Eight blue helmets died on Tuesday, March 29, in the crash of a Puma helicopter from the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) which was flying over a combat zone between the army and the M23 rebellion. in the east of the country.
“The exact cause of the crash is not yet determined”, said the Pakistani army, which announced the death of the eight men. Six Pakistanis are among the peacekeepers killed, she added. Shortly after, the spokesman for the Secretary General of the UN, Stéphane Dujarric, confirmed the crash in New York and specified the nationalities, Serbian and Russian, of the two other victims.
Monusco had previously announced that it had lost contact at midday with one of its helicopters on a reconnaissance mission in Tchanzu, in the territory of Rutshuru (North Kivu province), where fighting has been taking place since Monday.
The military authorities of the province affirmed that the M23 (for Mouvement du 23 mars) had ” beaten down “ the device, which is not confirmed by other sources. The M23 denied, accusing, on the contrary, the Congolese army of being responsible for the crash.
General Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the governor of North Kivu, on Monday accused the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) of supporting the M23, which he said had “carried out incursions and attacked FARDC positions” (Congolese Armed Forces) in two localities in Rutshuru territory.
Rwandan ambassador summoned
Also called “Congolese Revolutionary Army”, the M23 comes from a former Congolese Tutsi rebellion once supported by Rwanda and Uganda. Defeated in 2013, the M23 has been talking about it again since November, attacking military positions and accusing Kinshasa of not having respected commitments on the demobilization of its combatants.
Monday evening on TV5 Monde, the Congolese Minister of Communication and government spokesperson, Patrick Muyaya, used the conditional, but drove home the point: “It is time to put an end to this form of hypocrisy that would exist or this form of complicity between the M23 and the government of Rwanda”did he declare, “because we want to look at Rwanda as a partner country”.
In view of “army claims” of the DRC, he added, “my colleague from Foreign Affairs will invite [mardi] the Rwandan ambassador, to come and give us an explanation”.
“Rwanda does not support the M23 politically or militarily. Commitment reaffirmed with the Minister [des affaires étrangères] for joint verification and cooperation in relation to ongoing allegations”tweeted the ambassador, Vincent Karega, after the interview.
“We categorically refute the baseless accusations” of the Congolese army, had already replied the governor of the Rwandan province of the West, François Habitegeko. The Rwandan army “is in no way involved in bellicose activities” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he added.
To support his accusations, Congolese General Ekenge said that two Rwandan soldiers had been arrested during Monday’s attacks. The two alleged soldiers, in civilian clothes, stood near him and were shown by Congolese television.
Here too, Mr. Habitegeko has “disputed these false allegations”. According to him, these two men would have been arrested “more than a month ago” and are not part of the Rwandan army.
In a video message, Willy Ngoma, spokesman for M23, also claimed that the movement was ” Congolese “ and did not benefit from“no help, near or far, from any neighboring country”.
” We are scared “declares in Goma Kennedy Bahati, 32, like other inhabitants of the capital of North Kivu saying all “tired of war”. The M23, which had briefly occupied Goma ten years ago, “Come back again! It is clear that it is Rwanda which is behind all this and which attacked”accuses Michael Milingano, a fuel seller.
Since the massive arrival in the DRC of Rwandan Hutu accused of having massacred the Tutsi during the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been regularly accused by Kinshasa of incursions into the Congo and of supporting armed groups. Relations calmed down with the accession to power in early 2019 of Felix Tshisekedi, who met his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, on several occasions. But the renewed activity of the M23 has revived suspicion.