Qatar is still trying to convene a meeting between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi to bring rapprochement amid escalating tensions.
Attempts to host peace talks between Rwanda and DRC by Doha failed in January due to a no-show by Tshisekedi.
The Gulf state has not given up, though, and is still engaging in shuttle diplomacy with a view of getting the two East African Community partners to implement the agreements mediated by various players.
This week, a delegation from the Doha led by Dr Mohammed bin Abdulaziz al-Khulaifi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Regional Affairs, was in the region meeting the presidents of Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Angola.
Dr al-Khulaifi delivered a written message to the presidents on behalf of Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
While the details of the meetings were not made public, The EastAfrican has learnt that Qatar is still keen to have a meeting between Kagame and Tshisekedi, but the date has yet to been set.
“Qatar continues to support existing mediation efforts, initiatives and previous agreements signed between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Dr Al Ansari Doha’s Foreign ministry spokesperson told a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, as quoted by Gulf-based Al Araby Al Jadeed.
The EastAfrican understands that Qatar’s efforts have so far been in vain, as Tshisekedi is still reluctant to go to Doha because he considers it to have taken sides with Rwanda in the conflict.
But President Paul Kagame told a press briefing last week on Wednesday that despite several meetings at the regional and international levels no progress has been made.
“We have discussed it almost everywhere... they are well-wishers who really want to help in this problem. The other day we were supposed to go meet in Qatar over the same problem, that didn’t happen, maybe it is going to happen in the near future,” he said, underscoring the need for a political solution that addresses the interests of the marginalised Congolese groups, including M23.
“If one stepped back a little and wanted to make sense of what is happening, one would realise that something is terribly wrong, and we might be addressing the wrong problem,” he said.
Address root causes
He added that blaming Rwanda without addressing the root causes of the conflict, which include failure by successive Congolese governments to honour several agreements it had signed with M23 to reintegrate them will not solve the problem.
“How can Rwanda be blamed for the refugees we have here, whom we have had for 20 years associated with people in M23? The M23 problem started in 2012, and while they tried to use military force to try and resolve the problem, some fled to Ugandan districts, and while others fled here — and we have them in camps. People want a shortcut to blame it all on Rwanda.”
Rwanda maintains that its security concerns have been ignored as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who are accused of committing genocide against the Tutsi, remain active in DRC with the support of the Congolese government, including integrating into its army along with other militias.
Kagame said he had raised these issues directly with the Congolese President but nothing has been done.
Troops on border
“When this fighting began to take shape between M23 and the government and these other groups, FDLR was armed again and integrated into FARDC, with the full knowledge and authority of government and government institutions. Whether it is the commanders of FARDC or governors of the provinces, everybody knew about it,” President Kagame said, adding that Rwanda has had to massively deploy troops on its border with DRC.
“What we are supposed to do — and we will do whenever it will be necessary — is to make sure nobody crosses our border again to attack our people, or uses any territory near us to shell Rwanda again without consequences,” Kagame warned.
In the face of the accusations of supporting M23 and causing instability in eastern DRC, Rwanda maintains that it is in its interest to have peace with its neighbour as it benefits from it.
“Why would Rwanda, of all countries, want to be part of, or the cause of, instability in the neighbourhood? What would we gain from that? What can anyone gain from having instability next-door? If anything, everybody should know that we are the people most interested in peace in this region because we have lacked peace for so long. We know what it means. We know the cost of it.”