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Rwanda denies backing rebel fighters in Congo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While the Congolese army has been fighting rebels in the eastern part of that country for several days, members of the world community have accused the neighboring nation of Rwanda of funding and supporting the rebel fighters there. Rwanda denies these allegations, as clashes have been reported in villages around the town of Goma, near the border both countries share.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Soldiers backed by U.N. helicopter gunships battled rebels near a mountain gorilla reserve in eastern DR Congo.

In the meantime, thousands of people continue to flee a three-month-old rebellion. More than 260,000 civilians have been forced from their homes in recent months, according to U.N. agencies, some across the borders to Uganda and Rwanda, while others towards Goma.

In response, the Netherlands has suspended an aid budget worth $6.15 million to Rwanda over its alleged backing of the rebels. In addition, the U.S. announced it was cutting military aid to the country last week. U.S. officials said they were cutting $200,000 in military aid to Rwanda to show it is "deeply concerned about the evidence" implicating the country.

Rwanda has continually denied reports made by U.N. experts that it is supporting the M23 movement rebels in eastern DR Congo.

U.N. Radio Okapi said the rebels began attacking the Rumangabo military camp, which the soldiers had only retaken from the M23 rebel group earlier this week.

Army Spokesman Major Olivier Hamuli, says that soldiers made a strategic retreat from Rutshuru "to avoid a bloodbath" of civilians.

The rebels are accused of numerous human rights abuses, including child rape and the forced recruitment of children into their ranks. Soldiers also are accused of rape and widespread looting.

Rwanda continues to vigorously deny involvement with the rebels, accusing Congolese troops of ill-treating Rwandan nationals.

"This is an extremely serious incident - we have confirmation that one of the tortured Rwandans has died," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement posted on her ministry Web site.

"We have asked the government of the DRC (Congo) to ensure that the mistreatment of Rwandan citizens stops immediately."

Many Rwandans have reported being abused since a U.N. report reported substantial evidence that Rwanda's military helped create, arm and support the M23 rebel group, including by sending Rwandan troops to fight alongside them against Congo's army.

The rebel fighters are members of an earlier Rwandan-backed rebellion who were integrated into the Congolese army in 2010 and began deserting in April, demanding better implementation of a peace pact.

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