Rwanda and DRC: An uncertain future despite mediation attempts

By Esther Muhozi
On 18 March 2024 at 11:34

The relationship between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) appeared stable from 2019 until early 2022. However, the situation deteriorated a few months later when the M23 armed group resumed fighting in North Kivu province, leading to a significant strain in relations between the two countries. This was not the first time their relationship had faced challenges.

The DRC government accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 group and decided to terminate economic and transportation agreements with Rwanda. In February 2022, the DRC also expelled the Rwandan Ambassador, Vincent Karega. Rwanda refutes the allegations and urges DRC to solve internal problems without dragging neighbors into its mess.

Tensions continued to rise between the two nations, especially after the Shootings from the DRC into Musanze District in March, May, and June, until Presidents Paul Kagame and Félix Tshisekedi met in Angola in July 2022.

During mediation talks led by Angolan President João Lourenço, the leaders agreed to de-escalate tensions.

Despite the resolutions made in Luanda, tensions persisted. In September 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron facilitated a meeting between Presidents Kagame and Tshisekedi in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where they agreed to alleviate tensions and collaborate in combating terrorism.

In November 2022, President Lourenço visited both countries to discuss adherence to their agreements, aiming to prevent severe consequences, including war between Rwanda and the DRC.

However, an agreement reached in a meeting in Luanda to cease fighting in North Kivu and disarm M23 and FDLR was not honored.

Guinea-Bissau’s President, also the leader of the West African regional bloc, visited Rwanda and the DRC for mediation talks, but the outcomes were not disclosed and appeared inconclusive as fighting continued and the DRC maintained accusations against Rwanda, which Rwanda denied.

In October 2023, UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a six-month report on the security situation in the Great Lakes region, warning of the potential for open conflict between the DRC and Rwanda due to reciprocal accusations of supporting armed groups.

The United States entered the mediation effort towards the end of 2023, committing to help the two countries improve their relationship, including intelligence support. Following U.S. intervention, Presidents Kagame and Tshisekedi agreed to reduce military presence near their borders and disarm the M23 and FDLR.

However, France accused Rwanda of supporting M23 in December 2023, showing a biased stance towards the DRC’s complaints. The Rwandan government criticized these accusations, highlighting historical instances of France’s involvement in the region, particularly through ’Operation Turquoise’.

The U.S. also showed a biased stance towards the DRC in February 2024, urging Rwanda to stop supporting M23 and withdraw troops alleged to be in North Kivu, while seemingly ignoring the DRC’s collaboration with FDLR. This led Rwanda to question the impartiality of the U.S.’s mediation efforts, suggesting a politicized approach.

Presidents Kagame and Tshisekedi have agreed to meet and discuss resolutions to their issues, with President Lourenço facilitating the talks, though the timing and location have not been confirmed.

An agreement reached in a meeting in Luanda to cease fighting in North Kivu and disarm M23 and FDLR was not honored.
Guinea-Bissau's President met with Kagame as part of mediation process.
US State Secretary Antony Blinken with Tshisekedi
Antony Blinken, US State Secretary flew to Kigali where he held talks with President Kagame.
President Embaló also met with DRC President