Uganda denies supporting DR Congo's M23 rebels

Monday February 19 2024

People carry their belongings as they flee from their villages around Sake in Masisi territory, following clashes between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); towards Goma, North Kivu Province, DRC on February 7, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


Ugandan authorities have denied claims that Kampala is backing the deadly M23 rebels in the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The claims have been fuelled on social media in the DRC, with politicians in particular adding fuel to the fire.

The rumour is echoed by civil society figures and some former ministers, who claim that the Ugandan army is playing a double game: on the one hand, it is supporting the DRC army in a war against the Allied Democratic Forces, while on the other it is playing for the rebels when it comes to the war against the M23.

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) issued a statement saying that "the UPDF has no reason to get involved in an internal conflict unless it is a regional peace effort".

In its statement, the Ugandan army even claims that the false information "is being spread by Mr Jules Mulumba that the UPDF is in Rutshuru (North Kivu)". In an attempt to authenticate his desperate claims, he is using photos of our forces that were part of the East African Community Regional Force." 

"The picture was taken when Uganda's contingent to East African Community Regional Force was in Tsengero general areas on Bunagana - Rutshuru to Goma Axis and not sake", the statement continued.

Read: Uganda army exit ends EACRF pullout from DRC


The East African regional force, which included Ugandan troops, had been deployed in the DRC at the end of 2022 but withdrew from Congolese soil in December 2023.

In Kinshasa, the Ugandan embassy provided further details in the rebuttal.

A statement from the diplomatic mission "categorically refutes the latest fabricated claims that 5,500 Ugandan soldiers are supporting the M23 rebels in Rutshuru territory in the DRC. This follows similar, patently false, accusations in late September 2023 that Uganda had illegally moved the border markers near Busanza. These recurrent and unverified media attacks raise serious concerns about a deliberate pattern of systematic misinformation or information warfare targeting Uganda".

In the age of social media, several people regularly spread rumours and accusations between Uganda and the DRC. For Ugandan officials, this is nothing more than a "recurring pattern...a concerted effort to sow discord and undermine positive relations between Uganda and the DRC", says the statement from the Ugandan embassy in the DRC.

"The Ugandan army respects the borders and territorial integrity of the DRC. It only conducts cross-border operations through official channels, with the full knowledge and consent of the Government of the DRC. No such operation has taken place in Rutshuru: consequently, no Ugandan troops are stationed in the areas mentioned", states the press release.

 In the war in the east of the DRC, some players, particularly those from civil society, have often accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebels.

But in July 2022, the Congolese authorities asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to get involved in the Great Lakes conflict to find a solution. President Félix Tshisekedi sent a delegation led by infrastructure minister Alexis Gisaro to Uganda to speak to the Ugandan president.

"It is difficult to find a solution without you", the Congolese minister told President Museveni.