UN experts say Rwanda provided military support to M23 rebels in eastern Congo

A United Nations panel of experts said it had “strong evidence” that Rwandan troops are fighting alongside the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and providing it with weapons and support.

The findings are contained in a confidential report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Rwanda has previously denied accusations by the Congolese government that it supports the M23 and sent troops into the country. The M23 denied receiving Rwandan support.

The UN group “obtained strong evidence of the presence and military operations carried out by members of the RDF (Rwandan Defense Forces) in Rutshuru territory between November 2021 and July 2022,” the report said.

RDF members carried out joint attacks with M23 fighters against the Congolese army and Congolese armed groups, and provided the rebels with weapons, ammunition and uniforms, he added.

Rwandan authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the UN findings.

The M23 insurgency stems from the long fallout from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group was formed in 2012 and claims to defend the interests of Congolese Tutsis, the ethnicity shared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, against Hutu militias.

Since May, the M23 has carried out its most sustained offensive in years, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands of people. In July, it controlled a territory almost three times larger than in March, the UN group said.

The resurgence of M23 has heightened regional tensions and sparked deadly protests against the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, which civilians accuse of failing to protect them.

The UN group detailed evidence including photos of Rwandan soldiers in an M23 camp, drone footage showing columns of hundreds of soldiers marching near the Rwandan border, and photos and videos showing fighters M23 with new uniforms and equipment similar to those of the Rwandan army.

Rwandan troops and the M23 jointly attacked the Congolese army camp at Rumangabo in May, he added. When the M23 took control of the strategic border town of Bunagana in June, Rwandan soldiers were present or had supplied the rebels with equipment, according to the report.

Rwanda and neighboring Uganda have a long history of military interventions inside the Congo. Both countries invaded in 1996 and again in 1998, claiming they were defending themselves against local militias.

A target of M23 and Rwanda’s operations in Congo has been the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia that Rwanda accuses Congo of using as a proxy. The Congolese government has denied this.

Some members of the Congolese army supported and fought alongside a coalition of armed groups, including the FDLR, according to the UN report.

(Reuters)

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