PARIS (Reuters) – The European Union on Friday added a Rwandan army captain under its sanctions list for his involvement and support to the M23 rebel group that launch an offensive in eastern Congo last year, displacing over a million people in the restive region.

The M23 is a Tutsi-led rebel group, which the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western powers including the United States and Belgium, as well as reports from a United Nations expert group, say is supported by neighbouring Rwanda.

Rwanda has denied the accusations.

The group is one of a myriad of armed rebels in eastern Congo who are fighting in a complex web of local politics and regional conflicts over ethnicity, land and minerals.

It launched a fresh offensive in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province in March last year, seizing towns and villages in the area that borders Uganda.

The EU said it had imposed restrictive measures against nine Congolese and Rwandan individuals responsible for acts that constitute serious violations of human rights and abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that fuel armed conflict.

The measures include travel bans and asset freezes, and forbids EU citizens and companies from making funds available to them.

Among them is Captain Jean-Pierre Niragire, alias Gasasira, who has been in command of the special forces of the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) deployed in the North Kivu region of the DRC since May 2022, the EU statement said.

It added that Niragire “is therefore responsible for supporting the M23 armed group, which is fuelling the armed conflict, instability and insecurity in Congo, in particular by supplying it with troops and equipment.”

The governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Sonia Rolley and Stanis Bujakera; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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