Militiamen from the Patriotic Front for Peace/People’s Army, one of the largest armed groups fighting M23 in North Kivu, at their headquarters in Mbwavinwa, Lubero territory, in eastern DRC [File: Alexis Huguet/AFP]

Kinshasha, (DRC);- The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says it will formally write to the Ugandan army seeking information on their alleged support for M23 rebels in the eastern part of the vast and mineral-rich country.

ChimpReports, a Ugandan outlet known for its deep investigative stories Monday reported that DRC’s Foreign Minister Therese Kayiwamba was “deeply concerned” by the United Nations report which claimed that the Ugandan military (UPDF) supported the M23 rebellion in North Kivu.

“We will raise the issue on a diplomatic level,” Minister Kayiwamba is quoted to have said in a press briefing in Kinshasa on Monday.

Reports of Uganda backing M23 rebels threaten the warm relations between the two countries, with Congolese lawmakers recently urging Kinshasa to break diplomatic ties with Uganda for reportedly backing the M23 rebellion. 

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi supported Uganda’s war against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorists in North Kivu and Ituri.

However, the Congolese officials were angered by a United Nations Group of Experts’ June 2024 report which said that since the resurgence of the M23 crisis.

The report said; “Uganda has not prevented the presence of M23 and Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) troops on its territory or passage through it, including during the takeover of Bunagana on 12 June 2022 by M23, supported by RDF.” 

The UN report indicated that despite “evidence documenting the regular transit of M23 and RDF troops, vehicles and military supplies through Ugandan territory”, the Government of Uganda, including its military intelligence service, claimed “not to have recorded the presence” of any foreign troops or materiel on its territory since the beginning of the M23 crisis.

“However, the extent and frequency of the movements render such a presence highly unlikely to go undetected,” said the UN report, adding, “For example, since 2022, M23 combatants have consistently reported that supplies and new recruits brought to their camps came through the Ugandan border towns of Kisoro and Bunagana.”

UPDF speaks out

Uganda’s Deputy Army spokesperson, Col Deo Akiiki recently described reports of UPDF’s involvement in destabilizing activities in DRC as “baseless” and “biased.”

“UPDF have been working closely with the Congolese Forces (FARDC) to combat negative forces like the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and have a bilateral agreement to pursue peace in the region,” said Akiiki.

He added: “We are jointly developing infrastructure and peace-related projects with our counterparts in the eastern DRC. It would be illogical for us to destabilize the same region we are working tirelessly to stabilize.”

UN Evidence 

However, the UN, which collects its information through interviews with witnesses, victims of the conflict and former and active security personnel in the region and satellite data, said it also obtained evidence confirming active support for M23 by certain UPDF and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence officials. 

“Intelligence sources and individuals close to M23 also confirmed the presence of Ugandan military intelligence officers in Bunagana since at least late 2023 to coordinate with M23 leaders, provide logistics and transport M23 leaders to M23-controlled areas,” the UN report reads in part. 

“Additionally, multiple sources witnessed Ugandan soldiers crossing into the Democratic Republic of the Congo through Kitagoma on 27 January 2024 and operating in M23-controlled areas, in particular the Busanza Groupement and the town of Rutshuru, from where one group moved towards Tongo and the other towards Mabenga,” the report emphasised.

“It is noteworthy that M23 leaders, including the sanctioned individual Sultani Makenga, travelled to Entebbe and Kampala in violation of the travel ban… Evidence emerged of frequent M23 and AFC activities on Ugandan territory. The AFC leadership, including Corneille Nangaa, who recently resided in Kampala, held meetings with representatives of Congolese armed groups and individuals closely linked with M23.”

Adapted from ChimpReports

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