“3000 to 4000 Rwandan soldiers” are fighting alongside the M23 rebels

“3000 to 4000 Rwandan soldiers” are fighting alongside the M23 rebels
“3000 to 4000 Rwandan soldiers” are fighting alongside the M23 rebels

UN experts say in a new report seen by AFP on Monday that “3,000 to 4,000 Rwandan soldiers” fighting alongside the M23 (March 23 Movement) rebels against the Congolese army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. These researchers, mandated by the UN Security Council, believe that the Rwandan army has “in fact” taken “the control and direction of M23 operations” and that its military intervention “was decisive for the spectacular territorial expansion carried out between January and March 2024”.

Since late 2021, the M23 and Rwandan army troops have been advancing in North Kivu province, where they have routed the Congolese army and its allies and installed a parallel administration in the areas under their control. Until late 2023, the Rwandan authorities publicly denied having deployed their army alongside the M23 rebels, something that Kigali has not contested since the beginning of the year.

Rwandan President ‘Ready to Fight’

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on June 20 on France 24 television channel that he was “ready to fight” against the DRC if necessary, while avoiding the question of the current presence of the Rwandan army in the DRC. For several months, the United States, France, Belgium and the European Union have been asking Rwanda to withdraw its troops and surface-to-air missiles from Congolese soil and to cease its support for the M23 – requests that have so far remained without effect.

Experts detail the “systematic incursions” Rwandan soldiers on Congolese soil, a thousand of whom arrived in the DRC during the month of January 2024 alone. They estimate that at the time of writing their report (April 2024), Rwandan troops “equalled or even surpassed in number the M23 fighters”.

The new report features numerous aerial photographs taken in areas controlled by the M23 and the Rwandan army. They show columns of armed men in uniform – some carrying or operating artillery pieces – armoured vehicles with radar and anti-aircraft missiles, pick-up trucks and troop carriers.

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