DR CONGO - The Democratic Republic of Congo is seeking to bar Rwanda from a proposed regional force in the country, calling on Britain to pressure Kigali to stop its "aggression", Kinshasa has said. It is the latest escalation in the row between the two neighbours which have a decades-long history of fraught ties and has recently seen sporadic clashes on their shared border.
Kinshasa alleged in a statement that M23 "terrorists" backed by Rwanda on Monday had seized and looted the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda. The government had previously condemned "a deliberate violation of the territorial integrity" of the DRC.
The statement said that President Felix Tshisekedi chaired an extraordinary meeting of the higher defence council on Wednesday, after which the DRC moved to suspend bilateral accords with Rwanda.
"The security situation in the East of the country continues to deteriorate... fundamentally because Rwanda seeks to occupy our land, rich in gold, coltan and cobalt, for their own exploitation and profit," Tshisekedi said. "This is an economic war for the battle of resources, fought by Rwanda's terrorist gangs."
Tshisekedi called on the international community, the US and UK in particular, "to condemn this invasion, and pressure Rwanda to withdraw its troops from our land". He said he hoped London would be able to leverage its controversial agreement with Kigali to take irregular migrants making the Chanel crossing to reach Britain.
"Given the UK's recent $150 million immigration deal struck with Rwanda, we hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to leverage his influence," Tshisekedi said.
Rwanda will next week host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali.
The DRC welcomed a proposal by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to deploy a regional force in eastern DRC to restore peace, but said it would not accept Rwanda's participation in this joint force.
"The deployment of a regional force made up of countries at the root of the destabilisation, atrocities and the plundering of our resources will not bring stability or peace and risks worsening the situation," Denis Mukwege, a doctor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said on Twitter.
The M23 or "March 23 Movement" is a former Tutsi-dominated rebel group that was defeated in 2013 but took up arms again in late 2021.
Kigali denies supporting the rebel group.