DRC, Rwanda, Uganda: The shadow diplomacy of French intelligence

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Tuesday, 20 September 2022 17:56

M23 fighters during the capture of Goma in 2012. ©Pierre Boisselet/Jeune Afrique

France is increasingly playing an important role in mediating the crisis between the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda, through its foreign intelligence agency. For several months, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has accused his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame of supporting the M23 rebels, who have been increasing their clashes with his country's army and have controlled the strategic town of Bunagana since last June.

Having arrived in New York on 19 September, Félix Tshisekedi intends to take advantage of his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly to express himself once again on the current crisis with Rwanda.

Although Tshisekedi and Kagame had grown considerably closer since the start of the Congolese president’s mandate, the two are officially no longer in direct contact. Discreet discussion channels have nevertheless been maintained in recent weeks, notably at the level of both countries’ intelligence services. And with the involvement of some partners, including France, which maintains good relations with Rwanda.

Paris is following this situation closely. Last June, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna received Congolese diplomatic chief Christophe Lutundula before holding talks with their Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta.

Meeting in Paris

Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan intelligence officials have visited Paris in recent days as part of mediation efforts led by France’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE). Kinshasa was represented by Jean-Hervé Mbelu Biosha, chief of DRC’s National Intelligence Agency (ANR). Weakened by the management of the “François Beya affair”, named after Félix Tshisekedi’s former security adviser, Biosha already visited Paris last April with the aim of meeting his French counterpart, Bernard Émié – an initiative that was unsuccessful at the time.

On the Rwandan side, the situation is being handled by the head of the country’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), General Joseph Nzabamwita. According to our sources among the countries involved in this mediation, several meetings have taken place in recent days, including one on 16 September. The Congolese securocrats wanted to use the opportunity to bring their evidence of Rwanda’s alleged support for M23 to the table.

Kenyan deployment

For its part, Kigali has been accusing the Congolese army of collaborating with the armed group Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) for several months. And Uganda is the subject of many suspicions in Kinshasa, where several Tshisekedi advisers believe that Kampala is supporting Kigali in this crisis. These accusations were reinforced by the fall, last June, of the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda, now in the hands of the M23.

This discreet mediation effort comes at a time when the deployment of a joint regional force of the Community of East African States (EAC) is still pending. Burundian contingents took up positions in South Kivu in mid-August and, according to a source involved in the project, the first elements of the Kenyan army are due to be deployed shortly in Goma, where the force’s headquarters will be located. Two other mediations are also underway, one led by Kenya and the other by Angola. The holding of presidential elections in these two countries last August has nevertheless slowed down these processes.

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