The Democratic Republic of Congo summoned the Rwandan ambassador and suspended RwandAir flights to Congo in response to what he said was Kigali supporting M23 rebels carrying out a military offensive on its eastern border.
Rwanda denies support for the rebels, who this week advanced 20 km (12 miles) to the capital city of Goma in eastern Congo and briefly captured the largest army base in the area.
Congolese and UN investigators also accused Kigali of supporting M23 during the 2012-2013 uprising that engulfed Goma before she was forced to return and deported to Uganda and Rwanda. Kigali denied this.
Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muya announced the suspension of Rwanda’s national carrier and called the ambassador late Friday night after a meeting of the National Defense Council.
He said the government had designated the M23 a terrorist group and excluded it from talks in Kenya with militia groups operating in eastern Congo.
“A warning has been issued to Rwandans, whose attitude is likely to disrupt the peace process … where all armed groups except M23 are committed to peace,” Muya said.
The Rwandan government was not available for comment on Saturday.
On its website, the Rwandan army has asked for the release of two Rwandan soldiers who it said were “kidnapped” on the Congolese border.
The image, which has been circulating on social media with two men in Rwandan uniforms surrounded by Congolese soldiers, has been cited by Congolese users as evidence of the Rwandan army’s presence in the Congo.
The Congolese government did not comment on the photo, but Muyaya provided a video during his remarks showing ammunition and military uniforms, which he said belonged to Rwandan forces and were found by the Congolese army.
M23 and the Rwandan government, in turn, accused the Congolese army of collaborating with the Rwandan Democratic Liberation Force (FDLR), a militia founded by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda after participating in the 1994 genocide. Congo denies this.
Rwanda invaded the Congo in 1996 to pursue the militia. Since then, Eastern Congo has been experiencing almost constant conflict due to foreign invasions and uprisings by rebel groups.