East Africa: Stop Supporting DR Congo’s M23 Rebels, Europe Tells Rwanda

Cape Town —
The European Union (EU) has called on all states in the Great Lakes region to stop support from flowing to armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but has singled out Rwanda for an unusually blunt warning.

In a statement issued on December 31, referring to rebels of the “March 23 Movement” operating in the eastern DR Congo, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the EU “firmly urges Rwanda to stop supporting the M23…”

The council also called on Kigali to press M23 rebels to comply with a call by regional leaders last November to cease hostilities and withdraw from territory it had recently seized.

At the same time, the EU called on Kinshasa to “stop and prevent any cooperation” between its army and the Rwandan rebel group, the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda).

Borrell’s statement follows the findings of a United Nations “Group of Experts” last year which said it had “solid evidence” that Rwandan troops had been fighting alongside M23 soldiers and providing the group with weapons and support.

Borrell said the EU welcomed the Group of Experts’ work and “strongly condemns any support to local or foreign armed groups.

“Any backing of these armed groups, unrequested military activities on foreign territory, violations of the UN arms embargo and sanction regime are in direct contravention of applicable international law and of multiple commitments taken by the countries of the region,” he added.

He also condemned “xenophobia, hate speech and incitement to violence targeting any person or group based on their race or ethnic origin” and called on those responsible to be brought to justice.

November’s call was issued by a “mini-summit” convened in Luanda by President João Lourenço of Angola and including President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi, President Felix Tshisekedi of the DRC, a representative of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and former president Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya – a facilitator of the peace process in the region.

The summit called for a “cessation of hostilities in general” and in particular of M23 attacks against the DRC’s troops and United Nations peacekeepers. It resolved that an East African regional military force should be deployed against M23 should it fail to comply with the summit’s demands.

It also voiced concern that M23 was acquiring “increasingly sophisticated weapons and other means” to carry out attack against the DRC’s army.

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