The East African nation says a US statement on the conflict with DR Congo is a distortion of reality US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. © AP Photo/Nathan Howard

Rwanda has accused the US of distorting reality after Washington criticized the East African country for allegedly supporting the M23 rebel group, which has been involved in long-running hostilities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo).

Renewed clashes between M23 fighters and DR Congo state forces in several cities, including the troubled North Kivu Province capital, Goma, have sparked protests, with locals burning EU, US, and Belgian flags. Protesters in the DR Congo capital, Kinshasa, have accused Western diplomatic missions of failing to act against the armed insurgents, whose recent attacks have killed dozens and displaced thousands.

On Saturday, the US State Department “strongly” condemned the “worsening violence” by the “Rwanda-backed” US and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group in the former Belgian colony, and called for a ceasefire. The statement by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller demanded that Rwanda immediately remove its defense forces and missile systems from the DR Congo, which he said put civilians and others in the conflict-torn region at risk.

Washington has also called on the DR Congo authorities to “continue to support confidence building measures, including ceasing cooperation with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group named as a ‘negative force’ by regional bodies and the government of the DRC, and which exposes the civilian population to risk,” Miller stated.

On Sunday, the Rwandan government hit back at the US statement for referring to the FDLR – whose members include alleged perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi ethnic minorities – as a “mere armed group.”

“To characterize this genocidal and terrorist outfit merely as an ‘armed group named as a negative force by regional bodies and the government of the DRC’ is a shocking and cynical act of realpolitik,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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This calls into question the ability of the US to serve as a “credible mediator in the Great Lakes Region,” it said, adding “Rwanda will seek clarification from the US government to ascertain whether its statement represents an abrupt shift in policy, or simply a lack of internal coordination.”

Kigali said the FDLR “is fully integrated into” the DR Congo Army, and their demobilization and repatriation to Rwanda are non-negotiable conditions for its territorial integrity.

“Rwanda reserves the right to take any legitimate measures to defend our country, so long as this threat exists,” the government added, rejecting the call for the withdrawal of troops and missile systems from Congolese territory.

Relations between Kinshasa and Kigali have deteriorated since the resurgence of the M23 militia in DR Congo’s volatile east in 2021, one of several insurgent groups that have seized vast swaths of land in North Kivu. Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has threatened to declare war on Rwanda if it continues to arm the M23 rebels. Kigali has repeatedly denied that it supports the rebels.

On Sunday, Kigali said it has taken note of threats by DR Congo officials to “invade Rwanda and change its government by force,” and has put measures in place to ensure complete air defense in response to “repeated violations of Rwandan air space by Congolese fighter jets.” (RT)