U.S. Urges Rwanda and Congo to De-escalate Tensions Amid Rising Conflict

New York- The United States has called upon Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to step back from the brink of war. This appeal was made by U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood during an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, convened by France on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 amid deteriorating conditions in the mineral-rich eastern DRC, which shares its border with Rwanda.

The urgency of the situation was underscored by Wood’s statement that both nations, along with regional actors, must engage in immediate diplomatic discussions. He emphasized that “These regional diplomatic efforts, not military conflict, are the only path toward a negotiated solution and sustainable peace.”

This development follows a rejection by the Rwandan Foreign Ministry of the U.S. demands for Rwanda to withdraw its troops and surface-to-air missile systems from eastern Congo. The U.S. State Department had earlier criticized the increasing violence in the area, particularly highlighting the actions of M23, a group allegedly supported by Rwanda.

Rwanda’s response highlighted its defense against what it perceives as a “dramatic military build-up” by DRC near their shared border. The ministry raised concerns over national security threats from the presence of the FDLR, a Rwandan armed group in DRC.

DRC, on its part, accuses Rwanda of actively supporting M23, an allegation that adds to the tension. DR Congo’s U.N. Ambassador Zenon Ngay Mukongo called for the Security Council to demand Rwanda’s unconditional troop withdrawal and cessation of M23 support, accusing Rwanda of occupying North Kivu and destabilizing Congo to exploit its mineral resources.

Mukongo also refuted Rwanda’s genocide fears, emphasizing the peaceful coexistence of DR Congo’s diverse tribes and dismissing the possibility of genocide in Congo.

In contrast, Rwanda’s U.N. Ambassador Ernest Rwamucyo pointed to the integration of the FDLR into the DR Congolese army as a source of violence against Tutsis, raising fears of a potential genocide.

The conflict has heightened near Goma, leading to displacement and humanitarian crises. France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere condemned M23’s actions and Rwanda’s support, calling for an immediate end to the hostilities.

The U.S. deputy ambassador reiterated calls for M23 to cease attacks and for Rwanda to withdraw support and forces from Congo, highlighting the dire humanitarian situation and the need for international action to resolve the conflict and avert a crisis.