France Urges Immediate Ceasefire and Withdrawal of Rwandan Support for M23 in Eastern Congo Conflict

On February 20, 2024, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing grave concerns over the deteriorating situation in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), particularly in North Kivu, around the areas of Goma and Saké. The ministry condemned the ongoing offensives by the March 23 Movement (M23) with the alleged backing of Rwanda, along with the presence of Rwandan forces on Congolese territory, describing such actions as unacceptable breaches of the DRC’s territorial integrity and a dire crisis for civilian populations.

The statement unequivocally demanded that M23 cease hostilities immediately and withdraw from all occupied territories in alignment with the resolutions made during the Luanda process talks. It further urged Rwanda to halt any support for M23 and withdraw its forces from Congolese lands. The French government also called on all armed groups in the region to end the violence. Additionally, it emphasized the importance of the Congolese armed forces discontinuing any collaborations with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

In a display of international diplomacy and concern, France initiated an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the same day. During the meeting, France’s U.N. Ambassador, Nicolas de Rivière, condemned the M23’s aggressive moves against Saké and criticized Rwanda for its support and military presence in the DRC, stating that the deployment of anti-aircraft systems in Congo marked a significant escalation of the conflict.

The Rwandan government’s response to the situation was articulated by Yolande Makolo, the Spokesperson for the Government of Rwanda, who posted a somewhat ironic comment on social media platform X. Makolo implied that France, with its historical knowledge and current involvement through figures like Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, should be well aware of the root causes of the conflict. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who took on his role on April 1, 2017, succeeding Hervé Ladsous, has a deep understanding of the region’s complexities, partly due to his contributions to “Opération Turquoise” and his advisory role in the Office of the Prime Minister of France, Edouard Balladur.