Confrontations between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army have led to tensions in recent days. Confrontations between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army have led to tensions in recent days. Kinshasa and Kigali accuse each other of supporting Tutsi and Hutu groups, which are considered rebels by both countries.
Tensions have been rising again between Rwanda and the DRC in recent days, especially with the resurgence of attacks by the armed group M23 on Congolese territory. Yet relations between the two countries had begun to normalise since 2019, after the election of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi. Indeed, the authorities in Kinshasa accuse Kigali of incursion on its territory to support the M23, which is mainly made up of Congolese Tutsis. The Rwandan government accuses its neighbour of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebellion of Hutus which took refuge in the DRC’s North Kivu province after the 1994 genocide.
What the DRC blames Rwanda for
With confrontations now taking place between the Congolese army and M23 fighters some 20 kilometres from Goma in North Kivu, Kinshasa is pointing the finger at Kigali’s involvement. The country of Felix Tshisekedi wants as proof the two Rwandan soldiers captured on Saturday 28 May inside Congolese territory. The allegedly Rwandan-backed rebels have attacked the Kinshasa army on more than one occasion. The fighting caused several IDPs on the Congolese side. Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, two border territories to Rwanda, are almost empty. According to the UN, heavy fighting in the Rutshuru sector, near the Rwandan border, has already caused more than 70,000 civilians to flee the area.
The presence of Rwandan forces in the DRC is no longer news to the inhabitants of the area. Civil society, the political opposition and citizen movements have consistently denounced a Kigali incursion into North Kivu. The uniforms of the Rwandan army and the weapons found on the ground are indeed irrefutable evidence for Kinshasa. “We believe that the M23 cannot have a military arsenal like the one they have on the ground. Hence, the crystallisation of our suspicions on Rwanda,” said the government spokesman, Patrick Muyaya.
In conclusion, Kinshasa accuses Kigali of arming the M23 to destabilise the East and to continue to supply itself with Congolese minerals, particularly gold. Because there are claims that Rwanda exports more gold than it produces.
In a statement by its spokesperson Yolande Makolo, the Rwandan government denied all Congolese accusations. Kigali, which denies any military action in the DRC, instead claims that two of its soldiers were abducted by the FDLR and held captive in Kinshasa. “While it would be legitimate for Rwanda to respond to repeated FARDC attacks on its territory, it is not involved in the ongoing fighting,” Kigali said, before describing the confrontations as an “intra-Congolese conflict”.
According to the Rwandan authorities, these soldiers were captured at the border. However, the Congolese army maintains that they were arrested inside Congolese territory. Rwanda denounces the collaboration of the Congolese army with the FDLR, an armed group fighting against Paul Kagame’s government. “The FDLR is a rebel group made up of the remaining brains of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis who at different times plotted blitzkrieg attacks in Rwanda,” the spokesperson recalled.
“We call on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo who are working closely with these genocidal armed groups to obtain the release of the RDF soldiers,” the Rwandan authorities said.
Measures taken by the two governments
In the wake of this, the immediate suspension of Rwandan flights to the DRC and the summoning of Ambassador Vincent Karega by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were the decisions taken by the DRC. In response, Rwand’Air announced the cancellation of all its flights to Kinshasa, Goma and Lubumbashi.
The African Union’s intervention
On Sunday, the Senegalese president, who is also chairman of the African Union, said he was concerned about the crisis between the two countries. It invites them to use dialogue to resolve conflicts peacefully. “I am gravely concerned about the rising tension between Rwanda and the DRC. I call on both countries to calm down and engage in dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the crisis with the bravery of regional mechanisms and the African Union,” he said.
Relations between the two countries, which were very complicated, have calmed down in recent years, especially in 2019 when Félix Tshisekedi came to power. However, the resurgence of attacks by the rebels of “March 23 Movement”, more commonly known as the M23, has fuelled tensions.