Anti-Rwanda protesters in DRC denounce alleged support for M23 rebels

·2-min read

Hundreds of people took to the streets in two cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week to protest neighbouring Rwanda's alleged meddling in the country's affairs.

Relations between the neighbouting states – which have long been tense – boiled over last week after the DRC accused Rwanda of backing the resurgent M23 rebel group active in the volatile eastern Kivu region.

Kinshasa suspended flights from Rwanda's national carrier last Saturday as part of the diplomatic spat, and detained two Rwandan soldiers it accuses of trespassing onto Congolese soil before releasing them on Monday.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Rwandan embassy in the Congolese capital.

Bienvenu Matumo, from the Congolese rights group Lucha said: "We have come to demand the expulsion of the Rwandan ambassador and the severing of diplomatic relations, the aggressor country."

Protests in Bukavu

Several hundred people also demonstrated in the eastern city of Bukavu on the Rwandan border, more than 1,500 kilometres from Kinshasa.

Protesters reportedly held banners bearing pro-military slogans, chanting "Rwandans go home" and voicing their support for the ideology of the Colombian FARC rebel group.

The protests come amid fresh clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 – primarily Congolese Tutsi group – which spread close to the eastern DRC's economic hub, Goma.

The militia seized the city in late 2012 before the army quelled the rebellion the following year.

However, fighting resumed late last year after accusing the government of failing to respect a 2009 agreement under which its fighters were to be integrated into the army.

Open to dialogue

On Monday, Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya repeated the accusation that Rwanda is backing the group, but added that the Tshisekedi administration remains open to talks.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the M23, and late last month accused the Congolese army of firing rockets into Rwandan territory.

Recent M23-linked fighting in the eastern DRC has displaced at least 72,000 people, according to the United Nations.

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