Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have agreed to seek a resolution to military escalation through political channels.
This is one of the major decisions to come out of a meeting of the foreign ministers of the DRC and Rwanda held in Luanda, Angola under the aegis of the Angolan Minister of External Relations.
The heads of diplomacy of Rwanda and the DRC pledged to maintain “political dialogue” as clashes between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army in North Kivu are at their worst.
According to figures given by DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, the fighting has already caused a massive displacement of about 200,000 people. But according to the UN, the fighting between the FARDC and the M23 has displaced some 50,000 people since October 20, of whom 12,000 have taken refuge in Uganda.
In a joint communiqué, Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula, his Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta and the Angolan Minister of External Relations agreed that the parties must speed up the implementation of the roadmap of July 6 this year. On that date, President Tshisekedi met his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame in a summit under the auspices of Angolan President João Lourenço, the African Union’s appointed mediator between Kinshasa and Kigali.
Ordered a ceasefire
The tripartite summit had ordered a ceasefire between the M23 and the FARDC and the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions. The conclusions of the tripartite summit of 6 July were never implemented as fighting intensified and the M23 gained ground by capturing other areas in North Kivu.
The meeting of 6 July was followed by the meeting of the DRC-RWANDA Permanent Joint Commission in Luanda on July 21 and 22. On November 5, 2022, the ministers of Rwanda and DRC agreed to implement the commitments of all previous meetings, and also to deploy a joint ad hoc verification mechanism in Goma, North Kivu.
The DRC and Rwanda are currently at loggerheads following renewed fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels who resurfaced in 2021, eight years after being militarily defeated by the Congolese army.
The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels while Rwanda accuses the DRC of supporting the FDLR rebels who are said to have been involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The DRC expelled the Rwandan ambassador a week ago.
In the region, calls for dialogue between Kinshasa and Kigali are increasing. The United Nations and several other regional organisations have called for the resumption of the Nairobi talks between Congo and the various armed groups in eastern DRC. The East African Community is calling on Kinshasa to reintegrate the M23 into the dialogue process. The DRC has set as a condition for the withdrawal of the M23 from its current position.
Authorities in Kinshasa had excluded the M23 from the Nairobi process because of the resumption of the war. Since then, the DRC has classified the M23 as a “terrorist movement”.