More than 1 000 Rwandan soldiers crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are offering "direct support" to the rebels who captured the city of Goma, according to sources quoted in a United Nations inquiry.
Uganda also helped the M23 militia with "logistics" as it fought a deadly and successful offensive against the Congolese army, the UN group of experts said in a letter to the security council.
The allegations deal a fresh blow to Rwanda after months of mounting evidence that, despite Kigali's point-blank denials, prompted Britain to suspend aid worth £21-million last week.
The experts said Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) units operated alongside M23 fighters in the rebels' advance on the eastern commercial hub of Goma last month. When M23 began its offensive on Goma, "it benefited from direct RDF support during combat on the frontlines at the village of Kibumba, according to former RDF officers, [Congolese army] officers and local leaders", the experts stated.
The Congolese army killed more than 40 rebels and RDF soldiers, "many of whom wore RDF uniforms and carried weapons used by the RDF", they said. "When M23 progressed towards Goma on November 19, RDF units operated alongside M23 in combat at the airport and close to one of Goma's border posts." Rwandan forces and rebels "together" took Goma, "marching through downtown dressed in a combination of RDF and new M23 uniforms".
Sources estimated that "well over" 1 000 RDF troops came from Rwanda to assist M23 and that 500 were inside Goma.
Rwanda's General Emmanuel Ruvusha is said to have helped M23 commander Sultani Makenga to lead the attack. The experts were also informed that General Bosco Ntaganda, dubbed "the terminator" and wanted by the international criminal court, had led M23 troops operating near the Rwandan border and Goma.
The rebels acquired camouflaged uniforms similar to those used by Rwandan forces.
Rwanda, due to take a seat on the UN Security Council next month, adamantly rejects allegations by the UN experts that it created, equipped, trained and directly commanded the M23 rebellion in the DRC's North Kivu province. Accusations of Ugandan involvement have also been denied. – © Guardian News & Media 2012