The military of Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] has accused Rwanda and the M23 rebel group of planning to attack the eastern city of Goma, as tensions ratchet up in the troubled African nation.
In a statement published on Monday evening, seen by the AFP news agency, DRC army spokesperson Sylvain Ekenge denounced the “warmongering behaviour” of Rwanda’s military and “its proxies from the M23”.
He cited troop movements in Rwanda and in areas of eastern DRC near the Rwandan border.
“The objective of this redeployment is to attack the city of Goma,” Ekenge said. An M23 spokesperson contacted by AFP was not immediately available for comment.
The Tutsi-led M23 has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province since taking up arms in late 2021 after years of dormancy, with over one million people displaced by the fighting.
M23 rebels have also come close to cutting off Goma, a commercial hub of around one million people sandwiched between the Rwandan border and Lake Kivu.
The DRC has repeatedly accused its neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge Kigali denies.
But the United States and several other Western countries, as well as independent UN experts, agree with the DRC’s assessment.
Last week, DRC’s Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba also said Rwanda and the M23 were preparing to attack Goma in a bid to occupy the city.
Rising tensions and French drones
The rising tensions come as regional efforts to defuse the conflict appear to have faltered.
The East African Community [EAC] created a military force late last year to stop the M23, but it has come under heavy criticism in DRC amid accusations of failing to fight the rebels.
Earlier this month, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi condemned what he termed “cohabitation” between EAC troops and M23 fighters.
He also suggested that the DRC could request the departure of the regional force at the end of June.
East African leaders are due to hold a meeting in Kenya in early June, according to diplomats in Kinshasa and within the EAC.
In a further sign of increasing tensions, military attack drones were observed flying over Kinshasa in recent days.
Security officials who requested anonymity said that the drones were operated by a French private military company named Agemira, and that they would soon be moved into position against M23 positions in the east.
Armed groups have plagued much of eastern DRC for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.