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Terrorism & Security

DR Congo's M23 rebel leader heads to Uganda for withdrawal talks (+video)

M23's reported connections with Uganda and Rwanda complicate a resolution in eastern Congo.

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The document said that Rwanda is funneling weapons, providing direct troop reinforcements to the M23 rebels, facilitating recruitment and encouraging desertions from the Congolese armed forces. The de facto chain of command of M23 ends with Rwandan Defense Minister Gen. James Kabarebe, the report said.

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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A weekend report from The Daily Telegraph provides further evidence of Rwandan involvement with M23, as two men told of their experiences working with the group and Rwandan soldiers.

Jean-Paul Nsengiyumva (not his real name) served as an NCO with a regular Rwandan infantry battalion until June, when he was transferred to a "special battalion" created to fight in Congo. After being briefed by one of Rwanda's most senior generals at Gako Military Academy, his unit was sent to back up Congo's rebels.

"At that time, M23 did not have many soldiers, so when the fighting was hard, they were calling us for help. Then we would come over the border and take the town," he said. "When we finished, we would pull back to Rwanda and allow M23 to occupy the area." Three times, his unit went over the frontier and into battle at M23's request, helping to seize the border crossing at Bunagana and two other towns. In September, however, Nsengiyumva's unit was deployed to bolster an M23 assault on a big Congolese army camp. This battle was tougher than expected – two attacks were beaten off and Rwandan forces with their rebel allies only succeeded at their third attempt.

Similarly, another man, identified by the pseudonym Nsengimana Ngaruye, described his time working as a porter for the Rwandan army at a base inside Congo.

"They used to tell us, 'Your enemy is the government of Congo, we need you to fight them and once we take over the country, you will get rewarded'." Ngaruye said the camp was filled with Rwandan soldiers and Congolese rebels, although a colonel in the Rwandan army was in command. He never fought, but carried ammunition and supplies whenever an attack was launched. In September, he deserted. He surrendered to the Congolese army and was also jailed in Goma until being freed last week.

The Telegraph also points out that Rwanda is the beneficiary of large amounts of aid from foreign governments, including 75 million pounds ($120 million) from Britain. While that aid is specifically dedicated to non-military purposes, the Telegraph notes that "by subsidising Rwanda's government, Britain risks giving [Rwandan President Paul] Kagame more discretion. He could rely on outside donors, who provide 46 per cent of his national budget, to fund essential services and use his own resources in other ways," such as militarily.

In a commentary for the Guardian, journalist Ian Birrell criticizes both Rwanda and its foreign patrons, including Britain. "Britain and America in particular have lionised a regime guilty of ghastly internal repression and gruesome foreign adventurism, with catastrophic consequences for millions of Congolese," Mr. Birrell writes. "After weeks of prevarication, Britain has finally admitted evidence of Rwandan support for M23 was 'credible'. Now we must make up for supporting this monstrous regime by cutting all aid, imposing tough sanctions and seeking war crimes proceedings against Kagame and his senior officials."

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