M23 in the DRC: Kinshasa’s protest letter to Kigali

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 2 June 2022 17:56

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, in September 2019
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, in September 2019. © Village Urugwiro

In the midst of a diplomatic tug of war between Félix Tshisekedi and Paul Kagame, the Congolese government accuses and warns Rwanda in an official letter. DRC suspects Kigali of supporting the M23 rebels, a letter that we were able to consult.

The diplomatic battle continues between DRC and Rwanda.

After several days of trading verbal blows, the Congolese minister of foreign affairs, Christophe Lutundula, spoke at the UN Security Council on 31 May. He reiterated his accusations against Kigali, which, according to Kinshasa, is supporting the military actions of the M23 rebels.

A few hours earlier, his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta, had emphasised Rwanda’s “right” to respond to attacks by DRC, which Kigali accused of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

After meeting on 28 and 29 May with Macky Sall and Paul Kagame, Tshisekedi went to Angola on 31 May, where he met João Lourenço, who is also president of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa were at the heart of the discussions. According to our sources, the Angolan president is due to discuss this issue with Paul Kagame.

However, DRC has not been content with calling on the UN and its neighbours. On 31 May, Eve Bazaiba, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Environment and Sustainable Development, sent a letter of protest signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Rwandan ambassador to the DRC, Vincent Karega.

‘The enemy has fled to Rwanda’

In this letter, which we were able to consult, the Congolese authorities are surprised that “the enemy” [the M23], pursued by the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) in response to the attacks of 23 March, 8 April and 22 May against the positions of the Congolese army and Monusco, “curiously fled to the borders with Rwanda, without being troubled”.

The DRC also accuses the Rwandans of having “shelled” its territory, “dropping bombs on 23 May from 11 am to 5 pm on the Congolese localities of Katale, Bavunga and Rumangabo”, “claiming that villages in their country had been hit by bombardments from Congolese territory”. The ministry of foreign affairs also writes that the FARDC and a Monusco convoy were attacked from 24 to 25 May in Kibumba (25km from Goma) by the M23, supported by elements of the Rwandan army.

Evidence and testimony

The Congolese authorities also claim to have evidence that the M23, which they now consider a terrorist movement, is heavily equipped with weapons and ammunition, despite the arms embargo imposed on DRC. “The military items found by the FARDC in the reconquered areas, the images held, as well as the various testimonies collected show that the M23 is indeed supported by the Rwandan army,” they say.

Consequently, Kinshasa warns Kigali, “whose attitude is likely to disrupt the peace process which is almost at an end with the Nairobi talks”. The M23 had been excluded from this dialogue since the resumption of fighting.

All options, even that of breaking off diplomatic relations, are on the table.

In recent days, several other precautionary measures had already been adopted by the Congolese authorities. Kinshasa decided to immediately suspend the flights of the airline Rwandair to the DRC. The minister of communication, Patrick Muyaya, also declared that “all options”, even that of “breaking off diplomatic relations”, are on the table.

On the ground, calm has returned since last weekend in Kibumba and Buhumba, in Nyiragongo territory, as well as in Rumangabo and Kabaya, in Rutshuru territory.

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