UN Report Accuses Uganda, Rwanda of Supporting M23 Rebels in Eastern DRC

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Rwandan Soldiers Also Implicated in Escalating Clashes

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The Ugandan army has supported the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a United Nations report, amid escalating clashes in the mineral-rich region.

The UN Security Council’s group of experts also reported that 3,000-4,000 Rwandan soldiers fought alongside M23 rebels in eastern DRC and stated that Rwanda had “de facto control” over the group’s operations.

The DRC has faced decades of conflict, with Uganda and Rwanda having invaded in 1996 and 1998, claiming defense against local militia groups. Uganda continues joint operations with DRC troops against a Ugandan rebel group, while M23 fighters renewed their rebellion in eastern DRC in late 2021.

Ugandan troops were part of a regional force deployed in November 2022 to monitor a ceasefire with the M23. However, Congolese authorities called for the force to withdraw last year, deeming it ineffective.

The UN report, sent to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee in April and to Security Council members in June, stated, “Since the resurgence of the M23 crisis, Uganda has not prevented the presence of M23 and Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) troops on its territory or passage through it.”

The report also presented evidence of active support for M23 by officials from the military and military intelligence, with M23 leaders traveling to Uganda for meetings.

Deo Akiiki, deputy spokesman for Uganda’s armed forces, dismissed the allegations, stating, “It would be mad for us to destabilize the same area we are sacrificing it all to have it stable.”

Rising Tensions Between DRC and Rwanda
The UN has long accused Rwanda of backing the M23, which has frequently seized large parts of eastern DRC. Rwanda denies these allegations and has never acknowledged its troops’ involvement.

The UN report emphasized that Rwanda’s “de facto control and direction over M23 operations also renders Rwanda liable for the actions of M23.”

Therese Kayikwamba Wagner, DRC’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told Al Jazeera that the situation in the country’s east had worsened recently, accusing the Rwandan army of ongoing incursions. “The situation that we’re looking at is one where we’re facing an influx of soldiers from our neighboring country Rwanda, that has sent over 4,000 troops, that have fueled a massive displacement crisis in eastern DRC,” she said.

Wagner questioned why Rwanda has not been sanctioned for violating DRC’s territory.

In response, Rwanda claimed that the DRC was financing and fighting alongside the Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which has attacked Tutsis in both countries. “The DRC has all the power to de-escalate the situation if they want to, but until then Rwanda will continue to defend itself,” said Rwanda government spokesperson Yolande Makolo.

The renewed fighting in eastern DRC came two days after a U.S.-brokered truce plan collapsed. The truce aimed to ease hostilities, facilitate the voluntary return of displaced people, and provide humanitarian access to vulnerable populations.

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