(FILES) Members of the Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group M23 sit at the Ramwanja refugee settlement on December 17, 2014. (Photo by ISAAC KASAMANI / AFP)
KINSHASA, DR Congo (AFP) — The Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday condemned neighbor Rwanda for “supporting, financing and arming” the M23 rebel group that seized an important trading hub near the Ugandan border.
“We will defend every centimeter of our territory,” added a Congolese communications ministry statement, which came a day after M23 rebels took the town of Bunagana in the eastern province of North Kivu.
The statement cited 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, who was quoted as saying that Congo was the victim of aggression, most recently by the M23, “whose support from Rwanda has been known by all for decades”.
On Monday, the Congolese army said Rwandan troops were occupying Bunagana and accused them of an “invasion”.
Kigali denies the accusations.
The communications ministry statement added that Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who visited the country last week, said Congo had “the right to demand from our neighbors that our territory is respected”.
“The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo condemns the participation of the Rwandan authorities in the supporting, financing and arming of this rebellion.”
The ministry said Belgium’s King Philippe and the international community had an “important role” to play to set up a regional dialogue leading to “the easing of tensions and the peaceful resolution of the conflict”.
Philippe accompanied De Croo during a historic six-day visit to the former Belgian colony last week.
The monarch’s trip ended with a visit to Mukwege’s hospital in South Kivu province, an eastern region plagued by armed groups for almost 30 years, where Mukwege worked to aid rape victims.
A mostly Tutsi rebellion defeated in 2013, the M23 resumed fighting in late 2021, saying Kinshasa had reneged on a deal under which its fighters would be integrated into the army.
Fighting in the east between M23 rebels and the army has intensified in recent weeks.
© Agence France-Presse