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

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A group of United Nations experts said it has “solid evidence” that Rwandan troops fought alongside rebel group M23 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, providing it with weapons and support.

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

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

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

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

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

The M23 insurgency stems from the long-lasting effects of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group was founded in 2012 and claimed to defend the interests of Congolese Tutsis, the ethnic group shared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, against Hutu militias.

Since May, the M23 has launched its most sustained offensive in years, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands of people. In July, it controlled an area nearly three times the size of March, the UN group said.

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

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

Rwandan troops and the M23 jointly attacked the Congolese army camp in Rumangabo in May. When the M23 took over the strategic border town of Bunagana in June, Rwandan soldiers were either present or had supplied equipment to the rebels, the report said.

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Rwanda and neighboring Uganda have a long history of military intervention in Congo. The two countries invaded in 1996 and again in 1998, claiming they were defending themselves against local militias.

One target of the M23 and Rwandan operations in Congo was 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 military have supported and fought a coalition of armed groups, including the FDLR, the UN report said.

(REUTERS)

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