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New diplomatic chill between US and Kigali over M23

Washington blames the Rwandan army and the rebel militia group for the bombing of a displacement camp in Goma

The diplomatic chill between Rwanda and the United States has got colder after Washington implicated the Rwandan army in mortar attacks that killed at least 16 people in the area around Goma in eastern Congo-Kinshasa.

The US Department of State said the mortars were fired from positions held by the Rwandan army and the M23 rebel group, to which most of the international community accuses President Paul Kagame's government of providing political and military support.

In response, the Kagame government retorted that it 'will not shoulder responsibility for the bombing of internally displaced people's [IDP] camps around Goma'.

'The attempt by the US State Department… to immediately and without any investigation place blame on Rwanda for the loss of lives in the IDP camps is unjustified,' the government stated, adding that Washington's stance 'raises serious questions about its credibility' as an impartial mediator in the Great Lakes region.

Washington is looking to strengthen its diplomatic relations with Congo-K as it seeks to secure long-term access to the country's critical raw materials (AC Vol 65 No 10, Mining colossus Gécamines hires lobbyists to boost bargaining with Washington).

Congo-K President Félix Tshisekedi cut short a visit to Europe following the attacks but not before getting French President Emmanuel Macron, whom he met in Paris, to again cite Rwanda for the M23 aggression and demand that it end its support for the militia group (Dispatches 21/2/24, Fighting escalates in the Kivus and western officials censure Kagame and AC Vol 65 No 6, How Brussels was caught out by the Kivu war).

The Kagame government denies that it supports M23.

For its part, Rwanda has accused the international community of ignoring the build-up of military activity by the Congolese national army (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo, FARDC) and the Burundian armed forces (Forces armées du Burundi, FAB).

'President Tshisekedi and the Congolese leadership persistently threaten to invade Rwanda and overthrow its government by force,' it said.

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