UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday extended an arms embargo against armed groups in Congo, stongly condemning a rebel group believed to be backed by Rwanda for attacking civilians.
In a resolution adopted unanimously, the council extended sanctions against armed groups in Congo until Feb. 1, 2014 and said it will consider additional measures against leaders of the M23 rebel group and those providing support to them.
The M23 rebel group, made up of hundreds of soldiers who deserted the Congolese army in April, has taken control of many villages and towns in the mineral-rich east since then, culminating in last week's seizure of the provincial capital, Goma. Apparently responding to international pressure, the group's military chief said Wednesday that M23 fighters were withdrawing from the newly seized territory.
Last week, a U.N. group of experts reported that M23 is backed by neighboring Rwanda, which has provided them with battalions of fighters and sophisticated arms, like night vision goggles. Rwanda denies supporting and arming the rebel group.
The Security Council resolution "expresses deep concern at reports indicating that external support continues to be provided to the M23 ... causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23."
Without naming any countries or individuals, the council reiterated its demand "that any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately."
It also demanded that the M23 and other armed groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, comprising Hutu extremist fighters, the Lord's Resistance Army and Mai Mai militias, "cease immediately all forms of violence and other destabilizing activities and release immediately all child soldiers and permanently lay down their arms."
The resolution emphasizes that the Congolese government bears primary responsibility for reinforcing state authority and governance in region.