DR Congo says Rwanda operating 500 troops over border

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army accused neighbouring Rwanda on Wednesday of deploying 500 special forces troops on its soil, as tensions flare between the two central African states.

The accusation comes amid a sharp deterioration of relations between the countries over the recent resurgence of the M23 militia in the DRC’s volatile east. 

The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing the rebel group and last month said it had detained two Rwandan soldiers in its eastern region, holding this as proof of the country’s involvement.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the M23.

On Wednesday evening, the DRC’s army spokesman in eastern North Kivu province, General Sylvain Ekenge, accused Rwanda of fielding hundreds of troops beyond its borders. 

“Rwanda has changed the uniform of its soldiers to conceal its presence in Congolese territory alongside the terrorists of M23,” he announced. 

ALSO READ: At least 20 dead in new DR Congo massacre

He said Rwanda had deployed 500 special forces troops in North Kivu “dressed in green-black fatigues”. 

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told AFP “we have no interest in a crisis and will not respond to baseless accusations”. 

Rwandan army spokesman Colonel Ronald Rwivanga likewise said he would not comment on “rumours”. 

Relations between the DRC and Rwanda have been strained since the mass arrival in the eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. 

The M23, a primarily Congolese Tutsi group, is one of more than 120 armed groups roaming eastern DRC.

It briefly captured North Kivu’s capital Goma in late 2012 before the army quelled the rebellion the following year. 

But M23 resumed fighting late last year, accusing the Congolese government of failing to respect a 2009 agreement under which its fighters were to be incorporated into the army.

M23 rebels wounded three United Nations peacekeepers in North Kivu in an attack this week, the UN stated on Wednesday.