Tshisekedi, Kagame blow hot and cold in pledge to end tensions

Tuesday March 26 2024

Congolese people carry their belongings as they flee from their villages around Sake in Masisi territory, following clashes between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC); towards Goma, North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo on February 7, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Félix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame have both agreed, or at least publicly pledged, to meet and discuss how to end war in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But then, they accuse one another of being the problem to those very efforts to end the conflict that has raged Eastern DRC for the last 30 years, but most recently centred on their tensions.

Angolan President João Lourenço, AU’s envoy for the Great Lakes and the region’s mediator into the tensions, has recently tried to implore on both sides to choose dialogue. On Thursday March 21, high-level Congolese and Rwandan delegations met in Luanda to prepare for the meeting between Félix Tshisekedi and Paul Kagame.

Read: Tshisekedi, Kagame to meet over Congo crisis

But on Monday in an interview with Pan-African media outlet Jeune Afrique, President Kagame accused his Congolese counterpart of having “created misunderstandings in the region between the leaders and between Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).”

Paul Kagame was critical of his Congolese counterpart's approach to peace, which has included refusing some rebel groups like M23 from a dialogue possibility and instead going for their throats in force in collaboration with SADC troops.


Ideally the AU, SADC and EAC have been working on reviving talks between the two leaders and possibly also with the rebels. Regional and international organisations are calling for the Luanda and Nairobi processes to be relaunched. The former refers to dialogue directly between Kinshasa and Kigali while the latter is dialogue between Kinshasa and armed groups in Eastern DRC. Both had appeared collapsed or stalled.

And there is mistrust in there. Kagame accused Kinshasa and SADC forces of working alongside genocidaires, referring to the FDLR rebels fighting in Eastern DRC and who are composed of remnants of the 1994 Rwanda genocide perpetrators.

EAC Chairperson and South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Monday completed his mission in Kinshasa, where he met President Tshisekedi as part of a regional peace tour that had taken him to Kigali and Bujumbura in February.

Read: Kiir makes first EAC move to stem Congo conflict

An EAC communiqué issued from Kinshasa stated that the two heads of state "called for a rapid solution to the secretarial crisis in the region, which is adversely affecting the functioning of the bloc".

"The two presidents called for the urgent relaunch of the Nairobi and Luanda peace processes initiated respectively by the EAC and the AU", the statement added.

Yet against this backdrop of anticipation of the resumption of peace talks, renewed fighting was reported on Monday in the town of Sake, near Goma in North Kivu Province.

Meanwhile, authorities in Kinshasa denounced "Rwanda's support for M23 rebels.” On the diplomatic front however, DRC authorities welcomed the "progress" made in the search for peace.

Tshisekedi while hosting a press conference alongside Salva Kiir in Kinshasa declared: "The crisis with Rwanda has nothing to do with the people.”

“The Rwandan people have not come to invade DRC. It is a regime led by an individual who has become fond of these kinds of crimes. And it is this regime that is attacking the DRC. There is no problem with the people of either country. It is the regime, and as you know, the regime is not eternal. One day it will all come to an end, one way or another, and we will once again be able to live happily together as neighbours.”

Rwanda has been a vocal defender of M23 rebels inside the DRC but who are composed mostly of ethnic Tutsis there. Kigali argues that real peace can only be realised if the group’s grievances are addressed by the Congolese government.

But the West especially US, have been critical of Rwanda’s support for M23. Recent statements from Washington have demanded that FDLR leave Congolese territory just as much as Kigali has to stop supporting M23.