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On Congo, ICP Asks How Many Rwandan Troops UN Knew Of, 350 Is Answer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- Over the weekend, Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende was quoted by Agence France Presse that only 100 Rwanda Special Forces troops had been authorized to be in the DRC. So, Mende said, that over 300 left should be viewed as proof of Rwandan support for the M23.

At the UN on September 4, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky how much Rwandan troops the UN Mission MONUSCO had been told were in the DRC, 100 or 357?

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: over the weekend, there were some Rwandan special forces that were removed from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo] is. And there is now a dispute about the numbers. This was a Rwandan special forces contingent that was supposed to fight the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] or observe the FDLR along with the Congolese. The Congolese are now saying that there were only a hundred authorized, and that anything beyond that were people helping M23. [Others] are saying, 'no, the UN knew" ... the UN and MONUSCO knew the size of the Rwandan forces was 357 troops. So I’m wondering, since this goes directly to the dispute between States and could put it to rest. Can you find out what was MONUSCO’s knowledge of the size of the force?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Sure.

  Four hours later the following was sent to Inner City Press:

Subject: Your question on the DRC
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 4:17 PM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Regarding your question on the information MONUSCO received about Rwandan Defense Force elements, we have been told that MONUSCO was informed by the FARDC that there were around 350 RDF elements.

   This is the response of the UN Secretariat, seemingly on behalf of the Department of Peacekeeping Affairs whose Herve Ladsous has explicitly said he will not answer Inner City Press questions. The time frame and the sourcing are in question.

   Inner City Press asked what WAS the knowledge of MONUSCO; the response is 350, but sources to the FARDC. Still at the UN on Tuesday, Security Council members whispered off the record that Rwanda, which is about to join the Council in January, must change its policies. Last week, amid questioning of the UN's Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions Group of Experts and its coordinator Steve Hege, Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that Hege and his report are "ideologically bankrupt." Video here. Watch this site.

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