Rwanda Gains U.N. Security Council Seat Amid Controversy

In a landslide victory, the East African country Rwanda has been elected to serve a two year term on the United Nations Security Council. The win comes at a time when Rwanda is under increased scrutiny for its potential role in facilitating a rebellion across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

An armed rebel group known as the M23 has been launching assaults against the Congolese army and civilians in the country’s east for months now. Composed of mutinous former Congolese soldiers, the M23 have proved a major challenge for the Congolese government and the United Nations peacekeeping mission tasked with assisting in protecting civilians. A U.N. Group of Experts (GoE) charged with reporting on the situation in the DR Congo have implicated the Rwandan and Ugandan governments in not just complicity with the M23 militia, but providing direct support and leadership.

Reuters obtained a copy of the GoE’s forthcoming report on Tuesday:

“The Government of Rwanda continues to violate the (U.N.) arms embargo through direct military support to M23 rebels, facilitation of recruitment, encouragement and facilitation of FARDC (Congolese army) desertions as well as the provision of arms and ammunition, intelligence, and political advice,” said the report, which was seen in full by Reuters.[…]

“M23’s de facto chain of command includes General Bosco Ntaganda and culminates with the Rwandan Minister of Defence General James Kabarebe,” said the experts, who monitor compliance with U.N. sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo.

The report also singles out Uganda for providing “troop reinforcements … weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations.” In all, the GoE document further clarifies the annex to an interim report issued several months previously, going into much greater detail about the DR Congo’s neighbors’ level of involvement with the M23 rebels. Rwanda at the time strongly denounced the findings of the interim report and its annex.


Both Uganda and Rwanda have denied the substance of the new report. Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo slammed what she called a “political campaign”:

“Every UN member-state should find cause for concern that these expert panels feel entitled to treat sovereign states in such an appalling fashion,” she said. “Who are these unelected, unaccountable individuals to abuse the authority granted to them by the UN to pursue political vendettas and deny even basic procedural fairness to a country like Rwanda, a member of the United Nations for half a century?”

As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Rwanda won’t have the same powers that permanent members such as Russia and the United States have to veto resolutions. However, their place on the Council gives them a strong perch to defend themselves from sanctions and other punishments. Such a position isn’t without precedent. The sole previous instance when Rwanda held a Security Council seat was in the midst of the 1994 genocide.

Due to the way Security Council elections are held, Rwanda was almost certain to gain a seat: it ran unopposed. Nominations are typically decided in advance by the regional groupings to whom seats are allocated. The African Group in particular is extremely strict about maintaining its rotation, and this year the seat was due to go to a country from East Africa. None stepped forward to take Rwanda’s place, though Ghana is rumored to have been willing to take up the nomination if asked, despite being out of rotation.

Rwanda will be joining Argentina, Australia, the Republic of Korea, and Luxembourg in sitting on the Security Council from Jan. 1, 2013 until Dec. 31, 2014. The five will be replacing Germany, Portugal, India, South Africa, and Colombia.