Rwanda accused the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday of "fabricating" a massacre that a United Nations investigation says was committed by M23 rebels and cost 131 civilians their lives.
Kinshasa accuses its small Rwandan neighbor of supporting the M23 ("March 23 Movement"). Kigali denies these accusations, but the United States, France, Belgium and UN experts confirm them.
The rebellion has taken control in recent months of territories in the eastern DRC, a troubled region rich in mineral resources, aggravating tensions with Rwanda.
Talks between the DRC and Rwanda in Angola appeared to pave the way for a truce, but Kinshasa later accused the M23 of massacring civilians in the village of Kishishe. According to a U.N. investigation, 131 people were killed there on November 29.
"The exaggerated +Kishishe massacre+, a fabrication by the DRC government which attributed it to the M23, spread rapidly without any investigation of the facts by any credible entity," the Rwandan government said in a statement Wednesday.
"The incident was in reality an armed confrontation between the M23 and illegal armed groups allied to the FARDC" (Congolese army), Kigali said.
"Accusing Rwanda of supporting the Congolese armed group M23 is unfair and prevents addressing the real causes of the perpetuation of the conflict in eastern DRC, as well as its impact on the security of neighboring states, including Rwanda," the same source added.
The M23 has denied committing the massacre, citing "stray bullets" that killed only eight civilians.
Rwanda has repeatedly accused the DRC of colluding with the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), a Rwandan Hutu rebel movement, some of whom were involved in the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
A Tutsi-majority rebel group, the M23 first made a name for itself when it took the eastern DRC city of Goma in 2012, before being driven out and going dormant.
But it took up arms again at the end of 2021, accusing the DRC of not having kept its promise to integrate its fighters into the army.