(LR) President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, President of France Emmanuel Macron and President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Félix Tshisekedi meet at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations – Copyright AFP OLGA MALTSEVA
French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday, seeing progress in easing tensions that have flared up in recent months.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Macron invited Rwandan President Paul Kagame to lunch with his Democratic Republic of the Congo counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, who had accused Kigali a day earlier of supporting rebel attacks in his country.
The three leaders together “marked their concern about the surge in violence in the east of the DRC,” the French president said in a statement.
France said Kagame and Tshisekedi had agreed on the need for the M23 rebels to withdraw from the strategic city of Bunagana on the border with Uganda.
The statement said the three leaders want to “intensify long-term cooperation to fight impunity and put an end to the activities of armed groups in the Great Lakes region,” including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The Kagame government has demanded a crackdown on FDLR, a group of Rwandan Hutus that Kigali considers a threat due to links to the 1994 genocide.
But M23, a separate group of mostly Tutsis in the violent east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has found itself at the center of tension in recent times.
In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Tshisekedi said Rwanda had provided “massive support” to M23, which he blamed for the downing of a UN peacekeeping helicopter in March that killed eight people.
“Rwanda’s involvement and responsibility is no longer negotiable,” he said.
Kagame called for calm in his speech on Wednesday.
“There is an urgent need to find the political need to find and address the root cause of the instability in the eastern part of the DRC,” Kagame said.
“Playing with the blame does not solve the problem. These problems are not insurmountable and solutions can be found,” he said.
“It will end up being much less costly both in terms of money and human lives.”
The Kagame government has long denied accusations of M23 support, but US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, during an August visit to Kinshasa, said there were “credible” reports of support from Rwanda.