Congolese rebels who had taken refuge in neighbouring Uganda crossed the border overnight armed with weapons, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government has said.
According to DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende, about 200 former members of M23, an ethnic Tutsi group defeated by the Congolese army in 2013, arrived from Uganda and took over the village of Ishasha, in North Kivu province.
“How could our Ugandan neighbours, with whom we are bound by very serious commitments, allow people who had been living in refugee camps to cross over – armed – into our territory?” he said.
Mende said the Democratic Republic of Congo army (FARDC) had engaged them in “confrontation… because the Congolese army will not allow anyone to cross the border without authorisation — and with weapons”.
Following M23’s defeat, the government launched a plan to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate more than 12 000 former rebels, many of whom lived in Uganda and Rwanda where the UN and Kinshasa say they received support.
But the return of the former rebels has stalled, with fewer than 200 of the 1 900 sheltering in Uganda and only 13 out of hundreds left in Rwanda coming back.
Congolese authorities regularly criticise Rwanda and Uganda for allowing ‘these criminals to circulate freely’ within their territory instead of trying them in court. Both countries deny providing backing.