DR Congo doesn’t really know who the members of M23 are - President Ndayishimiye

On 22 December 2022 at 11:09

Burundian President, Evariste Ndayishimiye has said that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not clearly know who the members of M23 rebel group are where their nationalities are expected to be assessed after laying down arms.

He made the disclosure during an interview with Jeune Afrique in which he talked about regional security problems and process to strengthen ties with other countries including Rwanda.

President Ndayishimiye who also serves as the current Chairperson of the East African Community (EAC), has responsibilities to oversee the implementation of regional agreements to restore peace through Luanda and Nairobi processes among others.

Negotiations to de-escalate tensions between Rwanda and DRC held recently in Luanda left participants of the meeting asking M23 to cease fire, and withdraw from occupied areas but was allowed to remain on the country’s territory.

It was also resolved that M23 had to respect the decision 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.

It was agreed that the areas previously captured by M23 will be controlled by joint EAC forces after withdrawal of M23.

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

President Ndayishimiye said that achieving lasting peace cannot come by accident noting that trust and patience needed for M23 to lay down arms as requested have not yet been developed.

“As we requested M23 to withdraw, we also asked regional forces to prepare for deployment in those areas to protect citizens. During a meeting held in Washington, we discussed the issue again, reviewed reasons behind failure to implement resolutions and agreed again that M23 has to withdraw,” he said.

Ndayishimiye expressed confidence that M23 will respect Luanda resolutions as they are where Kenyan troops will be deployed in previously captured areas.

If M23 lies, he said, the situation will be assessed because regional forces won’t be able to occupy designated areas of operations without withdrawal of the rebel group which might lead to confrontations.

Ndayishimiye disclosed that the region does not need conflicts noting that sources make him believe that M23 are willing to stop fighting and go through a peaceful process.

The head of state makes the utterance at a time when some countries from the United States and Europe are ceaselessly releasing statements accusing Rwanda of being behind M23 rebel group and demanding the country to stop backing it.

On the other hand, the EAC has not yet accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel group but Ndayishimiye said that DRC does not know who the members of M23 are.

“The Government of Congo does not really know who the members of M23 are. In case they are brought together, disarmed and reintegrated, the process to assess their nationality would begin,” he said.

“Today, no one knows who the members of M23 are. Confusion remains. Before the beginning of the process, it will be hard to know who they are and determine everyone’s strength,” added Ndayishimye.

What is the origin of M23?

The eastern part of DRC is among regions with a large number of Kinyarwanda speaking citizens or Rwandophones. They are part of M23 rebel group’s members who arrived in the country many years ago.

Rwandophones currently make up 5% of the entire Congolese population. They mainly reside in eastern Congo in South and North Kivu provinces.

History shows that these citizens found themselves in DRC following border delimitations set out in Berlin Conference held on 15th November 1884 to discuss the partitioning of Africa.

Before the date, the areas of Goma, Masisi, Rutshuru and Idjwi Island were on Rwandan side.

They were joined to Congo-Belge through agreements between Germany and Belgium on 14th May 1910.

The partitioning also saw other parts of Rwanda in Northern and Eastern Provinces added to Uganda

It is under these circumstances that Rwanda lost a large number of citizens through the partitioning who found themselves in other countries but upheld their culture and language.

Apart from the large number of Rwandans left in Congo under the border delimitations, there is another group of citizens relocated to Congo between1937 and 1954 under an arrangement called ‘Mission Immigration Banyarwanda’ (M.I.B).

The changes introduced by colonizers was a revenge to Rwanda as a country that was benefitting from having a large number of people at the time with a belief that they can be sent to other countries with a small number of people to explore and exploit them.

Under the M.I.B, Rwandans were settled in Northern Kivu Province mainly in Masisi (Gishari, Mokoto, Muvunyi, Bigiri and Bafuna) and Rutshuru (in Mushari and Bwito).

President Ndayishimiye has said that Congo does not know who M23 rebels are.