Haines met with Rwandan President Kagame and Congolese President Tshisekedi with the aim "to secure commitments from both leaders to de-escalate tensions in eastern [DR Congo]," as stated by the White House on Tuesday, November 21. The official statement emphasized that both leaders, acknowledging the prolonged history of conflict in the region, intend to implement specific measures derived from past arrangements supported by neighboring countries through the Luanda and Nairobi processes to alleviate the current tensions.
Accompanying Haines were Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for African Affairs Judd Devermont. The White House further asserted, "The U.S. government welcomes and intends to monitor these DRC and Rwandan steps towards de-escalation, and plans to support diplomatic and intelligence engagements between both countries to foster greater security and prosperity for the Congolese and Rwandan peoples."
In response to the security crisis, DR Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels in the country’s east—a claim that Kigali dismisses, asserting that the rebellion is an internal Congolese matter. Conversely, Rwanda accuses the Congolese army of collaborating with the genocidal FDLR militia, posing a threat to its security. The FDLR, formed by remnants of the Interahamwe militia and the former Rwandan army responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, is central to the accusations.
Tensions have heightened, marked by Congolese warplanes violating Rwanda’s airspace on at least three occasions between November 2022 and January 2023. Additionally, rocket shells targeted Rwandan territory, resulting in civilian injuries. On October 23, a Rwandan citizen sustained injuries from a stray bullet during clashes involving armed groups allied with the DR Congo army. The Rwandan government urges Kinshasa to cease support for the UN-sanctioned terrorist group FDLR, accused of disseminating hate speech and violence against Congolese Tutsi communities.
Eastern DR Congo has been a volatile region for almost 30 years, remaining home to over 130 armed groups.