Rwanda carried out operations inside Democratic Republic of Congo and "provided troop reinforcements" to notorious rebel group, which Kinshasa always accuses Kigali of backing, says a report prepared by independent experts for UNSC.

Relations began to thaw after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019 but the M23's resurgence reignited tensions.
Relations began to thaw after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019 but the M23's resurgence reignited tensions. (Reuters)

Rwandan troops attacked soldiers inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and aided the M23 rebel group, according to a report by independent experts for the UN seen by the AFP news agency.

The findings follow months of deepening tensions between DRC and Rwanda over the notorious M23.

According to a 131-page report by experts for the UN Security Council, Rwanda allegedly launched military interventions inside DRC territory since at least November 2021.

Rwanda also "provided troop reinforcements" for specific M23 operations, the report said, "in particular when these aimed at seizing strategic towns and areas."

A Rwandan government spokesperson in a statement described the allegations as "unvalidated" and stressed that Rwanda had the right to defend itself.

"Rwanda has a legitimate and sovereign right to defend our territory and citizens, and not just wait for disaster to unfold," Yolande Makolo said.

The investigation for the UN also found that DRC forces had been providing support for armed groups in the deeply troubled east.

Joint attack

On May 25, the report said, a large DRC army base in Rumangabo in eastern North Kivu province came under heavy mortar and small-arms fire.

M23 fighters and Rwandan troops "jointly attacked" the site after Rwandan troops had crossed into the DRC the day before, it alleged.

An estimated 1,000 Rwandan troops also cut the main highway leading to the provincial capital Goma, an important commercial hub on the Rwandan border, and attacked DRC positions, it said.

On the eve of the attack on Bunagana, and on the day itself, Rwandan soldiers were in the vicinity, the report said, citing drone images from the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, eyewitnesses, amateur videos and photos.

It added that Ugandan troops at the border acquiesced to M23 fighters crossing into the DRC.

Some 300 Rwandan troops also conducted operations against rebel groups in eastern DRC, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

DRC 'supporting' militias

The UN report also found that the DRC army supported militias active in the east of the country.

On May 26, after being dislodged from positions near the Goma highway, the DRC army launched a counterattack alongside militia fighters, for example.

A coalition of armed groups had formed in May, with the knowledge of DRC officers, the report said.

Leaders of several militias confirmed to the experts that the DRC army had provided them with weapons and munitions "on several occasions," it added.

The DRC and Rwanda have had strained relations since the mass influx of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Relations began to thaw after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019 but the M23's resurgence reignited tensions.

The report comes after 36 people died in eastern DRC last week during protests against the UN's peacekeeping force, which were fuelled by perceptions that it is ineffectual against armed groups.

Source: AFP