The UN Security Council’s decision to publish a report accusing Rwanda of backing armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo is “deeply regrettable”, said Rwanda on Wednesday.
Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement that the government would provide factual evidence to show that the charges of Rwandan involvement are false and that the document was biased.
"This is a one-sided preliminary document based on partial findings and is still subject to verification."
The evidence contained in an addendum to a recent report by UN experts is the strongest yet to indicate high-level support within President Paul Kagame's government for the so-called M23 rebellion, whose stand-off with Congolese forces has caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in eastern Congo.
Rwanda has vigorously denied backing M23, a group of several hundred soldiers led by Bosco Ntaganda, a renegade army general with past links to Rwanda, who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
The addendum by the Group of Experts – an independent panel that monitors violations of the Congo sanctions regime – is due to be published in the coming days according to diplomats, but Reuters has obtained a copy, which points at Rwandan support for several armed groups in eastern Congo, including M23.
"Throughout the Group's investigations, it has systematically gathered testimonies... which affirm the direct involvement in the support to M23 from senior levels of the Rwandan government," the 43-page report stated.
Mushikiwabo said a "media frenzy" had forced the UN's decision to publish the report – without allowing Rwanda an opportunity to respond systematically to the allegations, which implicate Rwanda's defence minister and several high ranking army officers.
"[As] the Congolese Army proved unable to contain the mutiny, Kinshasa and its allies [have] resorted to pointing the finger at Rwanda," she said, adding that the government had invited the Group of Experts to visit Kigali to continue their investigations, an invitation the Group said it had accepted.
Originally, the addendum documenting the allegations against Rwanda was not to be released until next month to allow Kigali time to respond, but diplomats said suggestions from the Congolese government that member states were trying to block it had motivated Security Council members to expedite its release.
The extent of the allegations and the Rwandan government's aggressive denials have blown the mutiny into a diplomatic incident with its former foe, Congo, said Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa director for International Crisis Group.
Rwanda is vying for a spot on the Security Council next year and that could be jeopardized by the scandal, Vircoulon said.
But he also warned that Congo's failure to deal with the mutineers, who continue to hold three hills close to the Rwandan border, could see the security situation deteriorate further.
"The longer this goes on, the more dangerous it looks. We're hearing that the mutineers are re-enforcing... You clearly see the situation is in favour of the mutineers," he said, from the eastern Congolese city of Goma.
Rwanda has repeatedly backed armed movements in its eastern neighbour during the last two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo's eastern hills, but has faced accusations of using the security threat as a cover for maintaining its economic and social interests in the region.