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DRC, Rwanda Blame Game Persists

FILE - Armed militiamen gather near Rutshuru, 70 kms (45 miles) north of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo,Wednesday June 22, 2022.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday accused the Democratic Republic of Congo of supporting rebels opposed to his government, escalating tensions with its neighbor who in turn blames Rwanda for supporting violent rebels who recently captured a town in eastern Congo.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in a televised address on Monday his country is troubled by alleged Congolese support for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Congo-based rebel group that includes fighters accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide. Congolese authorities deny the allegations.

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 an 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.

Congolese officials are accusing Rwandan soldiers of supporting the M23 rebel group, which took the Congolese town of Bunagana near the Uganda border last month, further deteriorating relations between the two countries.

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.

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.

Regional officials in the East African Community bloc are trying to send a peacekeeping mission in the restive districts of eastern Congo. However, it is unknown when the force, which will be permitted to disarm militants, would be deployed.

Congo has stated its opposition to the inclusion of Rwandan troops in such a group. Kagame indicated on Monday that he was happy with it.