Rwandan Army Using Surface-to-Air Missiles in East Congo, UN Internal Document Claims

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Otago, New Zealand. As the Africa Desk Chief for Atlas, her expertise spans conflict, politics, and history. She is also the Editor for The ModernInsurgent and has interests in yoga and meditation.

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What You Need to Know:

A UN document seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday allegedly claims that elements of the Rwandan Defense Forces have Mobile Surface-to Air-Missile systems (SAM) in Rutshuru territory, around 100km from Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province. 

The document claims that a SAM was fired at a United Nations observation drone on Wednesday. The SAM did not make contact with the drone however, and the drone was able to capture two pictures of a “six-wheeled armored vehicle with a radar and missile launcher system on the roof.”

French Military intelligence claims the photographed vehicle, a WZ551 6×6 IFV is carrying a mobile SAM system, which the document states is Rwandan.

According to AFP, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, believes that the existence of the SAM system “indicates an escalation of conventional force conflict in eastern DRC”, as there has been “no past reporting of known armed groups possessing the training, capital, or resources to operate and maintain a mobile SAM system.” 

The Details:

The March 23 movement, also known as the M23 rebels, predominantly consists of ethnic Tutsis, a large ethnic group in the African Great Lakes region. Tutsis are Rwanda’s second largest ethnic group, and because of this, the DRC claims that M23 is backed by the Rwandan Government– something officials in Kigali continue to deny. 

North Kivu Province, in the DRC’s east, is particularly under threat from the group, with M23 making large gains in recent weeks, there are fears that the province’s capital, Goma could be captured. 

However, M23 claims that they do not intend to take Goma, but are instead undertaking ‘defensive manoeuvres.’ Nonetheless, swaths of civilians have been displaced due to the continued fighting, with the number of internally displaced reaching the tens of thousands. 

Peace talks have continuously broken down between the Felix Tshisekedi Government in Kinshasa and the group, with Tshisekedi’s Communication Minister stating to the BBC, “One thing must be clear is that we as government, we will never negotiate with M23. M23 doesn’t exist. It’s Rwanda acting with its puppet.” 

So, What Now?:

South Africa has since taken over as head of the intervention force in the country and has announced yesterday that it is deploying 2900 extra forces to the east to combat M23 and various other armed groups which operate in the region.