Paul Kagame Discusses Rwanda’s Role in the DRC Crisis

In an exclusive interview with the French publication Jeune Afrique on September 19, 2023, Rwandan President Paul Kagame addressed several pressing issues, particularly the ongoing security crisis in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The interview was conducted by François Soudan, the Editor-in-Chief of Jeune Afrique.

The conversation revolved around Rwanda’s alleged support for the armed group M23, a subject of significant international attention. When asked about the irrefutable evidence presented by a United Nations expert group in June, Kagame dismissed the claims. He questioned the report’s narrow focus on Rwanda’s supposed involvement while neglecting to address the complex history and multiple actors contributing to the DRC’s instability.

Kagame particularly criticized the lack of scrutiny regarding the presence of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the DRC, a group deemed to be a security threat to both Rwanda and the DRC. He claimed that the Congolese government openly hosted groups with anti-Rwandan sentiments and aims to topple the Rwandan government. According to Kagame, the allegations against Rwanda were one-sided and overlooked the root causes of the DRC’s security issues.

On the topic of the ongoing mediation efforts in Luanda and Nairobi, Kagame argued that these were the only processes that had yielded some positive results, including a generally respected ceasefire. He expressed surprise that the DRC government was considering ending this international presence.

Asked about the likelihood of resumed armed conflict due to the impasse between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels, Kagame stressed that the blame should not solely lie with Rwanda. He stated that dealing with the M23, whose members are Congolese citizens, is not Rwanda’s responsibility. Kagame further pointed out that it is essential for the DRC government to stop rejecting dialogue if it wants to resolve its issues.

Discussing the possibility of dialogue with DRC President Félix Tshisekedi, Kagame noted that he had always been open to talks but questioned whether conversation alone could solve the complex issues at hand.

When queried about the upcoming presidential election in the DRC and its potential impact on Rwanda-DRC relations, Kagame said he was unsure and, for the moment, indifferent.