DRC-Rwanda crisis, how far will it go?

APA - Kinshasa (RDC)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), several people, including political opponent Martin Fayulu, are calling for continued demonstrations that began Monday to “say no to Rwanda in its proven support for M23,” the rebel group operating in the east of the country.

Are Rwandan-Congolese good neighborly relations compromised? In recent days, each side has accused the other of supporting rebellions in its country. Tensions are highest in the DRC. In North Kivu, in the eastern part of the country, loyalist forces are engaged in fierce fighting against M23 rebels. According to the authorities in Kinshasa, the M23 rebels are supported by Rwanda, which has rejected the accusations.

“The military effects found on site, the images held by our armed forces, as well as the testimonies collected from our populations, demonstrate sufficiently that the M23 is supported by the Rwandan army,” Patrick Mouyaya, the Congolese Government Spokesman said on Saturday May 28.

Kinshasa has taken precautionary measures without breaking diplomatic ties with Kigali. While his expulsion is being called for by the political class and civil society, Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega was just summoned on Tuesday to provide explanations on his country’s alleged support to the M23 rebels, considered a terrorist group by the DRC.

In the interview led by Deputy Prime Minister Eve Bazaiba, the Congolese government wanted to be clear and concise given the seriousness of the situation. Thus, the Rwandan diplomat received a message of “protest, disapproval and severe warning regarding Rwanda’s behavior towards the DRC.”

Accusation vs accusation

However, Kigali rejected the accusations of its neighbor. Taking advantage of the African Union (AU) Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta spoke of “baseless accusations” and accused the DRC of supporting the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), another rebel group made up of Rwandan Hutu refugees who fled to Congo after the Tutsi genocide. This movement is still considered genocidal by Kigali and is now, according to the Rwandan minister, a threat to his country.

In addition, Mr. Biruta insisted that the conflict with the M23 is a “strictly Congolese problem. For him, Kinshasa has not negotiated fairly with all armed groups in the Nairobi peace process. This is probably the case with the M23 branch led by Sultani Makenga and Bertrand Bisimwa. The latter was excluded from the talks in April, but has recently taken up arms again. “There are frustrations related to the fact that the Congolese government has not fulfilled its commitments regarding armed groups that are trying to destabilize Rwanda,” the diplomat said.

In addition, the Rwandan Government Spokesman prefers to defer to regional verification mechanisms after Kinshasa claimed to have collected "military effects" as evidence of Rwandan support to M23. “Let’s wait and see; there will be investigations. But we must not say: “Here we have caught two soldiers, so that means that Rwanda is helping M23,” said Alain Mukuralinda. The latter questions the responsibility of the Congolese government for the current crisis: “If it does not solve the problems posed to it by its own people, we have this kind of reaction.”

AU and Angola mediation

On the other hand, the demonstrations against Rwanda that began at the beginning of the week in the DRC are not weakening. On Wednesday, June 1, a peaceful march was organized in the streets of Bukavu, a city not far from the border with Rwanda, to support the efforts of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and denounce Rwanda’s suspected support for M23.

For his part, Congolese opponent Martin Fayulu called for a march this Friday, June 3, to “say no to Rwanda in its proven support for M23” and at the same time support FARDC soldiers. “This Friday, June 3, we will march to show the world that we do not agree with Rwanda,” he said Tuesday at a conference on the security situation in the east of the country.

Meanwhile, the current Chairman of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, said he was “gravely concerned” about the rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. He announced that he had met with Presidents Felix Tshisekedi and Paul Kagamé “in the quest for a peaceful solution to the dispute.” According to reports, the Senegalese leader has appointed his Angolan counterpart, Joao Lourenco, as mediator in the crisis.

Highly respected in the sub-region, the latter, who holds the presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), maintains good relations with both Paul Kagamé and Felix Tshisekedi. When he came to power nearly five years ago, he made stability in the region a priority, some analysts point out. « I encourage President Lourenço, ICGLR’s Chairman, to continue his mediation efforts in this direction, » President Sall wrote on his Twitter page


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