SA exported R103 million worth of arms to Rwanda over last decade; UN fingers Rwanda in Congo report

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South Africa exported R103.4 million worth of conventional arms to Rwanda between 2003 and 2012, according to the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC). The United Nations has demanded an end to foreign support for the Congo’s M23 rebels, which it believes are supplied by Rwanda.

According to NCACC reports, South Africa exported R72.6 million worth of “Category A” conventional arms to Rwanda between 2003 and 2012. Category A weapons are defined as “sensitive conventional implements of war that could cause heavy personnel casualties and major damage or destruction”. South Africa also exported R23.6 million worth of “Category C” conventional arms, defined as “support equipment usually employed in the direct support of combat operations that have no inherent capability to kill or destruct”. In addition, between 1996 and 2006 at least 38 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) were exported to Rwanda.

In addition, South Africa exported R1 854 788 of Category D material to Rwanda (“purposely designed de-mining, mine clearing and mine detection equipment and all non-lethal pyrotechnical and riot control products”) and R5 356 643 worth of Category G material (“purposely built armaments manufacturing equipment, plants, facilities and test ranges for the manufacture, development, maintenance, test, upgrade and refurbishment of armaments products”).

The last reported consignment of conventional arms exported from South Africa to Rwanda took place early this year and comprised of R2.4 million worth of “Category C” conventional arms.

The United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recently published a report that found evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations by Rwanda, including supporting and supplying armed groups in the DRC in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1807 (2008).

Yesterday the UN Security Council demanded an end to foreign support for the M23 rebels fighting against the Kinshasa government in the eastern DRC, a rebuke diplomats said was aimed at Rwanda and Uganda.

The 15-nation council issued a statement voicing its “strong condemnation of any and all outside support to the M23 and demand that all support to the M23, including from outside countries, cease immediately. They further call upon all countries in the region to cooperate actively with the Congolese authorities in dismantling and demobilizing the M23,” the statement said.

The UN report found that arms embargo and sanctions regime violations by Rwanda were found to include the “provision of weapons and ammunition to M23” as well as “direct Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23”.
“The fact that Rwanda has been found to be providing weapons and ammunition to M23 should be of concern because South Africa exported more than R100 million worth of conventional arms to Rwanda,” stated David Maynier, the opposition Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. He said he would request NCACC chairperson Jeff Radebe to halt all conventional arms sales from South Africa to Rwanda

Maynier noted that the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo report did not find any evidence that conventional weapons, exported from South Africa, found their way to M23 or were being used by the Rwandan Defence Force to support M23.

However, he said that, “we cannot be sure that conventional weapons, exported from South Africa, may not find their way to M23 or may not be used by the RDF to support M23 in the future.”

Earlier this week, UN Congo envoy Roger Meece told the council behind closed doors that M23 had gained ground in the east against the Congolese army, which has only limited capabilities to fight the small but capable rebel group, envoys said. “The overall view (from Meece) was pretty grim,” a senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity, Reuters reports.

Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, said on Saturday his government had requested an explanation from Ugandan authorities after persistent rumours that its soldiers were backing the M23 group.

The M23 rebellion takes its name from a 2009 peace accord the rebels say was violated by Kinshasa.

It has been swelled by hundreds of defectors from the Congolese army who walked out into the bush in support of fugitive Congolese General Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.

The leaders of Congo and Rwanda agreed to allow a neutral force to be deployed in Congo to defeat each other’s rebels, but the plan’s details have not been announced yet.

Uganda is scheduled to host regional leaders from Sunday to Wednesday to discuss the conflict after an interim report by the U.N.’s panel of experts accused Rwanda of backing the rebels.

Kigali has strenuously denied that, and in turn accused the international community of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern Congo.

Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, said that Rwanda has shared its views and concerns with the authors of the report and explained itself on each accusation in it. “After that we made up our own report on the issue, and sent it to all those who have asked for our views, especially those suspending their aid based on false allegations.”
“The eastern Congo unrest doesn’t interest Rwanda, we have no reason of backing any mutiny in the region,” Mushikiwabo said. “Since 2009 Rwanda has done all in its possibilities to solve the problem. President Kagame and his Congolese counterpart shared their understanding on the concern, but still the thing prevails,” she noted. “Any country does anything without any reason; there is no reason for Rwanda to back the reported mutineers,” AllAfrica reports.

Donors including the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany have suspended some of their financial aid to Rwanda over the accusations that it is backing the rebels.

Although Uganda’s relations with Congo have markedly improved in recent years, the two neighbours were not seeing eye to eye in the late 1990s and early 2000s after Uganda, alongside Rwanda, invaded the giant nation twice.

Uganda justified its invasion by saying it wanted to root out a rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces, which has bases in eastern Congo and is opposed to the Kampala government.