Uganda dismisses UN report's claims it backs M23 rebels in DRC

M23 rebels

What you need to know:

  • The report commissioned by the UN Security Council and seen by AFP this week alleged "active support" for the M23 by Ugandan army and military intelligence officials.

Kampala. Uganda on Wednesday dismissed claims in a report by UN experts that it was backing M23 rebels active in the restive east of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report commissioned by the UN Security Council and seen by AFP this week alleged "active support" for the M23 by Ugandan army and military intelligence officials.

Asked about the claims, Ugandan deputy defence spokesman Deo Akiiki told AFP in Kampala: "The allegations are laughable, baseless and illogical to say Uganda is working to destabilise DRC.

"Our forces have been working together with DRC forces to ensure peace returns to eastern DRC," he added.

North Kivu province has been in the grip of a resurgent M23 rebellion since the end of 2021, with the group seizing swathes of territory and installing a parallel regime in areas under its control.

Since the end of 2021, the Congolese and Ugandan armies have been conducting joint operations against another rebel group, the ADF, in North Kivu and the neighbouring province of Ituri.

The ADF, an Islamic State affiliated group originally made up of mainly Muslim Ugandan rebels, has established a presence over the past three decades in eastern DRC, killing thousands of civilians.

The UN experts' report said that about 3,000-4,000 Rwandan soldiers fought alongside M23 rebels in the mineral-rich eastern DR Congo and that Kigali had "de facto control" of the group's operations.

The experts also said they had evidence confirming "active support for M23 by certain UPDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces) and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence officials".

Uganda "has not prevented" the presence of M23 and Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) troops on its soil or passage through its territory, the report added.

"Despite evidence documenting the regular transit of M23 and RDF troops, vehicles and military supplies through Ugandan territory, the Government of Uganda, including its military intelligence service, claimed not to have recorded the presence of any foreign troops or material on its territory since the beginning of the M23 crisis," it said.

"However, the extent and frequency of the movements render such a presence highly unlikely to go undetected."

It said that since 2022, M23 combatants have consistently reported that supplies and new recruits brought to their camps came through the Ugandan border towns of Kisoro and Bunagana.

Uganda was part of a seven-nation East African Community force that deployed in the violence-plagued region in November 2022, at the invitation of the DRC authorities, to free areas taken by M23.

But the East African force withdrew late last year after Kinshasa refused to renew its mandate.