Talking cure

Rwanda and DRC start peace talks mediated by Angola

By ‘Tofe Ayeni

Posted on July 7, 2022 17:11

 © Tshisekedi and Lourenço. From Twitter
Tshisekedi and Lourenço. From Twitter

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda have started a dialogue after weeks of increasing tension between the two countries caused by continuing violence by the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23) rebels in eastern DRC.

Angola’s President João Lourenço was appointed by the African Union to mediate talks between DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame.

Following the talks, Lourenço said: “I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures.”

What the DRC wants

The Congolese presidency has been calling for the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the M23 rebel group from the eastern DRC.

In a statement on Wednesday 6 July, following the peace talks, it said the two countries will revive the Congo-Rwanda commission, which will resume activities on 12 July in the Angolan capital, Luanda.

However, war is not out of the question, with President Tshisekedi telling the Financial Times that “the possibility cannot be ruled out. If Rwanda’s provocation continues, we will not sit and do nothing about it.”

Rebel backing

The DRC say that the neighbouring state sponsors the M23 rebels. Tshisekedi said: “There is absolutely no doubt Rwanda is backing the Mouvement du 23 Mars. We want peace, but if push comes to shove … at one point we will take action.”

The DRC government has agreed for an East African regional force to be deployed in the eastern region of the to curb the violence, on the condition that the Rwandan armed forces are not involved.

The M23 rebels are mainly Congolese Tutsis, and the group first gained prominence in 2012 by capturing the eastern Congolese city of Goma before it was chased away by a joint United Nations-Congolese offensive.

The group was largely dormant for nearly a decade, but violence began again in November 2021 as it claimed the DRC government had not kept its promise of incorporating its fighters into the national army. Since the recent uptick in violence, fighting has displaced about 170,000 people.

Rwanda’s position

Rwanda, for its part, denies any involvement in the internal affairs of the DRC. Its government points the finger at the Kinshasa government for the regional instability.

On Monday 4 July President Kagame accused the DRC of “supporting the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda”, a rebel group formed by some leaders of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda has not yet made a formal statement following the peace talks.

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