Rwanda has deployed soldiers in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kigali supports the M23 rebels, and these are in any case the conclusions of UN experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo that were revealed in the middle of the week. We return to the content of their report with our guest, Christophe Lutendola, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
How do you respond to the UN report on the presence of Rwandan soldiers in eastern Congo and their support for the March 23 Movement?
It doesn’t surprise us what we’ve always said. Anyone who wants to know the objective truth, it exists. What remains now is for the Security Council to examine the report and draw all conclusions regarding the sanctions, in terms of active support for the DRC to eradicate the cancer of armed groups, to support the efforts of the African Union, East African Community and CIRGL to obtain the withdrawal of the M23 from the occupied areas. It also remains that the African Union also draws the conclusions of this report, and it also remains that all subregional organizations behave in the same way. Under these circumstances, this report will function properly and help bring an end to the prevailing insecurity in the Great Lakes region.
Do you expect sanctions from the international community, and if so, what sanctions do you expect?
Yes, penalties, otherwise the report was used for what? If there are no penalties, we create an unfortunate precedent and the temptation will always be strong to follow this bad example.
Can the Congo impose sanctions on Kigali?
We have already suspended cooperation and implementation of all agreements and what commitments we made. We do not intend to undo the measures that have already been taken, because our conditions for restoring confidence have not been fulfilled. In any case, it is not possible to cooperate with a state that in any way violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. Conditions have to be created and I don’t think those conditions are preparing today.
You can also take additional retaliatory measures: dismiss the Rwandan ambassador, recall your ambassador in Kigali, strengthen border controls, economic measures … Is this under consideration, is it possible?
As long as the situation continues, everything is open. What has been done is very dangerous, and no country can accept it, and it is clear.
Would you expect a letter from Kigali regretting for example? Or an apology?
I apologize of course! When you have sinned, you have to apologize and, above all, you have to atone. Reform here means first and foremost making sure that all those who benefit from Rwanda’s support to disrupt the DRC, any action that violates our territorial integrity, stop once and for all. This is possible at any time, it is up to Rwanda to figure out what you want. For our part, we will continue to defend our territorial integrity. President Tshisekedi attaches great importance to this struggle and for this reason he has extended his fraternal hand to all our neighbors, Rwanda and Uganda, because we are not talking about Uganda. Again, there are adjustments to be made.
Yes, exactly, the report talks about the passivity of the Ugandan soldiers in allowing the Rwandan soldiers to enter the Congo without reacting. Do you think Uganda is playing a double game?
Obviously, I don’t have the language of wood! Negativity is also seen as a positive attitude, which we deplore. There is no neutrality in this kind of behavior, which is supposed to be neutral. This is not allowed. In any case, we have never wanted conflicting relations with our neighbors, they should understand that what we want is partnership, peace and security.
Are you asking Ugandan President Museveni to get out of his ambiguity on this issue?
It can only help us all. Ambiguity is like complicity through silence or indifference.
Negotiations are underway with Rwanda, mediated by Angola, can the Congo negotiate with a country that refuses to specifically recognize this fact that has been proven by the United Nations?
The Luanda operation has begun. I think that this report should be considered an element that helps to solve the crisis of confidence, which helps to solve the security crisis we are experiencing in the east of our country. We ask President Lourenço to use it wisely. We ask Rwanda to paint all the consequences and act in a way that promotes the restoration of confidence between it and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dialogue is only valid when there is trust, when these conditions are created. we said M23 must leave the territory, the positions it occupies, Rwanda must stop supporting armed groups and M23, we must put our cards on the table and fully consider the interests of the Congolese people “.If all these conditions are met, we have no reason not to talk to any of our neighbors who can talk to us, that is clear.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will be in Kinshasa in a few days and then in Kigali. What do you expect from him and the Americans?
We expect that beyond the declarations, there is an active application to ensure that talk of interference in the internal affairs of the Congo is not repeated again, and that there is a more positive attitude, more respectful of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. I think the United States has a role to play for our partnership.
Kinshasa asked to re-evaluate the timetable for the withdrawal of Monsco, what do you mean by re-evaluation?
We have entered into a responsible phase-out programme. Now, there are new facts, however, due to the strong political demand of the Congolese people to see MONUSCO withdraw from the national territory and let us fully assume our responsibilities as a people and as a government. This is legitimate, so it needs to be re-evaluated, considering the evolution of the current situation, the strong claim to withdraw Monusco and the fact that Monusco was not able to be in a position, in any case would not have done so. It has, they say, the means to accomplish all its tasks, we have agreed to withdraw it from the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 2024 at the latest. Thus, the reassessment should lead us to reconsider this timeline in the sense of its abbreviation and also lead us to expedite the MONUSCO withdrawal process so that the DRC fully assumes responsibilities in protecting the national independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. Anyway for us the more the better.
In the UN experts report, I saw clearly that the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in particular provided images of drones to the UN experts. Monosco proves its usefulness here, isn’t it a contradiction to ask for her departure?
It is not contradictory that, if it had been done early, it might have avoided some of the consequences we deplore today. Then Monosco’s withdrawal is in the natural order of things. There is no crisis between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations. So there’s nothing to dramatize, it’s in the natural order and you know that in other countries around the world and in Africa, at some point we had to demand that we take up our national responsibilities.