Rwanda accused of helping Congo rebels

Thousands of refugees flee for their lives after weekend of heavy shelling and violence

Rwanda has been accused of backing a new rebellion in eastern Congo that has forced thousands of civilians to flee and created fears of a fresh humanitarian crisis in the region.

The conflict pits army mutineers against government forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and threatens to pull apart a fragile peace deal between Rwanda and its much larger neighbour.

"This weekend was very violent, the most intense fighting so far," said Emmanuel de Merode, the chief warden of DRC's Virunga Park where much of the conflict is taking place. "There was heavy shelling all Saturday and much of Sunday." Already at least 7,000 refugees have fled into Rwanda and a further 14,000 into Uganda to escape the fighting.

Rwanda has strongly denied sending arms and recruits to back a mutiny in the DRC army that began last month and was led by former Tutsi rebels who have previously been linked with the government in Kigali. But United Nations internal reports, seen by the BBC, claimed that 11 rebel soldiers who were interviewed said they were Rwandan nationals and had been recruited there and sent across the border into the DRC to fight.

A similar crisis four years ago prompted the UK and France to intervene in an effort to get Rwanda to use its influence to halt the fighting.

Eastern Congo still suffers the after-effects of the Hutu-led genocide in Rwanda that left 800,000 people dead, many of them ethnic Tutsis, and sent refugees pouring across the border in 1994. Among the refugees were Hutu forces fresh from the massacres who formed a rebel group calling itself the FDLR. Rwanda has repeatedly accused the DRC of harbouring these genocidaires and sent its own forces into eastern Congo to pursue them. The Tutsi-led government in Kigali has also been accused in UN reports of backing proxy groups inside the DRC.

Four years ago a Tutsi-led Congolese rebel army, the CNDP, threatened to overrun the region's main aid hub in the city of Goma, sparking an evacuation of international staff. That crisis was resolved after peace talks between Kigali and the government of Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa which called for the CNDP to be integrated into the Congolese army.

The Congolese government has been under pressure to hand over former CNDP leader Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, but had been made an army officer under the 2009 peace deal.

Ntaganda, who is known as "the Terminator", launched the April mutiny amid signs that the government was considering surrendering him to the ICC. Other former rebel commanders, unhappy with the army integration process, joined him to establish a force calling itself "M23", thought to number up to 800 soldiers. They have since moved into the remote hills near the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
News
The letter, purported to be from the 1970s, offered a message of gender equality to parents

When it comes to promoting equality of the sexes, we tend to think that we’ve come a long way in the past 40 years.

News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin