Protesters denounce Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 rebels, who have made advances in the countryside around Goma.
Thousands have protested in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) city of Goma, denouncing Rwanda’s alleged support of M23 rebels, as Kinshasa recalled its interim acting ambassador from Kigali in a further souring of relations.
The protests on Monday come as M23 have tightened their grip on the surrounding countryside.
“We denounce the hypocrisy of the international community in the face of Rwanda’s aggression,” Mambo Kawaya, a civil society representative attending the demonstration, told AFP news agency.
A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the Congolese government of failing to honour an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.
The group’s resurgence has destabilised regional relations in central Africa, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the rebel group.
The front line between the Congolese military and the M23 had been calm for several weeks, but fresh clashes from October 20 saw the rebel group make advances across North Kivu province.
Rebels in recent days seized the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru, along a strategic highway leading to the provincial capital Goma, which lies on the Rwandan border.
On Sunday, the DRC’s government ordered the Rwandan ambassador, Vincent Karega, to leave the country within 48 hours. Rwanda stated that it had noted the decision “with regret”.
The DRC’s foreign ministry has recalled the interim charge d’affaires from Kigali and ordered its newly-appointed ambassador to Rwanda not to register his credentials, it said in a statement on Monday.
On Sunday, Rwanda accused the DRC of escalating tensions between the two countries and said its forces along the border “remain on alert”.
The rebel group first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before a joint Congolese-United Nations offensive drove it out.
It is one of scores of armed groups that roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that flared late last century.
Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished report for the United Nations seen by AFP in August pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23.
The same report said the M23 plans to capture Goma, an important trade hub of about one million people, to extract political concessions from the DRC’s government.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame tweeted on Monday that he had held a discussion with UN chief Antonio Guterres on how to de-escalate the tensions.