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Congo expels Rwandan envoy after M23 rebel gains

October 30, 2022

The expulsion of Rwandan Ambassador Vincent Karega came on a day when M23 rebels doubled the territory they control. DRC authorities accuse Kigali of backing the rebel group.

A Congolese army pickup carrying troops heads towards the front line near Kibumba in the area surrounding the North Kivu city of Goma on May 25, 2022 during clashes between the Congolese army and M23 rebels
M23 rebels have been engaged in fierce fighting with the Congolese military in DRC's eastern provincesImage: Arlette Bashizi/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has expelled Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karenga, in retaliation for Kigali's alleged support to a rebel group active in the east of the country, government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said on Saturday.

The ambassador has 48 hours to leave the country.

The decision by the DRC's high defense council to expel the ambassador came following a government meeting to assess the security situation in country. The move is likely to further heighten tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. 

DRC authorities accuse Kigali of backing M23 rebels who are fighting in the nation's eastern provinces. Rwanda has repeatedly denied the allegation. 

Villagers in DR Congo live in fear of M23

What's the current security situation?

M23 rebels have been engaged in fierce fighting with the Congolese military and seized more territory. On Saturday, they seized two major towns and doubled the territory they hold. 

The UN peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, issued a statement saying it "strongly condemns the hostile actions of the M23 and their serious consequences on the civilian population."

It also warned that "it stands ready to retaliate vigorously in the event of further aggression against its bases." MONUSCO added four of its peacekeepers were wounded on Saturday by mortar fire and shooting.

A militia woman's story of survival

Who are the M23 rebels?

Formed in 2012, M23 is an ethnic Tutsi-led insurgency group. It rose to prominence when its fighters that year captured Goma, the largest city in DRC's east, before a joint Congolese-UN offensive drove them out.

After a peace deal, the outfit remained dormant for years and many of its fighters were integrated into the national military.

But M23 resumed fighting in late 2021, accusing that the government had failed to honor its commitments under the deal.

By June, they had seized the strategic town of Bunagana near the border with Uganda.

It's estimated that the fighting has so far displaced around 250,000 people.

sri/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)