M23 is a product of mishandled problem – Kagame on DRC crisis

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 2 March 2023 at 11:42

President Paul Kagame has talked about root cause of security crisis in eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he highlighted that it is a problem of Congo. The Head of State also emphasized that Rwanda has never harboured intentions to destabilize the neighbouring country.

He made the disclosure during a press conference with members of local, regional and international media following the conclusion of the 18th edition of National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano).

Kagame highlighted that eastern DRC is not a country where crisis in the area is Congo’s problem, which in turn, affects neighbours.

“In my view there is nothing like eastern Congo’s problem. […] It is actually Congo’s problem and a regional problem, meaning it affects even neighbours. If we are referring to Rwanda, you wouldn’t say Northern Rwanda problem because it is neighbouring with eastern Congo and the spillovers of problems mainly come to the north of the country. That doesn’t make it a northern Rwanda problem. It makes Rwanda’s problem. I want us to understand that eastern Congo’s problem is Congo’s problem,” he said.

“This problem has a very long history in terms of the cause of that. But it also has a long history of how it has been mismanaged from the beginning. That is why it was there for over 20 years. If you look at the attention that has been paid to this so-called eastern Congo’s problem, it is so much that one would think we should have got a solution. So, it has been there for long and has been mismanaged for very long,” added Kagame.

The Head of State further said that the issue was discussed for long during meetings of the African Union, others held in Kenya, Angola and at the level of the United Nations.

“The other day we were supposed to go and meet in Qatar over the same problem. That didn’t happen but, may be, it is going to happen in the near future,” he noted.

Kagame said that the discussions are taking place because the problem was not solved while efforts to handle it were channeled through the wrong way.

“People who want shortcuts, blame it all on Rwanda. But I have not found how it becomes a shortcut because we are still there with the problem,” he stated.

Kagame disclosed that the issue in eastern Congo has roots from colonization given that Rwanda and DRC share colonial history where some people found themselves in another country.

“If there is any country in Africa that does not have people on one side of the border, similar or related to people on the other side of the country, I don’t think there is any,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President said that M23 seems to have become a scarecrow supposed to dramatize the story when people talk about Congo’s problems.

“The so-called M23 is the product of a lot of things mismanaged […] How Rwanda can be blamed for the refugees we have here for over 20 years associated with people in M23. M23 problem started in 2012, when they used some military force to try and resolve problem, some fled to Uganda and others fled here. We have them here in camps,” he noted.

Kagame recalled different agreements that were signed to resolve the problem but ended to no avail until the fighting resumed. The latter is an addition to the presence of over 120 armed groups in Congo.

“How were the 120 groups formed? They are accusing us supporting M23 but who formed over 120 groups? I would suggest to people that they simply need to focus on what should be looked at. The root cause of what we have to deal with is clear. The agreements on how to resolve that were from 2012. How could they not have been implemented? It can’t be because of Rwanda,” he stated.

The Head of State also emphasized that Rwanda was not involved when the rebel group resumed fighting.

“This fighting that started a couple of years ago, had no involvement of Rwanda at all. May be, the ones who started it or wanted it to be there, designed it in such a way that they would blame it on Rwanda. And it’s simple to do that. You just have to distort history. They are saying these are people from Rwanda, meaning the M23 and people we are having here as refugees, who have been here for over 20 years are all called Rwandans. It’s like they are sending them back to where they came from the beginning,” he revealed.

Despite the situation, the President said that what is more interesting is that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are being retained. FDLR is a terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“FDLR is actually welcome in the eastern Congo. But the rest should go back to Rwanda. The reason why they retain FDLR is because they think they can build around it for so long. They have been trying to do that for a force that would come and destabilize Rwanda,” he stated.

Kagame emphasized that there is no reason that can push Rwanda to storm Congo’s territory or support M23.

President Paul Kagame has said that M23 is a product of mishandled problem.