Congolese living in Nigeria want France to fire Rwanda’s Former Foreign Affairs Minister, who is the current Secretary General of “La Francophonie” an organization that brings together all French-speaking countries and territories.
Congolese living in Nigeria say that if France, the United Nations, and the international community were to rebuke Rwanda, it would reduce the never-ending wars in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“France has been our good friend for years, we never had any problem, but we are tired of their hypocrisy,” says Dr. Kawu Mvanga Muciday Viya, the chairperson of Congolese in Nigeria.
Speaking to Congolese who had gathered for a protest in front of the French Embassy in Lagos Nigeria, Dr. Muciday Viya accused France of not acting like a friend, as it ignores the interests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in favour of a smaller and disloyal Rwanda.
“Rwanda was a francophone nation before, but in 2008, the leader, Paul Kagame withdrew to join the Commonwealth,” he says.
The Commonwealth brings together former colonies of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Rwanda applied and was accepted into the Commonwealth in 2009, despite being a former Belgian colony with ties to France.
Dr. Muciday Viya adds that the DRC is the largest French-speaking country and should be treated with respect.
He says friendship would mean France using its position on the United Nations Security Council to isolate and punish Rwanda for allegedly destabilizing Eastern DRC. The Congolese in Nigeria also marched to the United Nations office in Lagos to register their grievances.
They accused the United Nations and the Security Council of failing to identify and punish the groups that are fueling the conflict in DRC.
“The Mapping Report compiled by the experts from the United Nations revealed, without doubt, the presence of Rwandan troops in the eastern part of our country. Each member state of the UN Security Council received this report. Since then, no condemnation has been officially made against Rwanda; instead, there was an embargo targeting DRC not to purchase arms and ammunition to defend itself,” he says.
The United Nations Security Council has been involved with the affairs of Eastern DRC for 23 years now. When DRC signed a ceasefire agreement with Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, and Zimbabwe in 1999, the Security Council voted to send a peacekeeping force that has been there since.
The UN’s peacekeeping force should have ensured peace returned to Eastern DRC, but this has not happened yet, as different insurgencies keep emerging and reemerging.
The regular emergence of militias remains a constant and the groups causing the most chaos that leads to the population fleeing, have a relationship with either Uganda or Rwanda.
M23, the major cause of the present crisis in Eastern DRC is one of those groups with ties to Uganda and Rwanda. M23, which is an abbreviation of the March 23, Movement was formed when a group of Tutsi militias that had in 2009 been absorbed into Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), left the army to become a rebel group again. Before joining FARDC, the Tutsi militia had been fighting in Eastern DRC with support from the Ugandan and Rwandan governments.
The group then captured global attention in 2012 when it seized DRC’s eastern capital Goma. A year later, FARDC working with troops from southern African nations and the UN peacekeeping force defeated the rebels.
It has since resurfaced and has been fighting since March 2022, amidst claims that the Rwandan government is backing the rebel group.
Owing to the 1994 genocide, Rwanda rarely talks about the ethnicity of its population, but it now appears this battle for who among the Tutsi and the Hutu should be in power is playing out in Eastern DRC.
On one hand, the DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23, whose ethnicity is the same as the leadership in Kigali. On the other hand, the Rwandan leadership in Kigali accuses the DRC of harbouring ethnic Hutu, who lost power after being overthrown by President Kagame’s government.
In October, DRC stopped flights by Rwanda’s National carrier and expelled Rwanda’s Ambassador over alleged support to M23. President Kagame has also accused his counterpart Félix Tshisekedi of fueling the chaos in the DRC and harbouring the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Kagame says President Tshisekedi refused to allow Rwanda’s army into DRC to fight the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which is an ethnic Hutu group opposed to the Tutsi influence in Rwanda.
“I asked the President to allow his security work with ours to actually deal with the FDLR and they refused. Little did I know they wanted to preserve them,” says Kagame.
However, facts in Eastern DRC suggest President Tshisekedi does not have a choice when it comes to allowing Rwandan troops into his country.
Having come to power after former President Joseph Kabila allegedly rigged an election to make sure someone else other than opposition leader Martin Fayulu wins the vote; Tshisekedi has had to compromise a lot to remain at the helm of the restive DRC.
Congolese in some cases led by the Roman Catholic Church, which also backed Martin Fayulu in the last presidential elections protest and voice opposition every time there are rumours of Rwandan troops in Eastern DRC. This means President Tshisekedi would have to ignore one of the most powerful voices in his country to allow Rwandan troops into DRC.
The fact that President Kagame has since said he has a right to send troops into the DRC has some Congolese insisting the government in Kigali is bold because of support from the international community.
While speaking to Parliament on Nov 30, President Kagame said the DRC’s alleged provocation meant Rwanda has to send its troops to fight the FDLR.
“They (DRC) started firing across the border and I told him (President Tshisekedi) that is enough invitation,” says Kagame.
Kagame also added that he told the President of Congo that while initially, Rwanda was seeking an invitation to work with FARDC to deal with the FDLR problem, DRC firing artillery into Rwanda’s territory is a sufficient invitation.
According to Kagame, that invitation by the DRC stands and Rwanda is free to act on it anytime.
President Kagame’s comments come at a time when M23 has said they have a right to continue fighting since they are not on the list of armed groups negotiating peace with the DRC.
In the meantime, the DRC’s other African neighbours are actively trying to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, which makes it look like Rwanda and M23 are partners.
“This war is not that we are fighting a civil war in our country, but it is about the international community using Rwanda and Uganda to siphon our mineral resources. We have cobalt, gold, and others,” says Dr. Viya.
Dr. Viya adds that President Tshisekedi is interested in bringing peace to the DRC as he has embraced all initiatives seeking to find a solution.
“Our president, Félix Tshisekedi, has done a lot to ensure that peace returns to the country. He has travelled around the world to meet heads of state and held meetings. At one point French media were mocking him for going up and down seeking a solution and seeking a peaceful resolution to this crisis,” says Dr. Viya.
President Tshisekedi has attended several meetings including one on November 24, which was hosted by Angolan Joao Lourenco. Initially, it seemed like the meeting in the Angolan capital Luanda would deliver some results, only for President Kagame to scuttle the process when he said Rwanda had been afforded the right to enter the DRC. M23 had also said earlier that it had a right to continue fighting, as the DRC had not invited them for talks.
Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta is also brokering another peace process under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC). Both DRC and Rwanda are members of the EAC. Other members include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Burundi.
The EAC has vowed to bring peace to the DRC. As part of the EAC’s interventions, Kenya has already deployed forces for what has been described as a peace enforcement mission.