Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP |
The UN said Wednesday it had no confirmation of an incursion into Democratic Republic of Congo by scores of rebels sheltering in Uganda, but that it was “ready to engage” if it were the case.
The DRC government said Sunday that at least 230 members of M23, a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group defeated by the Congolese army three years ago, had arrived from Uganda and taken over a village in North Kivu province.
Uganda has denied the claim.
“To this day, we haven’t received information or proof confirming the presence of M23 members in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO’s Colonel Felix-Prosper Basse told reporters.
Since the incursion was first reported, MONUSCO has deployed troops and aircraft to survey all the entry points into DRC, he said.
“We haven’t yet gathered any confirmed, reliable information from the ground,” Basse said, adding that peacekeepers were working closely with Congolese troops.
“However, we are ready to engage M23 in case of an incursion into DRC, and if the lives of the civilian population are threatened,” he added.
The Congolese military spokesman could not be reached for comment.
– Uganda mystified –
Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem on Sunday denied his country had any role in the alleged incursion.
“It is their imagination that Uganda can arm or allow M23 rebels camped here to destabilise DR Congo. Why should Uganda arm M23 rebels?” he said.
DR Congo’s resource-rich eastern provinces have suffered years of brutal conflict, with neighbouring states backing rebel groups in a civil war against Kinshasa’s authority, and roaming armed militia triggering the mass flight of terrorised civilians.
In 2012, former members of a Tutsi militia who had been integrated into the Congolese army mutinied, claiming that a peace deal signed on March 23, 2009 had not been respected.
The M23 rebels wreaked havoc in the east, even managing to briefly seize the regional capital Goma.
But after a November 2013 defeat at the hands of Congolese and UN forces, M23 agreed to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate into civilian life in DR Congo.
However 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.