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Congo Nobel laureate asks U.N. to sanction Rwanda for alleged rebel support

Denis Mukwege speaks at the United Nations Security Council during a meeting about sexual violence in conflict in New York, New York, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Congo Nobel laureate Denis Mukwege has called for United Nations sanctions against Rwanda for its alleged support of the M23 rebel movement in eastern Congo, whose resurgence this year has led to bloody clashes and displaced hundreds of thousands.

The Tutsi-led militia launched their latest offensive in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in March, rapidly seizing control of several eastern towns. At least 390,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

A preliminary U.N. report last week said the rebels executed at least 131 villagers in reprisal killings in Kishishe and Bambo villages as part of a campaign of murder, rape, kidnapping and looting.

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Congo has repeatedly accused its neighbour Rwanda of backing the rebels, an accusation Kigali denies.

The United States, the European Parliament, Belgium and a group of U.N. experts have all asked Rwanda to put an end to this support, which Kigali contests.

“The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is quite comparable to what is happening in Ukraine with Russia,” Mukwege told Reuters in an interview in Paris on Monday.

“We cannot on the one hand accuse or admit that Rwanda has attacked the Democratic Republic of Congo, in violation of international law, in violation of the U.N. Charter and, on the other hand, continue to financially support Rwanda,” he said.

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He added that U.N. Resolution 2641 provides for sanctions on any state that supports armed groups in the DRC. “We ask that this resolution be applied,” he said.

“We must be able to ask Rwanda to stop supporting the M23 terrorists, because they are terrorists, they kill, they rape, they destroy villages. They are supported by a member state of the U.N. That this state can still be a supplier of U.N. troops, it is a totally inconsistent,” he said.

The U.N. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rwanda is the fourth largest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions, particularly in the Central African Republic, according to the U.N.

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Gynecologist and activist Mukwege, who is the director of the Panzi hospital in South Kivu, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his nearly two decade fight against sexual violence.

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