M23 rebels have announced that they are ready to disengage and withdraw territories they have occupied in eastern DRC after almost a year which ... has led to simmering tension between Rwanda president Paul Kagame and his DRC counterpart Félix Tshiskedi.
On 5 June, DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi said there was “no doubt” that Rwanda was supporting a rebel group that had come to “attack” his country, while reiterating his desire to maintain peaceful relations with his neighbours.
Tshisekedi and his Congolese counterpart Denis Sassou Nguesso, discussed the new Congolese-Rwandan crisis – which has been caused by a resurgence of activity in the eastern part of DRC by the 23 March Movement, the former Tutsi rebel military group – this past weekend in Oyo, some 400km north of Brazzaville.
The fact that we want peace, brotherhood and solidarity is not a weakness.
The Kinshasa government has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, which was involved in heavy fighting with the DRC army in late May. Kigali denies this, but in retaliation, Kinshasa has suspended RwandAir flights on its territory and summoned the Rwandan ambassador to give him a “severe warning”.
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President Tshisekedi had not yet spoken publicly about the crisis.
“I have always maintained that it was better to build bridges than walls,” the DRC President said on Congolese public radio and television. “Unfortunately, today we are where we are,” he said.
“The fact that we want peace, brotherhood and solidarity is not a weakness,” he said. “It should not be an opportunity for neighbours to come and provoke us.”
“I hope that Rwanda has learned this lesson because today it is clear, there is no doubt, Rwanda supported the M23 so that it would come and attack DRC,” said Tshisekedi.
The rebels were ‘totally defeated’ in 2013
The DRC President reiterated that the Congolese army had “totally defeated” these rebels in 2013 and “confiscated their arsenal.” “If today they have regained their strength, it means that they have left from somewhere, [have been] armed somewhere,” he concluded.
President Nguesso said he was “confident” that the crisis would be resolved. “I think we will quickly overcome these difficulties and bring peace through dialogue,” he said.
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