Kagame fires back at Tshisekedi: accuses DRC of backing FDLR militia, says he hopes for the best but also ready for the worst
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has slammed the DRC government for “supporting” FDLR, a militia whose past leadership and ideology are blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
“DRC is supporting FDLR – and unfortunately with the knowledge of MONUSCO,” said Kagame in a media interview with a local television in Rwanda on Monday morning.
“Recently, these FDLR were fighting alongside FARDC against M23, and then to make it worse, the UN got into the mix, they were purportedly supporting FARDC but they knew government forces were fighting together with FDLR against M23. You have M23 on one side and MONUSCO and FARDC with FDLR which should have been fought and eliminated from that situation and repatriated back home,” Kagame explained.
“That’s how it happened that they were shelling our territory,” the President emphasized in reference to DRC armed forces’ firing of rockets into Rwandan territory on June 10.
Kagame said DRC’s rockets into Rwanda have damaged property and killed people several times.
“It is not acceptable that FDLR would be supported to cross into our territory or supported to shell our territory and kill our citizens. We have not done that to Congo,” he emphasised.
This is the first time in years that Kagame is publicly accusing Kinshasa of embedding FDLR militants in the ranks of the Congolese armed forces fighting M23 rebels in DRC.
The development comes hardly a month after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi blasted what he described as Rwanda’s unending meddling in DRC’s internal affairs and “supporting M23 rebels to come and attack our country.”
Speaking during a recent trip to Congo Brazzaville, Tshisekedi, who was Kagame’s close friend until the resurgence of the M23 rebellion, warned Kigali that Kinshasa’s desire for warm bilateral relations should not be mistaken for weakness.
“There is no doubt about it,” said Tshisekedi, emphasising the fact that M23 was backed by Rwanda, adding, it’s important to “build bridges instead of walls”.
Responding to Tshisekedi today, Kagame observed: “I cannot understand why the President of Congo in his statement to the press said such things as he said. He should very well know the facts as they are. We have even discussed these matters for a long time since he came to power and before this crisis (M23 rebellion).”
M23 rebels recently captured the town of Bunagana in DRC, sending defeated Congolese soldiers across the border to uganda.
The tension between DRC and Rwanda has raised the prospect of an all-out armed conflict between the two neighbours.
The North Kivu area has also witnessed increased hate speech against the Tutsis, sparking fears of possible bloodshed in the country.
Kagame said the “problem has been that until recently, they (DRC) have been behaving like spoiled children. They cause trouble and in the end they start crying foul – shouting and saying somebody is doing something wrong.”
He added: “Unfortunately, in some respects some parts of the world have responded by being on the side of DRC even when they are the ones in the wrong. This was a very big issue in the past and we always explained it but it seems we were not being heard. This time around, I think they did what they did blatantly – they made a big mistake which everybody was able to see – creating a war that had no good grounds.”
Kagame said there was a need to address the problem of Kinyarwanda speaking people including M23.
“That is the problem of Congo to address, not mine,” he said.
“They speak Kinyarwanda but they are Congolese citizens – how they became citizens can’t be blamed on Rwanda or Congo. How do you at any one point decide that you are going to declare people no longer citizens of their countries. Where do you start from? How do you effect that? The same people will always find ways of fighting and pushing back to make sure they belong somewhere,” said Kagame.
The EAC leaders recently agreed to deploy the East African Regional Force to counter various armed groups in DRC.
The East African Regional Force will be deployed to the Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces immediately to stabilize the zone and enforce peace in support of the DRC security forces and in close coordination with MONUSCO.
However, DRC said it would not allow Rwandan troops to deploy along with the regional force due to its alleged support to the M23 rebel movement.
Kagame also warned he was ready for “the worst.”
“I wish for the best for all of us – Congo and Rwanda but if the best doesn’t come, it should always find me prepared for the worst. I prepare for the worst but wish for the best. I mean it. I wish for Congo the best as I wish the best for my country Rwanda,” said Kagame.
“We are saying, we need peace for both of us. Therefore we should give each other peace.”