KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi will meet with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame in Angola amid rising tensions between the two neighboring countries, a Congolese government spokesman said.
The two leaders on Wednesday will discuss bilateral relations and the armed conflict in eastern Congo, where M23 rebels last month took a town near the Uganda border, Congo spokesman Patrick Muyaya told The Associated Press Tuesday.
Congolese officials have asserted that M23 is backed by Rwanda, and have accused the much smaller neighbor of occupying Congolese territory.
“They will be discussing Rwanda’s aggression in Congo,” Muyaya said by phone. Asked whether Congo still believes Rwandan troops are fighting alongside M23 rebels in eastern Congo, Muyaya replied, "That is obvious."
Rwanda has long denied supporting M23, disputing the accounts of conflict observers, U.N. experts and others. M23 is made up mostly of ethnic Tutsi fighters from Congo who say their government hasn’t honored past commitments to reintegrate them into the national army.
The African Union earlier this year asked Angola's president to mediate the Congo-Rwanda dispute. A Catholic cardinal in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, is calling for the pope's involvement in peace efforts.
Tshisekedi said last week that his efforts to make peace with Rwanda should not be seen as a sign of weakness. But some within Congo are opposed to any talks while M23 rebels continue to occupy Congolese territory.
Kagame had harsh words for Congolese authorities in televised remarks Monday, accusing Congo of backing a different rebel group that includes fighters accused of taking part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Congo has always denied supporting the group commonly known by its initials as FDLR.
“That is the same story for 20 years ago. Why would Congo be supporting them to shell Rwanda territory? Those accusations are not true," Muyaya said. “We have to deal with hundreds of armed groups inside the country and we have been talking to all neighbors about a common strategy to end foreign armed group activities.”
Regional leaders under the East African Community bloc — which Congo recently joined — are working toward deploying a peacekeeping force in eastern Congo’s restive provinces.
It remains unclear when the force, which would be authorized to disarm insurgents like M23, will be deployed.
By IGNATIUS SSUUNA Associated Press