DR Congo Calls for International Sanctions on Rwanda to Halt Support for M23 Rebels

The Congolese government spokesperson, Patrick Muyaya

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is calling on the international community to impose sanctions on Rwanda, accusing it of supporting the M23 rebel group engaged in conflict in the eastern regions of the country. The objective is to restore peace in the area.

In an English interview with BBC Newsday, Patrick Muyaya, the spokesperson for the DRC government, stated that the DRC will not engage in talks with the M23 group, despite the group’s readiness to participate in peace negotiations.

Muyaya highlighted the efforts being made to ensure the safety of the populations in Goma and Sake, including two visits to Goma by Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba within a week, as part of the government’s commitment to “do everything possible” for the security of these areas. The recent weeks have seen intense fighting between M23 and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), along with their allies, focusing around the town of Sake, approximately 25 kilometers west of Goma.

Muyaya’s call to the international community is straightforward: to use sanctions to pressure Rwanda to cease its alleged support for M23 in eastern DRC. He claimed that major countries like the United States have intelligence indicating Rwanda’s support for M23, a stance further supported by United Nations expert reports. This accusation led to the U.S. imposing sanctions on some senior officers in the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) last year. Rwanda denies these allegations, countering with claims that the DRC cooperates with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group operating in eastern Congo that opposes the Rwandan government. The DRC also denies these allegations.

The DRC’s military leadership has stated that it will not tolerate any collaboration with the FDLR, with any soldier found cooperating with the group facing legal consequences. Muyaya reiterated in his BBC interview the dire situation of displaced persons living in intolerable conditions, noting that over 8 million people have lost their lives in the last 30 years, with more than a million people currently displaced in the outskirts of Goma, living in extremely poor conditions.

The spokesperson dismissed the possibility of negotiations with M23, labeling it a terrorist group and stating that a democratically elected government cannot engage in talks with such an entity. He emphasized that the use of heavy weaponry by Rwanda in populated areas and recent attacks on Goma would not change the government’s stance. M23 is considered merely an instrument, with the real actor being the Rwandan military, according to Muyaya.

While the M23 spokesperson has not yet responded to these claims, Muyaya believes that the Luanda agreement represents the only viable path to peace in the DRC’s conflict-ridden region, excluding any talks with M23. The conflict between M23 and FARDC reignited at the end of 2021, further complicating the region’s security situation.