Rwanda Expresses Concerns to the UN Over SAMIDRC’s Role in Eastern Congo Conflict

On February 13, 2024, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations addressed a critical letter to the UN Security Council, penned by Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. This letter was directed to Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, in her capacity as the President of the UN Security Council. It conveyed Rwanda’s serious concerns over statements made by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Deputy Secretary-General for Peace Operations at the United Nations, regarding the support in equipment and expertise the organization is expected to provide to the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), known as SAMIDRC.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix had previously emphasized, in a meeting with General DYAKOPU MONWABISI, the commander of the SAMIDRC forces, the importance of closely working together to support the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in combating “armed groups” in the eastern part of Congo. Rwanda highlighted its conditional acceptance of United Nations support for regional forces aimed at restoring peace in eastern Congo, cautioning against the perceived partiality of the SAMIDRC in this conflict.

The Rwandan Government expressed concerns that SAMIDRC’s operations, perceived as supporting the DRC government’s efforts against the M23 and other considered armed groups, could escalate insecurity and tensions in the region. It was pointed out that the collaboration between SAMIDRC and various militia groups could adversely affect peace and security in the area.

Rwanda further argued that SAMIDRC’s actions, in alliance with armed groups, could increase the risk of ethnic conflict, particularly highlighting groups like the FDLR and others committed to opposing Tutsi Rwandans in Congo. Rwanda urged the UN Security Council to be cautious in providing material and expertise support to this force, fearing it could exacerbate the situation.

In conclusion, the Rwandan Government reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the international community in finding a lasting solution to the conflict and insecurity in eastern Congo. Rwanda stated its readiness to do everything within its power to prevent and combat the effects of armed groups and the countries supporting actions that destabilize its security and that of the region at large.

Observers of the Great Lakes region of Africa interpret Rwanda’s letter as a significant indicator of Rwanda’s support for the M23 rebel group. These concerns are grounded in accusations of Rwanda conducting diplomacy on behalf of M23 and protecting its soldiers involved in supporting the group militarily, as highlighted by multiple United Nations expert reports. Notably, a recent incident reported in the media involved Rwandan forces allegedly firing a missile from an armored vehicle in an attempt to down a MONUSCO drone, which they missed, further complicating the already tense situation.