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Hundreds of Congolese protesters took to the streets of the capital to protest against Rwanda this week, blaming the neighboring country for allegedly supporting a notorious rebel group responsible for a recent uptick in violence in eastern Congo, Radio France Internationale reported Tuesday.
Demonstrators called for the expulsion of Rwanda’s ambassador and displayed nationalistic banners against ceding any Congolese territory to its neighbor.
The two countries have had strained relations after many Rwandan ethnic Hutus, accused of killing Tutsi during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, fled to eastern Congo. In 1996, Rwanda invaded eastern Congo to pursue the alleged Hutu killers, according to Reuters.
In 2019, tensions between Rwanda and Congo decreased following the election of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi. But recent violent skirmishes between the rebel group M23 and Congolese forces, as well as the arrest of two Rwandan soldiers by Congolese troops over the weekend, have heightened tensions.
This weekend, both countries suspended flights with each other.
Congo’s government has accused Rwanda of supporting M23 – which is mostly made up of Congolese Tutsis. Rwanda has denied the accusations and called for the release of its two soldiers.
It has also accused the Congolese army of cooperating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia founded by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda in 1994.
Meanwhile, eastern Congo remains in a constant state of conflict due to foreign invasions and insurgencies by rebel groups. The United Nations warned that 72,000 have been displaced because of the violence.