Rwanda, under intense international pressure over its alleged covert aid to M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has maintained total silence since the group’s defeat.
The March 23 Movement (M23) announced last week it was ending its 18-month insurgency after suffering a resounding rout at the hands of the Congolese army with key backing from a special UN intervention brigade.
The rebels are now under pressure to sign a formal peace deal today in Uganda, where most of its fighters have fled. Scores of wounded fighters have also fled to Rwanda.
UN experts have accused Uganda and in particular Rwanda of backing the rebels, and despite angry denials, officials in Kigali have been clearly anxious over the turn of events.
On the eve of M23’s formal surrender, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo warned in a radio interview that Kigali’s arch-foe, the DRC-based Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), were moving into positions abandoned by the M23.
“Our intelligence reports indicate that FDLR is coming close to the Rwandan border as M23 is chased out of the territory,” she said on local radio on Monday.
The FDLR, one of a myriad of rebel outfits operating in the Kivu region, is a descendant of Rwandan Hutu extremist groups that carried out the 1994 genocide, during which some 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were murdered while the world stood by.
Kigali’s minority Tutsi-led government sees them as a continuing threat to Rwanda’s security, which goes some way to explaining their alleged support for the M23 — a Tutsi-dominated outfit.