Published: 11:21, February 20, 2024 | Updated: 13:05, February 20, 2024
DRC, Rwanda trade accusations in fighting involving M23 rebels
By Xinhua

Traders on tricycles cross the border between Rwanda (in the background) and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Petite Barrière border post in Goma on Nov 19, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)

KINSHASA/KIGALI/ UNITED NATIONS - Tensions have been running high between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring Rwanda amid fierce fighting in the eastern DRC, which the United Nations says is exacerbating the strain on already limited resources to accommodate 800,000 internally displaced persons in the region and 2.5 million displaced across the province of North Kivu.

On Saturday, the DRC military accused Rwanda of launching a drone attack on the airport of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province, where fighting has been raging between DRC government forces and armed rebel groups, notably the March 23 Movement.

Drone attack

Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, spokesperson for the DRC military in the region, said that at about 2:00 am, local time, on Saturday, the Rwandan military "violated the territorial limits of the DRC" by targeting DRC aircraft with drones, damaging civil aircraft at the airport.

Rwanda has not yet responded to the DRC accusation over the drone attack, but in a statement on Sunday, Kigali accused the DRC government of "abandonment of the Luanda and Nairobi Processes" and complained of "the international community's indifference to DRC's dramatic military build-up."

The Luanda and Nairobi Processes refer to African regional efforts to ease the tension in the eastern DRC, including meetings in the Angolan and Kenyan capitals.

The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing M23 rebels, an accusation rejected by both Kigali and the M23 rebel group.

In a related development, the United States on Saturday condemned "the worsening violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo caused by the actions of the Rwanda-backed, US- and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group."

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A man stands in no-man's land between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the Petite Barrière border post in Goma, Nov 19, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)

An extraordinary mini-summit on the security situation in the eastern DRC was held in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, late Friday, gathering several heads of state in the region, including DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame

'Cynical act of realpolitik'

The US Department of State statement also urged "the government of the DRC to continue to support confidence-building measures, including ceasing cooperation with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, an armed group named as a 'negative force' by regional bodies and the government of the DRC, and which exposes the civilian population to risk. "

In response, Kigali said Washington's terming the FDLR, which it describes as a "genocidal and terrorist outfit," merely as a "negative force" is "a shocking and cynical act of realpolitik, which calls into question the ability of the United States to serve as a credible mediator in the Great Lakes Region."

The latest exchange of accusations between Rwanda and the DRC came amid fresh efforts by African leaders to find solutions to the renewed violence in the eastern DRC.

Mini-summit aiming to ease tensions

An extraordinary mini-summit on the security situation in the eastern DRC was held in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, late Friday, gathering several heads of state in the region, including DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame.

Convened by Angolan President Joao Lourenco, the designated mediator by the African Union for the tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali, the summit was aimed to "think together to obtain a cease-fire between the DRC and the M23, and attempt a possible direct dialogue" between the Rwandan and DRC leaders.

The meeting was also attended by Kenyan President William Ruto and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in addition to representatives of Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Malawi, and Equatorial Guinea.

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The mini-summit was concluded Saturday after Lourenco met separately with Tshisekedi and Kagame. The Angolan president promised to continue his mediation endeavor with each of the protagonists in Luanda.

The Angolan president expressed his concerns about seeing this crisis reach dangerous proportions, which end up affecting the region.

President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani, who finished his term as president of the AU, said dialogue is possible between Kinshasa and Kigali.

"Rwanda and the DRC are neighbors. You have a duty to cooperate," he said. "I felt that on both sides, there is a desire ... to discuss to find a solution despite the hazards."

UN sends reinforcements 

UN peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are redeploying to help defend Goma and Sake towns, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the peacekeeping force from the mission known as MONUSCO is deeply concerned by the renewed escalation of hostilities in North Kivu province.

"Due to the deteriorating security situation around Sake and Goma, the mission is reinforcing its presence there by bringing in peacekeepers from its Force Intervention Brigade, based in Beni, in the northern part of the province," Dujarric said. "The peacekeepers reiterate their call on M23 to cease its offensive and to respect the Luanda Roadmap."

He said the UN mission continues to support the Congolese army by defending major routes leading to the key towns of Sake and Goma in North Kivu province.

The spokesman said mission members met with Congolese army coordinators in North Kivu over the weekend for joint military action in the defense of Sake and Goma. MONUSCO also expressed concern over recent disinformation campaigns targeting peacekeepers, hampering efforts to implement its mandate in the DRC.

"UN peacekeepers are continuing to facilitate safe passage of civilians fleeing the fighting to more secure areas, including around its Kitchanga base, where some 25,000 civilians have sought shelter," Dujarric said.

The "Luanda Roadmap" is the July 2022 ceasefire accord agreed on in Luanda, Angola, between the DRC and Rwanda, reported supporter of the M23 rebel group.