Vincent Karega given 48 hours to leave
Tensions between the Congo and Rwanda hit a new low Saturday as the top defense body asked the government to expel the Rwandan ambassador amid tensions concerning M23 rebels fighting in North Kivu province.
Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya announced the directive on state television after a meeting of the Supreme Council of Defense chaired by President Felix Tshisekedi earlier in the day.
The Council “asks the government to expel within 48 hours of its notification, Vincent Karega, the Rwandan ambassador due on the one hand, to the persistence of his country to attack the DR Congo and to support the terrorist movement of the M23,” said Muyaya.
The Supreme Defense Council announced it has been “observed in recent days, the massive arrival of elements of the Rwandan army to support the M23.”
The Congolese Foreign Ministry summoned Karega in May on allegations that Rwandan soldiers supported Congolese rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) following renewed clashes with government troops in eastern Congo.
The defense body ordered the government in June to suspend all treaties with Rwanda because of allegations of support for the rebels.
The M23 rebels captured two key towns Saturday as clashes intensified in North Kivu province. Fighters captured Kiwanja and Rutshuru, the Kivu Security Tracker that maps violence in eastern Congo wrote on Twitter.
The capture of Kiwanja, roughly 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Goma, the provincial capital, effectively cut off the direct route to the capital from the north of the province.
More than three months ago, the rebels captured Bunagana, a key border town with Uganda.
The latest fighting has displaced more than 50,000 residents in North Kivu as of last Friday.
Tshisekedi claimed last month that in defiance of international law, Rwanda, on March 23, not only launched a direct military incursion in North Kivu but also provided “massive” support to the rebels in occupying localities in the area.
But his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, dismissed as “a blame game” accusations of Rwanda backing Congo rebels. They both were speaking during UN General Assembly meetings in New York City.
Relations between the Congo and Rwanda appeared to normalize after Tshisekedi took office in early 2019 but the resurgence of M23 fighters has revived tensions.