Former Rwandan Ambassador’s Meeting with Congolese President Fuels Speculation and Tensions

Since Saturday, May 20, 2023, a picture of the former Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations, Eugène Richard Gasana, in the company of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, has been circulating on social media. Although the date and exact location of the photo have not been mentioned, the presence of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s flag in the background suggests that the former Rwandan ambassador met with the Congolese president either in Kinshasa or during a foreign trip by President Tshisekedi.

The relationship between Kinshasa and Kigali has deteriorated since 2021. Rwanda has been accused by Kinshasa, the United States, and several European countries of supporting the M23, a Tutsi rebellion that has gained control over vast territories in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which shares a border with Rwanda. This has led to a sharp escalation of tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali. According to the group of experts, the Rwandan army launched military operations to “strengthen the M23” and “fight against the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).”

The presence of the former Rwandan ambassador in this context could further exacerbate the situation. Eugène Richard Gasana is a former Rwandan diplomat and former Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations in New York City. Previously, Gasana has been the Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the Federal Republic of Germany, with concurrent accreditation to Austria, Bulgaria, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Gasana was the President of the United Nations Security Council in April 2013 and July 2014.

Eugène Richard Gasana is not an ordinary individual, as he was President Kagame’s confidant and right-hand man. This is evident from the positions Kagame granted Gasana, such as simultaneously holding ambassadorship overseas and a cabinet post, despite not residing in Rwanda. Gasana served as Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and State Minister in charge of International Cooperation.

Gasana was dismissed from his governmental position and relieved from his diplomatic functions in 2016, after his loyalty to President Kagame was put in question. When Gasana was recalled to Rwanda by Kagame in August 2016, he chose to remain abroad, effectively defecting and his lawyers used a provision known as “Section 13 of the Immigration and Nationality Act” to seek permanent residence status in the United States. A few months later, while still living in the United States, he became the subject of a criminal complaint accusing him of sexual harassment and rape allegedly committed in 2014 on a former Rwandan intern of the Permanent Representation to the United Nations.

Gasana remained relatively forgotten until he was mentioned by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni as one of the Rwandan exiles who met with him in February 2019.

In 2022, Rwandan authorities were mentioned in an investigation published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of journalists. According to the report, Rwanda provided false information to the United States and Interpol in order to pursue political dissidents abroad. The OCCRP disclosed the contents of an FBI report on the matter, which also accused the Rwandan government of attempting to manipulate Interpol and its red notice system. The consortium’s investigation revealed that Interpol revoked an arrest warrant issued against Eugène Richard Gasana. The revocation of the arrest warrant was attributed to a “predominant political dimension.”

According to sources within the Rwandan opposition, Gasana has been holding multiple meetings with other exiled Rwandan opposition figures in an effort to form a coalition against Paul Kagame’s regime in Kigali, especially in anticipation of the presidential elections scheduled in Rwanda for 2024.