KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda has denied allegations its army was providing support to the M23 rebels fighting against the Kinshasa government in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), joining Rwanda which has also refuted similar accusations.
Congo’s President Joseph Kabila said on Saturday his government had requested an explanation from Ugandan authorities after persistent rumors that its soldiers were backing the M23 group.
Fighting between the Congolese government and the rebels has displaced 470,000 people since April.
“General Aronda called on the Congolese government to prevail over those who are passing on such idiotic rumors against the government of Uganda and the UPDF,” Uganda’s military chief, General Aronda Nyakairima, was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
“... We cannot infiltrate the DRC and we will not do that.”
Although Uganda’s relations with DRC have markedly improved in recent years, the two neighbors were not seeing eye to eye in late 1990s and early 2000s after Uganda, alongside Rwanda, invaded the giant nation twice.
Uganda justified its invasion by saying it wanted to root out a rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has bases in eastern DRC and is opposed to the Kampala government.
The M23 rebellion takes its name from a 2009 peace accord the rebels say was violated by Kinshasa.
It has been swelled by hundreds of defectors from the Congolese army who walked out into the bush in support of fugitive Congolese General Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.
The leaders of Congo and Rwanda agreed to allow a neutral force to be deployed in Congo to defeat each other’s rebels, but the plan’s details have not been announced yet.
Kampala is scheduled to host regional leaders between August 5-8 to discuss the conflict after an interim report by the U.N.’s panel of experts accused Rwanda of backing the rebels.
Kigali has strenuously denied this, and in turn accused the international community of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern Congo.
Donors including the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany have all suspended some of their financial aid to Rwanda over the accusations that it is backing the rebels.
Editing by James Macharia and Diana Abdallah