Home NewsNational DRC Crisis: Rwanda Says France Knows The Root Causes More Than Anyone Else

DRC Crisis: Rwanda Says France Knows The Root Causes More Than Anyone Else

by Edmund Kagire
6:56 am

Government Spokesperson, Yolande Makolo says France should know better.

Rwanda says France, more than anyone else, knows the root causes of the crisis in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and should be the last country to cast blame, as the security situation in the Great Lakes Region reaches boiling point.

This follows a statement by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the European country was deeply concerned by the situation in eastern Congo, North Kivu and particularly the area around Goma and Sake, pointing an accusation finger towards Rwanda and one of the many rebel groups M23, currently engaged in fighting with DRC government forces and other armed groups.

“France condemns the ongoing Rwanda-backed M23 offensive, as well as the presence of Rwandan forces on Congolese soil.” the statement said, adding that M23 must bring an immediate halt to the fighting and withdraw from all the areas it occupies in line with the decisions taken within the framework of the Luanda Process.

In the statement, France also called on all armed groups to end the violence and confirmed reports that DRC forces are operating in cahoots with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) -a collaboration Rwanda says threatens regional security.

“In keeping with their commitments, the armed forces of the DRC must end all collaboration with the FDLR, the movement formed by the militias who committed the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994,” the French statement reads.

Responding to the statement, Yolande Makolo, Spokesperson of Government of Rwanda, said that France, more than any other country, is well aware of the root causes of the conflict which has plagued the Eastern part of DRC for three decades now, reiterating that if those issues were address, the conflict would be resolved.

“No one knows more about the root causes and history of the conflict in eastern DRC than France. Additionally, the current head of UN Peacekeeping Operations is also very conversant with this history, as well as what is going on in eastern DRC, so there should be no confusion,” Makolo posted on X.

“If the real issues at the origin of the ongoing conflict were addressed, the problem would not exist,” she added.

Rwanda maintains that the solution for the conflict lies in resolving some of the longstanding issues which started at the time France was heavily involved in the region, during and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Thousands of former Rwandan government soldiers and Interahamwe militia, under the watch of French military which was controlling what was known as  “Zone Turquoise”, fled to what was then Zaire, after the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) stopped the genocide and took power.

They would later regroup to form different armed groups over the years, including Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALiR) and others, which evolved into FDLR and Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FOCA), made up mostly by Hutu genocide perpetrators and their relatives who were refugees.

In the years that followed the genocide, they infiltrated Rwanda, causing insecurity before they were pushed back into DRC.

In December 2001, the U.S. State Department added FDLR – then known as ‘ALIR’, to the Terrorist Exclusion List under the provisions of the Patriot Act, after the group murdered, and in some cases raped, eight Western tourists in Bwindi, Uganda, including two Americans.

Rwanda maintains that the existence of FDLR in DRC, operating with the support of Kinshasa, does not only threaten Rwanda’s security but also the regions. The group is part of the Wazalendo coalition, an alliance of armed groups fighting against M23, alongside DRC Government forces FARDC.

The group continues to harbour the genocide ideology and are behind the ethnic violence targeting Congolese Tutsi, fueled by government inspired hate speech. The M23 says it partly fights to stop the ethnic targeting Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese, alongside other grievances.

In a statement issued on February 19, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta slammed the U.S for toning down on their stance on FDLR, describing it merely as ‘negative force’.

“To characterize this genocidal and terrorist outfit merely as an “armed group named as a ‘negative force’ by regional bodies and the government of the DRC” is a shocking and cynical act of realpolitik, which calls into question the ability of the United States to serve as a credible mediator in the Great Lakes Region,” Rwanda added.

Dr. Biruta said the abrupt shift in language and finger pointing fundamentally distorts the realities in DRC, and undermines the different efforts to de-escalate the conflict through peace processes.

“Rwanda will seek clarification from the U.S. Government to ascertain whether its statement represents an abrupt shift in policy, or simply a lack of internal coordination,” Dr. Biruta said.

Rwanda maintains that DRC’s support to FDLR is a matter of state policy, not the choice of individual actors, and this will continue to stand in the way for peacebuilding.

“Ending Congolese state support for FDLR, and ensuring their demobilization and repatriation to Rwanda, is a non-negotiable requirement to protect Rwanda’s territorial integrity and guarantee the preservation of our hard-won national unity for future generations,” Biruta said.

The Government of Rwanda further said it reserves the right to take any legitimate measures to defend the country, so long as the threat and warmongering from DRC remains.

In the statement, France added that it fully support regional mediation processes aimed at achieving a negotiated solution to the conflict.

Earlier this week, the European Union (EU) reiterated its backing for the Luanda and Nairobi Peace Processes to deescalate tensions in DRC as Kinshasa continues to pursue a confrontational approach that disregards the recommendations of the two process.

Dr. Vincent Biruta, on Monday, in Brussels, Belgium, met and held discussions with Jutta Urpilainen , the European Union (EU)’s Commissioner for International Partnerships, on the situations in Eastern DRC, which threatens to derail regional peace.

Urpilainen emphasized EU support for the Luanda and Nairobi process, which President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi has failed to honour and observers believe offer a sustainable solution to situation.

We had a constructive exchange with @Vbiruta on the regional situation. I reiterated EU’s consistent position and support to the Luanda, Nairobi processes to find a political solution in the Eastern DRC. This will be a major topic of discussions this week when I visit Angola,” Urpilainen  posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The situation in eastern DR Congo is threatening to spiral into regional crisis as President Felix Tshisekedi continues to pursue a violent approach, prompting M23 to defend its territories.

Rwanda says the war approach “clearly aims to expel M23 and Congolese Tutsi civilians into neighboring countries, working in concert with FDLR.

“The recent M23 advances are due to the DRC’s decision to expel the East African Community Regional Force in December 2023, which oversaw ceasefire and withdrawal efforts,” Dr. Biruta said in a statement says, adding that Kinshasa continues to disregard its duty to address the deeply rooted issues that have plagued the Eastern part of the country for decades.

Rwanda says protecting the rights and lives of Congolese Tutsi is the responsibility of the DRC and that the consistent failure to do so has exposed the entire Great Lakes Region to thirty years of conflict and instability while hundreds of thousands of Congolese Tutsi have lived as refugees in East Africa for decades, have been essentially forgotten.

Rwanda also denounced the hate speech and crude tribalism which have become the currency of Congolese politics under the administration of President Félix Tshisekedi, and ethnic discrimination and targeted arrests and killings have become routine while FDLR  has been fully integrated into the Congolese government forces.

Dr. Biruta said that taken together, these facts represent a serious threat to Rwanda’s national security. Because of that growing risk, Rwanda’s position is that the M23 issue must be resolved politically amongst Congolese.

“It will not be accepted for the problem to be externalized into Rwanda, by force, once again,” Dr. Biruta said, reiterating President Paul Kagame’s position in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week.

The M23 rebel group resurfaced in November 2021, after nearly a decade in hibernation, accusing the Congolese government of ignoring their grievances and previous agreements, while persecution of Congolese Tutsi communities continues.

Eastern DR Congo has been volatile for nearly 30 years. The provinces of South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri are home to more than 130 armed groups that are accused of atrocities and human rights violations.

Multiple regional and international interventions have failed to end decades of insecurity.

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