Innocent Kaina and Baudouin Ngaryu, and called for the council's sanctions committee to review their activity and unnamed other individuals.
Unnamed in the resolution were Rwanda and Uganda, which have been identified as supporters of the M23 rebellion by a U.N. panel of experts' report due out Friday that has been leaked to some media.
Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that an advance copy of the report that it has reviewed names Rwanda and Uganda as supporting M23.
"Sadly, this resolution fails to name Rwandan officials known by the U.N. to have supported M23's atrocities from day one," said the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, Philippe Bolopion. "Despite its influence on Rwanda, in public the U.S. government has been inexplicably silent," he added.
Congolese special envoy Serahin Ngwei accused Rwanda of arming the M23 and providing troops to back them in his speech to the council.
Rwanda's representative spoke to the council after the vote to deny that his country is involved in the Congolese rebellion. Uganda has previously denied involvement.
Without naming Rwanda or Uganda, the resolution said the council was worried that "external support continues to be provide to the M23, including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment, causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23."
It condemns M23 for attacking civilians, U.N. personnel and humanitarian relief workers, and accused M23 of "summary executions, sexual and gender based violence and large scale recruitment and use of child soldiers."
The resolution calls on "all actors" to use their influence on M23 "to bring about an end to attacks."
Over the weekend, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Rwandan President Paul Kagame to ask him to intervene and stop the M23 offensive, according to a statement issued at U.N headquarters in New York.
Ban also spoke Sunday to Uganda's President Museveni, it said. Museveni, in his capacity as chairperson of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, indicated that he had spoken to the M23 rebels and called for calm.
On Wednesday the Security Council will review the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, named MONUSCO, which has an authorized strength of 22,000 uniformed personnel, but now has a total of 19,100 in the country including 17,700 military and 1,400 international police. The new resolution asks the U.N. chief to recommend possible redeployment, and possible "additional force multipliers."
Nearly 1,500 U.N. peacekeepers in Goma stood by as the M23 swept in to avoid triggering a battle, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.
The peacekeepers "cannot substitute for the efforts of national forces" in Goma, a city of 1 million, said the deputy spokesman for the secretary-general, Eduardo del Buey.
A Congolese military spokesman has expressed frustration over the lack of action by the peacekeepers.
But del Buey said the decision was made on the ground by the U.N. force commander. "There has to be a value judgment made," he said. "Do you open fire and put civilians at risk, or do you hold your fire, continue your patrols, observe what's happening and remind the M23 that they are subject to international humanitarian and human rights law?"
The U.N. troops, operating under the name MONUSCO, still hold the airport, del Buey said.