President Paul Kagame says Rwanda is still hopeful for a peaceful and amicable solution to resolve the conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), under the mediation of President João Lourenço of Angola, but added that he will not be drawn into loose war talk.
The Head of State, speaking in an exclusive interview with France 24, two days after the meeting with his Congolese counterpart, Felix Antoine Tshisekedi, in Angola, shed light on the outcomes of the ‘Luanda Roadmap’, point out that the cessation of hostilities which was agreed upon applied to all parties involved in fighting, not just M23.
He pointed out that the meeting in Luanda was a breakthrough in finding a solution and will deliver results.
“To begin with, I don’t think anyone is interested in tensions or conflicts or crises. So, it’s on that backdrop that I’m happy that we even agreed to meet,” President Kagame said, adding that they had a good discussion and looked forward to making progress.
Asked if he thinks DRC will follow through and act on what was agreed upon or it will be another meeting of talking, Kagame says he hopes and wants to see action towards resolving the situation.
“That’s what I want to see happen. We’re talking, which is good, but may not be good enough but it is what you need to start with. The fact that we talked, I think is good and you kind of build on that for tangible results,” President Kagame said, describing it as another step forward.
On the ceasefire
President Kagame also spoke about the ceasefire which was discussed in Angola, which did not hold, with fighting resuming within hours after the meeting. DRC accused M23 and Rwanda of not adhering to the Luanda Roadmap.
The Head of State pointed out that there are many factors that play into the de-escalation of tensions which must be addressed, rather than engaging in blame games and accusations.
“I don’t think we need to dwell on blame games. I don’t think the accusations are one way. They are general…maybe one would expect that. Much as we discussed and agreed on many things, it seems there are circumstances on the ground, where maybe people are not exactly in control of what happens,”
“So, putting in place instructions and making sure that they are adhered to might be a problem, maybe it takes time. Maybe it takes a few days, or a week and so on,” President Kagame said, adding that the most important thing is to commit at the top that these instructions are adhered to.
President Kagame however added that the issue of cessation of hostilities was miscommunicated or instructions were distorted or lost in translation.
“Let me just make a small correction, which I thought would have been obvious. In fighting, there are different parties involved, it’s not one party. So, talking about ceasefire refers to parties fighting. It is not M23. It is M23 and those they are fighting against. That is what it means,” he said, directly contradicting what was communicated by the Congolese Presidency.
He pointed out that in normal circumstances there should be people on the ground to ensure that the agreed instructions are adhere to but they are not there at the moment.
Tshisekedi war declarations
President Kagame for the first time spoke about President Tshisekedi’s recent declaration in an interview with Financial Times, that DRC has not ruled out a potential war with Rwanda, stating that he won’t engage in lose war talk like his Congolese counterpart.
“I don’t feel comfortable, so loosely, talking about war,” President Kagame told France 24, adding that Tshisekedi never said it to him in Luanda.
“He didn’t tell me but I saw it in the Financial Times. I’m just saying for me, I don’t so easily and carelessly anticipate war or even look forward to it. So, let’s put that aside,”
“The reason we were in Angola is to make sure that any misunderstanding, any conflict, any tension is resolved amicably, not through war or fighting,” he said.
On accusations of Rwanda supporting M23
President Kagame spoke out on the accusations of Rwanda supporting M23, stating that he is always surprised how different parties, including the U.S, are quick to accuse Rwanda in the conflict in Congo but are silent on Rwanda’s concerns, particularly the issue of FDLR.
“They are silent deliberately on issues of FDLR that have been there for the last 25 years…They are even silent about the bombings into our territory by Congolese army,” he said, adding that those who accuse Kigali want to create an impression that Rwanda is the troublemaker.
He said that the same people were silent about the infiltration of FDLR in Rwanda in November 2019, in the northern part of the country, causing mayhem.
“If you’re talking about provocations, how do you decide to shell across the border into the population?” President Kagame said, reiterating that when there are many parties involved in a conflict and you continue singling out one, you are the one with the problem, not the one you are accusing.
President Kagame said that the issue of FDLR has been talked about for many years with no action, warning that those who think this problem of FDLR will remain for forever, with no consequences for their action, are not serious.
On accusations of backing M23, President Kagame said M23 is not Rwanda’s problem.
“These are not Rwandans and we don’t need them for anything. Second, the history of these M23 people is well known, has been discussed with President Tshisekedi himself and the Government of Congo and so on,”
“These are not people who came from Rwanda and how Congo makes that problem of M23 a Rwandan problem is something I can’t understand,” President Kagame pointed out.
President Kagame said that there are many issues to address in DRC and many parties involved, and it should never be about Rwanda.
Among other issues, he pointed out the issue of the UN Peacekeeping force in DRC, MONUSCO, which he said has been supporting FARDC, well knowing that they’re working together with FDLR to attack Rwanda.
President Kagame said that the problem of M23 first came up in 2012/2013 and it was resolved, adding that people need to focus on why the issue came back again 10 years later.
“What do you think went wrong? I would ask anyone to tell me why this problem, which actually, in my view, is a problem that can be addressed very easily, came back to visit us 10 years later in 2022,”
“In fact, part of it has been there for the last 25 years,” President Kagame said, adding that the international community knows about it and so much money has been spent on talking about solving the problems in DRC.
“Do you really think Rwanda is the problem in that? Can’t anybody see that the problem lies elsewhere?” he said, adding that even the international community which pretends to be trying to address the problem complicates it even further.