Rwanda responds to the report of the United Nations experts. According to an investigation leaked to the press this week, Kigali has deployed hundreds of troops in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since November. The Rwandans reportedly also support the M23 rebels. Yesterday on RFI, Christophe Lutundula, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DRC, accused Rwanda of having violated the sovereignty of Congo and asks the international community to take sanctions. This morning, a response from his counterpart, the head of Rwandan diplomacy, Vincent Biruta. The latter explains that he has not read the report, but he already expresses doubts about its impartiality.
How do you react to this UN report?
Vincent Biruta: I heard that Rwanda was accused of having intervened with the M23 group in the DRC. I hope that the experts were able to base the report on facts, and if the experts only saw the Rwandan soldiers, did not see the FDLR members, did not report on the collaboration of the FDLR and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. If the drones they used saw Rwandan soldiers and did not identify the artillery pieces that bombarded Rwandan territory from the DRC on March 19, May 23 and June 10. If the experts did not report on the hate speech that has been recently spread by government leaders, members of civil society, and by Congolese individuals, there is a problem.
Using drone images, multiple photos, videos, testimonies, investigators claim to have solid evidence showing that the Rwandan army has been present in eastern Congo since last November. Do you confirm the presence of your soldiers in the Congo ?
I confirm nothing. But I am saying that a report like that, if the experts did their job, they should also have looked at all sides and also seen the collaboration between the FDLR and the FARDC, the artillery pieces that bombarded Rwandan territory from Congolese territory three times. I imagine that the experts were also able to investigate the FDLR, which is the cause of all the problems you see. The M23 I do not believe that is the cause of the problems, it is a consequence of the problems of the export of the genocidal ideology by the FDLR who attacked Congolese populations, targeting particular communities. This is what led to successive groups being created by one after another to defend against the FDLR.
In eastern DRC there are more than 130 armed groups, the Group of Experts is particularly interested in one. They are making enormous efforts to link them to Rwanda, and they think they have discovered something huge. This is serious, the huge thing which could have been discovered, which is visible, is the presence of the FDLR with its genocidal ideology. It’s like a doctor wanting to treat symptoms without caring about the cause of the illness.
However, the report dwells a great deal on the case of the M23. The report affirms that the Rwandan soldiers support, in material and weapons, the rebels of the M23. Is that true ?
We are going to comment on this report on the basis of elements which are presented in the report, when we have received this report. How that I am going to make a decision on the basis of the elements which have been presented in this report, which was not officially submitted, but which was leaked for reasons which are known to the experts who organized this leak? This would be dangerous. It would be venturing into speculation that would not necessarily contribute to solving the problem of insecurity in our sub-region.
The report also shows the collaboration between the Congolese army and various armed groups, that Congolese soldiers and militiamen fought together against the M23 and the Rwandan soldiers, that the FARDC gave weapons and ammunition to these movements. How do you react to this?
We have denounced the collaboration between the FARDC and the FDLR from the start and there is evidence. That the experts see nothing, that Monusco, which is present on the ground all the time, sees nothing for 20 years, is a problem. Therefore, it is a report which seems biased and which aims to incriminate Rwanda.
On this collaboration between the Congolese army and FDLR of which you believe you have proof, what is Rwanda asking for in this case ?
We demand that the international community and the Congolese government address the issue of the FDLR and other armed groups that are destabilizing the region. All these armed groups with the genocidal ideology and which have a plan to destabilize Rwanda, and to continue or to end the genocide which they could not end, according to them. That is our major concern. Until this problem is solved, until the international community and the Congolese government are serious about this problem, relations between the DRC and Rwanda will continue to be turbulent.
In this context, are the negotiations with the DRC mediated by Angola dead ?
No, not dead as far as we’re concerned. We are ready to contribute positively to the regional mechanisms that are in place and I remind you that the Nairobi process has two components: there is a political process and then there is a military intervention, and nothing prevents a political process from being set in motion even now, nothing prevents the Congolese government speaks to the various armed groups today, including the M23 which signed agreements already in 2013 with the Congolese government, which have not been implemented. So I will ask that the political process that the Heads of State recommended in Nairobi begin, and nothing stops this. What prevents it is perhaps the lack of political will on the part of the Congolese government. I imagine that this political process could also find a solution to the tens of thousands of Congolese refugees who have been living in Rwanda and Uganda for more than 20 years. We are dealing with the question of the M23 but why did they up arms again? I remind you once again that the M23 is a Congolese movement made up perhaps of a large majority of Congolese who speak Kinyarwanda, and if they speak Kinyarwanda, it is because of history, it is not us who caused this problem. And so, if we want a lasting solution, we have to look at all these problems at the root of insecurity in our sub-region.
For things to go better, the DRC demands that Rwanda stop violating its sovereignty, sending soldiers to its territory and supporting the M23. How do you react to this ?
The principle of sovereignty applies to both the DRC and Rwanda. When you maintain armed groups like the FDLR for decades, when the FARDC join forces with the FDLR who bombard Rwandan territory, once, twice, three times, that’s a violation of our national sovereignty, that’s is a violation of the territorial integrity, we must start by respecting the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of the neighbours.
After all the report does not speak of Congolese soldiers who entered Rwanda but rather of hundreds of Rwandan soldiers who entered Congo since November…
Look, whether it’s 10, 20, 30, it doesn’t matter. I tell you, there are attacks on Rwandan territory from Congolese territory. And there were FDLR who collaborate with the FARDC who infiltrated our territory in November 2021, that’s the last attack that killed Rwandan citizens, it’s a violation of sovereignty, it is a violation of our territorial integrity, and it is a threat to the security of our country and therefore all of this must be taken seriously. It is not a question of ten, twenty, hundred, this doesn’t matter. (End)