The United States voiced concern Wednesday at an ongoing mutiny in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and urged outside parties not to support rebel soldiers in the war-ravaged country.
The mutineers, known as the March 23 movement, are former Congolese Tutsi rebels who joined the army under a March 2009 peace deal but defected earlier this year, complaining of poor treatment.
Kinshasa says the mutiny is led by Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel military chief who is now wanted by the International Criminal Court for enlisting child soldiers.
Washington is “concerned by the continued mutiny of officers and soldiers formerly integrated into the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] and now operating in Nord-Kivu province,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
“We support the Congolese government’s efforts to discourage further defections and to bring to justice alleged human rights abusers among the mutinous forces, including Bosco Ntaganda,” Toner said.
“These efforts are an essential step toward developing a disciplined and unified Congolese army and bringing a sustainable peace to the DRC.”
At least 200 mutineers have been killed in the eastern DR Congo since fighting broke out in April, an army report released Wednesday said.
The first official death toll released by Kinshasa also said 40 army troops have been killed in the clashes.
Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this week that Rwanda, whose regime is largely Tutsi, was supporting the fugitive Ntaganda by allowing him to cross the border freely and providing him with weapons and recruits.
Kigali has vehemently denied the charge.
“We encourage the DRC, its neighbors, and its partners to work together to prevent M23 … and all other armed groups from receiving outside support in contravention of the UN Security Council’s arms embargo on non-governmental entities and individuals operating in the DRC,” Toner said.