KINSHASA (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo has summoned Rwanda’s ambassador and suspended Rwandair flights to Congo in response to what it says is Kigali’s support for M23 rebels waging a military offensive in the country. eastern Congo.
Rwanda denies backing the rebels, who this week advanced 20km (12 miles) from the main town of Goma in eastern Congo and briefly captured the largest army base in the region .
Congo and UN investigators had also accused Kigali of supporting M23 during a 2012-13 insurgency that briefly captured Goma. Rwanda has denied these accusations.
Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya announced the suspension of flights by the Rwandan national airline and the summoning of the ambassador on Friday evening following a meeting of the national defense council.
He also said Congolese authorities had designated M23 as a terrorist group and would exclude it from on-and-off negotiations taking place in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, between the Congolese government and militias active in the east.
“A warning has been issued to the Rwandans, whose attitude is likely to disrupt the peace process which is coming to an end with the discussions in Nairobi, where all the armed groups, with the exception of the M23, are engaged in the way to peace,” Muyaya said.
The Rwandan government was not immediately available for comment on Saturday.
Last week’s fighting has forced more than 72,000 people from their homes, the United Nations said on Friday, deepening Africa’s worst displacement crisis.
Eastern Congo has seen near-constant conflict since 1996, when Rwanda and other neighboring states invaded in pursuit of Hutu militiamen who had participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
(Reporting by Stanis Bujakera; Additional reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali; Writing by Aaron Ross, Editing by Ros Russell)