DRC slams sanctions against M23 leader

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AFP

File photo: This photo taken on July 8, 2012, shows Colonel Sultani Makenga, head of the rebel M23 group, looking on from a hill in Bunagana, a town near the Ugandan border.

Democratic Republic of Congo - The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday dismissed as inadequate UN and US sanctions against the military leader of the M23 rebel group active in east of the troubled country and said neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda should also be targeted.

“It's a good start but it's totally inadequate...,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP of the measures announced on Tuesday against Sultani Makenga, who is accused of masterminding killings, sex attacks and abductions and recruiting child soldiers.

“Sultani did not invent this pseudo-mutiny in the east (but remains) an instrument behind much wrongdoing,” Mende said.

Makenga, a former colonel in the DR Congo, insisted on Wednesday that he was innocent of the allegations against him over the violence in the Kivu region.

Washington announced sanctions against Makenga on Tuesday, freezing his assets in US jurisdiction and forbidding any US citizen from doing business with him, accusing him of attacks on civilians and the recruitment of child soldiers.

The United Nations also ordered an assets freeze and a travel ban against the 38-year-old.

Makenga is behind “killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement,” said a statement by the UN sanctions committee for DR Congo.

Makenga himself insisted on Wednesday that the UN experts had acted on false information.

“I am innocent,” he told AFP by telephone.

The M23 was formed in May by former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel group that was integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal. The mutineers, named after the date when the deal was signed, insist the terms of the agreement were never fully implemented.

The rebels have seized a number of towns near DRCongo's eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda and UN experts have accused the two neighbouring countries of aiding the rebels, claims vehemently denied by Kigali and Kampala.

Mende said these countries should be next on the list for action.

“It is good that we go to the source, which is to say Rwanda,” he said, saying some people posed a far greater threat to the Kivu region than Makenga, naming in particular Rwanda's Defence Minister James Kabarebe.

Following US President Barack Obama's re-election last week, Mende said Kinshasa was hoping for tougher action against those behind the conflict in the east of the country.

Last month, the UN Security Council backed the experts who had accused Rwanda and Uganda of arming the M23 rebels and raised the prospect of sanctions against the two countries.

In a separate development Tuesday, a former commander with the DRCongo army who rebelled and took to the bush at the start of the year, surrendered with 35 other soldiers

Colonel Albert Kahasha would be reintegrated into the army, the commander of the Sud-Kivu region, General Pacifique Masunzu, told AFP. - AFP


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