Kagame Calls Tshisekedi: Rwanda has the Right to Fight Back
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has called his DRC counterpart Felix Tshiskedi, saying Kigali reserves the right to fight back against attacks on its territory by the Congolese military.
The development comes days after DRC forces who were pursuing M23 rebels struck the border area of Musanze in Rwanda, injuring people and damaging property.
DRC accuses Rwanda of arming M23 rebels to destabilize the vast and mineral-rich country while Kigali blames Kinshasa for collaborating with FDLR, a militia whose leadership is responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta on Sunday disclosed that Kagame called Tshisekedi about the attacks on Rwandan territory.
“Our President, His Excellency Paul Kagame, pointed this out very clearly to his Congolese counterpart. Whether now, or in the future, Rwanda, like any other country in a similar situation, would have a right to respond to such provocations,” said Biruta.
The Minister was attending the 15th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly on Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
“While it would have been legitimate for Rwanda to respond, we have instead consistently requested for investigations of these provocations, by the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism of the ICGLR,” said Biruta.
“Let me reiterate this to my Congolese brother: It is true that I indicated to him that Rwanda has the right to respond.”
Both Rwanda and DRC have amassed troops at their common border amid rising tensions. Kagame and Tshisekedi were close friends until the resurgence of the M23 rebellion in North Kivu, eastern DRC.
The top leadership of the DRC army last week flew to Goma where it met with top field commanders to prepare for military action against the rebels who claim their political and security grievances have been ignored by Kinshasa.
DRC forces on Saturday paraded Rwanda Defence Force soldiers, Cpl Elysee Nkundabagenzi and Pte Gad Ntwari, saying they were picked by locals after failing to trace their way back home amid intense fighting inside DRC territory.
Rwanda said their soldiers were kidnapped by FARDC and Rwandan rebel militia, FDLR, while they were on patrol inside Rwandan territory.
The soldiers, whose hands were tied and guarded by heavily-armed DRC soldiers, told the media they were picked inside Congolese territory.
Biruta said over the years, DRC authorities “have sanitized this genocidal armed group, to the extent that the FDLR are currently co-located, and fighting alongside the FARDC.”
He added: “Rwanda wishes to reiterate that the FDLR and its various splinter groups pose a serious security threat, not only to Rwanda, but to the entire region.”
However, upon taking power Tshisekedi allowed Rwandan special forces inside DRC where they hunted down and killed hundreds of Rwandan rebels including FDLR commanders.
On Sunday, the Congolese army said it had reopened the strategic main road linking Rutshuru to Goma, five days after traffic was disrupted by fighting between DRC forces and M23.
The DRC last Friday announced “retaliatory” measures against Rwanda, among them suspension of the latter’s national carrier Rwanda Air from Congolese airspace.