DRC allows M23 to stay on its land for first time

On 29 November 2022 at 01:03

It has been a week since a mini-summit on security situation in eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), tensions between Rwanda and the neighbouring country took place in Luanda, the capital of Angola.

The Luanda summit followed the visit of Angolan President, João Lourenço to Kigali and Kinshasa where he met with his counterparts, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Félix Tshisekedi of DRC.

As the mediator on tensions between Rwanda and DRC, Lourenço had been assigned to facilitate negotiations on the issue of armed groups in eastern DRC which usually take place Nairobi.

It was attended by Burundian President, Evariste Ndayishimiye; Tshisekedi of DRC; Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta who represented President Kagame and former Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta who currently serves as the East African Community (EAC) facilitator of peace talks in eastern DR Congo.

On Monday 28th November 2022, another meeting bringing together regional heads of state on Nairobi Process for the Restoration of Peace and Security in Eastern DR Congo was held in Kenya.

Normally, concerned parties in similar meetings draft recommendations to be discussed and endorsed after reaching consensus.

Rwanda’s biggest concern at the recent meeting in Luanda is the issue of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The group has been plotting attacks at different times to destabilize Rwanda.

From the standpoint of DRC, FDLR does neither exist nor poses threat to Rwanda.

Such statements have for the past few weeks dominated speeches propagated by DRC politicians including Tshisekedi himself.

They assert that FDLR kills Congolese, that it should be considered a threat to DRC not Rwanda.

By doing so, the politicians overlook attacks plotted on Rwandan territory and reported collaboration between Congolese Army (FARDC).

The recurrent meetings on insecurity in DRC are taking place at a time when the international community has noticed the strength of M23 rebel group which might add Goma town to other captured areas during the fight with Congolese Army (FARDC).

DRC allows M23 to remain on its land for the first time

During the mini-summit in Luanda last week, the fighting with M23 was among issues brought on table for discussions. Previously, DRC was proposing that M23 lays arms down and return to its origin (former cantonment in Uganda).

Apart from that, DRC rose alarms at different time that it was attacked by Rwanda through M23 rebel group and called fighters of M23 foreigners who must return home.

Ahead of the meeting, Tshisekedi held talks with Angolan President and convinced him that he sticks to the wrong side, that M23 rebels are apparently Congolese.

He also told him that it does not sound well to expel M23 fighters after accepting to cease fire.

During the meeting, DRC accepted that M23 would remain on its land once it respects a call for ceasefire.

It is a great milestone reached for the first time by DR Congo as a country which had ignored the reality sounding alarms that M23 rebels are Rwandans who must return to Rwanda.

This led to the resolution of setting a deadline of 25th November for M23 to cease hostilities.

It was also resolved that M23 had to respect the decision not later than 18:00 and return to its initial positions not beyond along the line Sabyinyo Volcano in the areas of Bigega, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkokwe on the side of DRC.

The heads of state agreed that the areas previously captured by M23 will be controlled by joint EAC forces.

As for Kenya, the country has so far deployed over 2000 soldiers in DRC. It was mandated maintain security in the areas of Bunagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja after withdrawal of M23.

However, the plan to deploy a small number of troops in such a large area remains questioned.

Few hours before the deadline of 25th November expired, M23 released a conditional ceasefire statement.

Through the statement, the President of M23, Bertrand Bisimwa explained that the group is willing to cease fire as was the case on 1st April 2022 without involvement of DR Congo.

M23 also requested ‘a meeting with the mediator and the facilitator in order to discuss the matter of its concerns in a way to restore a lasting peace in our country’.

FDLR urged to lay down arms and return home

Rwanda considers FDLR as the root cause for insecurity in eastern DRC given that it is at the center of ethnic divisions propagated in the area.

This year, the terrorist group continued to destabilize Rwanda’s security where it shelled the country’s territory three times, injured citizens and destroyed their houses.

Luanda summit resolved that the group has to lay down arms not later than 30th November. This means, FDLR fighters have to return to Rwanda effective from 1st December.

The Government of Rwanda has been receiving FDLR combatants at different times where those who committed crimes face justice while others are reintegrated into their respective communities.

Other armed groups concerned with the decision include RED Tabara and ADF.

The recent summit in Luanda resolved that M23 has to withdraw from captured areas.