- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2012

UNITED NATIONS | The Rwandan military is commanding and supporting the rebel force that overtook a major city in eastern Congo this week, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

“The government of Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo by providing direct military support to the M23 rebels, facilitating recruitment, encouraging and facilitating desertions from the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and providing arms, ammunition, intelligence and political advice,” the report said.

“The de facto chain of command of M23 includes Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and culminates with the Minister of Defense of Rwanda, Gen. James Kabarebe,” the report added.

It also accuses Uganda of involvement.

Uganda has said it would pull its troops out of U.N. peacekeeping operations if it were named in the report.

Rwanda and Uganda have denied supporting the M23 rebel movement, which Tuesday took the city of Goma, which has a population of more than 1 million.

Thousands of Congolese soldiers and police officers defected to the M23 rebels Wednesday as rebel leaders vowed to take control of all Congo, including the capital, Kinshasa.

The U.N. accuses the M23 of grave crimes including recruiting child soldiers, summary executions and rape.

“Senior officials of the Government of Uganda have also provided support to M23 in the form of direct troop reinforcements in Congolese territory, weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations,” the U.N. report said.

The M23 is made up of hundreds of officers who deserted the Congo army in April.

Earlier Wednesday, the U.N.’s special representative for Congo said the 19,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force there is being stretched thin by multiple rebel militias in the eastern part of the country, including Goma.


Sudanese army confirms attack at S. Sudan border

KHARTOUM | Sudan’s army Wednesday confirmed it attacked an area near the South Sudanese border where Darfur rebels had set up a compound, but South Sudan accused Khartoum of bombing a market area on southern territory.

“We attacked Al-Regaibat which is [25 miles] north of the international border with South Sudan and [6 miles] north of Samaha,” army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said in a written statement.

The incident adds to growing concern over delays in implementing security and oil deals which the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan hailed in September as ending conflict, after they fought along their undemarcated border in March and April.

Mr. Saad alleged that the rebels must have had “great support” from South Sudan.

“We confirm that we conducted our battle deep inside Sudan,” the army spokesman said.


French citizen kidnapped in southwest Mali

PARIS | A French citizen has been kidnapped in southwest Mali, far from the zone controlled by al Qaeda-linked militants where African countries are preparing a possible military intervention, officials said Wednesday.

The kidnapping brings to seven the number of French citizens being held in the West African nation that is effectively divided in two, with radical Islamists and native Touareg rebels in control of the north.

Northern Mali fell to Islamist extremists in April, after coup leaders toppled the government in Bamako, Mali’s capital.

France has been a driving force behind an initiative taking shape for a potential military intervention by Mali’s army, perhaps bolstered by other African troops, to drive the Islamists from power.

France, a former colonial power in West Africa that still has a military presence in the region, fears that northern Mali could become a new base for a jihad, destabilizing Africa’s Sahel region and ultimately threatening Europe.

“I confirm that there was a kidnapping of a French citizen in southwest Mali not in the part where there is the most danger,” French President Francois Hollande said at a news conference Wednesday, without elaborating.

There was some confusion over the exact location of the kidnapping Tuesday evening.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it took place in Nioro, a town just across the border from Mauritania. But a Malian police official said armed men kidnapped the Frenchman in the town of Diema, not far from Bamako.


3 arrested, charged with rhino poaching

JOHANNESBURG | South African police said they have arrested three men — including a game ranger — they suspect of shooting seven rhinoceros to death and dehorning them.

Capt. Paul Ramaloko of the South African Police Service said Tuesday the men had been arrested that morning on suspicion of killing the rhinos in the country’s Northwest province.

He said the accused would appear in a magistrate court Thursday.

The rhinos were killed during the weekend at a game farm near Rustenburg, a city about 60 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

With these killings, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs said 570 rhinos had been hunted illegally and killed this year alone.

South Africa is home to some 20,000 rhinos. Growing Asian demand for rhino horn is believed to be behind the poaching increase.


Traders want U.N. to lift charcoal trade ban

MOGADISHU | Thousands of sacks of dark charcoal sit atop one another in Somalia’s southern port city of Kismayo, signs of a trade once worth some $25 million dollar a year to the Islamist extremist rebels who used to control the region.

The good news sitting in the idle pile of bags is that the al-Shabab militants can no longer fund their insurgency through illegal charcoal exports. Kenyan troops late last month invaded Kismayo and forced out the rebels, halting their export of charcoal, a trade the U.N. banned earlier this year in an effort to cut the militants’ source of funds.

The loss of the charcoal trade “will cut a major source of revenue and thus will have a detrimental effect on their operational capacity to carry out large scale attacks,” Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, a Somali political analyst, said of al-Shabab.

But the flip side to the charcoal problem is that residents who made their living from the trade no longer are making money, a potentially tricky issue for the Kenyan troops who now control the region.

Recognizing a potential problem for Kenyan forces who hope to win hearts and minds, the African Union this week urged the U.N. Security Council to consider adopting an “urgent solution” to the piles of sitting sacks.

Local leaders want to be allowed to sell off the large stockpile of supplies. One issue: Some of that money from any potential sale could find its way back to al-Shabab fighters.

Charcoal is one of the only ways to make money in this arid region.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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