Rwanda is accused of supporting a new rebellion in the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, straining its relations with Kinshasa and long-standing Western allies including Washington.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Rwandan President Paul Kagame he is concerned about reports that dissident Congolese troops are receiving support from Kigali officials.
Kagame’s government has consistently denied backing the rebel movement, known as M23.
A crucial development to monitor is how Rwanda responds to mounting calls for an end to its alleged support of the Tutsi-dominated mutineers, Reuters reports.
CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
The name M23 refers to a March 2009 peace deal that ended an earlier rebellion in Congo’s North Kivu province which the rebels say has been broken.
The U.N. Security Council last month published a document implicating Rwanda’s defence minister and several top military officials in backing the rebels loyal to renegade General Bosco Ntaganda.
The evidence contained in an addendum to a report by U.N. experts is the strongest yet pointing to high-level support within the Rwandan government for the mutineers.
The U.N. experts said the Rwandan army had provided military equipment, including weapons and ammunition, to M23 rebels. They also said senior Rwandan officials had been directly involved in generating political and financial support for the rebels.
Rwanda said it deeply regretted the Security Council’s decision to publish the addendum, denouncing it as one-sided. Kigali was denied the right to respond, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said.
Authorities in eastern Congo have accused neighbouring Rwanda of invading the volatile border area, portraying the advancing insurgency as a Rwandan military operation.
U.N. peacekeepers have been helping Congolese forces reinforce the road from Rutshuru – which government troops surrendered to rebels last weekend – to the provincial capital Goma, to prevent further insurgent advances.
What to watch:
– Signs of a rebel push on Goma? Will the U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, let them get close?
– Further fallout between Kigali and Kinshasa.
– Will Rwanda offer evidence to disprove the U.N. charges of Rwandan involvement?
– After calling publicly on Rwanda to cease backing the rebels, will the United States consider reducing or cutting aid to Rwanda if the insurgency persists?
POLITICAL OPPONENTS, INTERNAL RIFTS
Kagame was re-elected by a landslide in 2010 for a final term that expires in 2017.
The president, who has led his country’s recovery from the 1994 genocide, has been praised for his efforts to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.
But critics accuse him of being authoritarian and trampling on media and political freedoms.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said that although Rwanda’s economy has grown, the political culture remains comparatively closed and the media restricted.
Former army chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegyeya, a former chief of military intelligence – both sentenced to 20 years in jail in absentia by a military court – formed the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) opposition party in December 2010.
The government says the two have formed a rebel group and are collaborating with the country’s enemies.
Opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, leader of the unregistered FDU-Inkingi party, remains in detention. She denies funding Hutu FDLR rebels based in Congo and says her detention is driven by political motivations.
In mid-April she decided to boycott her trial, saying her “trust in the judiciary has waned”.
Some observers say Nyamwasa’s move to create a new opposition party could expose rifts within the ruling elite.
What to Watch:
– How will Kagame react to pressure from opposition parties and the West for political liberalisation?
– Will anything emerge out of the pledged alliance between Nyamwasa’s and Ingabire’s parties and how will the government react to it. An alliance could expose weaknesses among the political elite close to Kagame. Diplomatic sources say they do not see the coalition as a serious political or military threat.
– Ingabire’s case. This is a major test of the independence of Rwanda’s judiciary.
– The media. A bill to amend the 2009 media law and a draft law on access to information are expected to be enacted soon. The new media law would make the sector self-regulating in theory, but critics are concerned the changes will remain only on paper.