By IGNATIUS SSUUNA
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday accused Congo of supporting rebels opposed to his government, escalating tensions with a neighbor who in turn accuses Rwanda of supporting violent rebels who recently captured a town in eastern Congo.
Kagame said in a televised address that his country is concerned by alleged Congolese support for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, a Congo-based rebel group that includes fighters accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.
Relations between Rwanda and Congo have frayed in recent weeks after the M23 rebel group last month took the Congolese town of Bunagana at the Uganda border and Congolese authorities charged that Rwandan troops had invaded Congo.
Rwanda has long denied supporting M23, disputing the accounts of conflict observers, U.N. experts and others. M23 is made up mostly of ethnic Tutsi fighters from Congo who say their government hasn’t honored past commitments to reintegrate them into the national army.
Congolese authorities deny allegations they support the FDLR.
But Kagame charged Monday that Congo is actively arming the FDLR, whose fighters are accused of killing dozens in a 2019 attack in the northern Rwandan town of Kinigi, a tourist area. “It’s on record and with facts. (Congo) is supporting FDLR, and unfortunately with the knowledge of MONUSCO,” he said, referring to U.N. peacekeepers on the ground.
It wasn’t immediately possible to get a comment from MONUSCO.
Kagame accused Congo of trying to involve Rwanda in “their internal issues,” and wondered how long his government will resist such provocation. He spoke of the rights of Congolese Kinyarwanda speakers living in eastern Congo, saying Congolese authorities have a obligation to address the grievances of the M23 rebels.
“They have recently been behaving like spoilt children. They cause trouble and then start crying foul,” he said of Congolese authorities.
Regional leaders under the East African Community bloc are working toward deploying a peacekeeping force in eastern Congo’s restive provinces.
It remains unclear when the force, which would be authorized to disarm insurgents, will be deployed.
Congo has said it opposes putting Rwandan troops in Congo as members of such a force. Kagame said Monday he was fine with that.
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