Both media organizations reported that eleven deserters from the M23 showed up at a UN base claiming they had been recruited and trained in Rwanda.
Neither publication produced an actual memo, nor did they quote sources. The memo was cited around the world as “fact,” with no supporting documentation.
The result was a vehement denial by Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who said claims that Rwandans were transferred to eastern Congo to fight for the rebels are “categorically false and dangerous.”
“M23 Congo” and it is obvious that accounts of the leaked report have gone viral. But is it correct? Does the report exist? What, exactly, does it say?
The latest comment from the UN says the BBC got it wrong.
U.N. spokesman Penangnini Toure told Voice of America (VOA) that the UN report resulted from a “routine interrogation of the 11 men who had presented themselves to the UN and asked to be repatriated to Rwanda.”
“That’s all we reported and that’s where it stops. The U.N. did not produce a report saying that Rwanda is directly involved in what is happening in eastern Congo,” said Toure.
SAPA also reported that there was no evidence Rwanda recruited the “mutineers.”
The United Nations on Wednesday confirmed 11 Rwandans had been recruited to join army mutineers in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, but said there was no evidence the Rwandan government played any role.
As the reports of the leaked memo spread exponentially via the internet and social media, an already strained relationship between The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda has been tested and tensions have spilled over into Congo’s Parliament.
Opposition lawmakers want any discussion of relations with Rwanda to be debated in public, to avoid the appearance of any “secret deals.”
On Wednesday May 30, the president of the assembly ruled that debate would require a closed session.
A number of opposition MPs walked out. On the same day as the walk-out, Radio Okapi (UN) reported that MONUSCO refused to confirm or refute the involvement of Rwanda in the conflict in eastern DRC.
The “leaked memo” is beginning to look more and more like a propaganda trial balloon that has sprung a leak.
It may have been MONUSCO’s attempt to cover its failures in eastern Congo by blaming Rwanda for the latest insurgencies.
Or it may have been a low level staffer trying to curry favor with the international press.
In a press release, The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expressed concern about civilians targeted in fighting between the rebels and government forces that has displaced more than 100,000 people in eastern Congo since April.
Rwanda’s Minister Mushikiwabo accused MONUSCO of failure to implement its mandate and suggests that the “leaked memo” is an attempt to shift blame and justify MONUSCO’s “bloated budgets.”
“This billion-dollar-a-year operation makes up one quarter of the UN’s entire peacekeeping budget, and yet it has been a failure from day one. Instead of pursuing its mandate to eradicate the FDLR menace and help stabilise the region, MONUSCO has become a destabilizing influence, primarily concerned with keeping hold of its bloated budgets and justifying its ongoing existence,” she said.
“Rwanda has received several refugees who are severely wounded and traumatized as a result of the UN’s failure to protect civilians in eastern DRC.”
Speaking to international media at his office in Urugwiro Village on Tuesday morning, Rwanda President Paul Kagame denied supporting a rebellion in Congo.
Infuriated by the international community’s failure to address the Congo crisis and forcing Rwanda to shoulder all the war-riddled country’s problems, Kagame has also threatened to release detained Congo warlord Laurent Nkunda.
“We are still stuck with Nkunda, including bearing the burden of the legal implications. We chose to put this to our shoulders to help in solving Congo’s problems and also result in solution of our own problems like genocide perpetrators who are there,” he said.
Kagame quickly added that if the international community does not stop blackmailing his country, he would release “Nkunda to go wherever he wants.”
Kagame said the UN mission in Congo has nothing to show as an achievement apart from attributing the country’s problems to Rwanda.
“Congo’s problems must stop being Rwanda’s problems. Congo should also not run away from their problems. The International community should stop acting as if the problems in Congo are not their responsibility,” he said.
He said the UN spends US 1.2bn annually on the Congo mission which has nothing to show as results of its engagement in the conflict.
The President further noted the Congo crisis had started stabilizing only for HRW to release a report which is now “messing people around and opening fresh wounds because they are not accountable.”
“That we saw Ntaganda in Musanze in a bar. This is very stupid. It’s not only wrong but also annoying,” Kagame rebuked HRW.