President Paul Kagame has once again reiterated that Rwanda cannot continue to be an escape route for the problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which the international community has failed to resolve for decades.
The Head of State, who was speaking during a press conference at Urugwiro Village on Wednesday, following the conclusion of the 18th National Dialogue Council- Umushyikirano 2023, said that the more Rwanda continues to be blamed for the problems in Eastern DRC, the more the issue will carry on, unless the root causes are addressed.
President Kagame said that the situation in the eastern part of the country is entirely the DRC’s own making and it has been there long enough for people to know by now but they continue to disregard it.
He said that no matter how many meetings happen, without addressing the root causes, which is the DRC’s failure to deal with its internal issues, the problem can only be wished away but it won’t go away.
“People have discussed this problem in all kinds of cities, the AU Summit, we discussed it in Kenya, in Angola, in the General Assembly in New York, we have discussed it almost everywhere,” President Kagame said, adding that there are even well-wishers who want to help.
Among them he cited Qatar which wanted to mediate the talks in January but the meeting did not take place because DRC, which was said to have requested for the meeting, pulled out.
President Kagame said that there have been many meetings and communiques released but that is where it has stayed, and this calls for people to assess where the actual problem is.
He pointed out that the Congo problem has persisted for decades, regardless of thousands of troops deployed by the United Nations for peacekeeping but even that hasn’t worked.
“If anyone stepped back a little bit and wanted to make sense of what is happening, somebody would realize that something is terribly wrong and we might be addressing the wrong problem,” President Kagame said.
He said that there is nothing that can explain why the situation has gone on for so long, citing the first uprising of M23 which happened in 2012, their issues recognised and agreements signed but that too didn’t work mainly because of the DRC government’s failure to manage the situation.
President Kagame said that the resurgence of M23 was inevitable simply because Kinshasa failed to deal with the issues that led to the insurgency in the first place.
Rwanda just a shortcut
President Kagame said not just the DRC, but also the international community have failed to deal with the main causes of conflict and therefore Rwanda becomes the easiest shortcut to shift blame.
President Kagame yet again emphasized the historical aspect of the problem, pointing out that Rwanda and DRC share a long history, going back to colonial days, where people found themselves on the other side of the border.
He said that it was not Rwanda’s fault that Kinyarwanda speaking communities found themselves in DRC when the borders were drawn and in no way those people can be said to be Rwandans.
The Head of State said that the M23 is a product of a lot of things but mainly it goes down to how the DRC government has mismanaged the issues of Rwandophones, prompting them to get arms and fight to stay in their own country.
He said that to make it Rwanda’s problem, the Congolese citizens were assigned the ‘Rwandan’ tag and asked them to go back to Rwanda where they came from, but in actual sense these are not Rwandans but Congolese who speak Kinyarwanda.
President Kagame said that as a result of that, Rwanda has been a recipient of Congolese refugees, who until now are still entering Rwanda, adding to the already existing 75, 000 or so refugees, who are living in camps in Rwanda.
He pointed out that what is ironic is that while the DRC is sending away her own citizens under the guise of being Rwandans, on the other hand they continue to retain another group of actual Rwandans, who are members of armed groups such as FDLR, remain in DRC without any problem.
He said that from their safe haven in Eastern DRC, they continue to launch attacks on Rwanda and to make it even worse, FDLR elements have been integrated into and armed by the government forces FARDC, along with other militias.
“In recent days when this fighting was beginning to take shape between M23 and the government and these other groups, FDRL was armed again and integrated in FARDC, with the full knowledge and authority of government and government institutions,”
“Whether it is the commanders of FARDC or governors of the provinces, everybody knew about it,” President Kagame said, pointing out that using the firepower they have, FDLR used the Congolese territory to attack Rwanda on several occasions.
“There is no confusion about this information. It is available to everybody. There are victims, we have communicated directly with the government of Congo,”
“I did communicate directly with the President of Congo on these issues when they were happening,” he said, adding that despite those efforts, nothing changed.
President Kagame said that as a result of this, Rwanda has had to massively deploy troops along the border for any eventuality.
“What we are supposed to do and we will do, whenever It will be necessary, is to make sure nobody crosses our border again to attack our people or uses any territory near us to shell Rwanda again, without consequences,” President Kagame said.
He observed that those who accused Rwanda of backing M23 should ask themselves first what interest Rwanda has in destabilizing DRC because it gains more from peace than conflict.
“Why would Rwanda be doing that? Why would Rwanda want to go into Congo? Why would Rwanda support M23? If you get those answers, you should also ask yourself, what is FDLR doing in Congo, armed and working with the government of Congo?”
He however warned that Rwanda cannot just sit and keep quiet if FDRL is crossing the border to kill Rwandans, with the support of the government of DRC.
“Why would Rwanda, of all countries, want to be part of, or the cause of instability in the neighbourhood? What would we gain from that? What can anyone gain from having instability next door?”
“If anything, everybody should know that we are the people most interested in peace in this region because we have lacked peace for so long. We know what it means. We know the cost of it,” President Kagame said, adding that Rwanda wouldn’t be building itself to a level it is today if it was interested in war.
He however warned that it doesn’t mean that the country shouldn’t prepare for any eventuality because if you don’t want war, you prepare for it. President Kagame said Rwandans can sleep comfortably, with the assurances that the country is safeguarded.