Congo-Kinshasa: Do Not Look for Culprits Outside Your Country - Macron to Leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, March 4, advised the DR Congo leadership to look inward, stop living in denial about what really ails their country, as well as stop blaming other countries for all its ills.

During a joint press conference with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, in Kinshasa, Macron said: "Since 1994, you have never been able to restore the military, security or administrative sovereignty of your country. It's a reality. We must not look for culprits outside."

Tshisekedi urged Macron to pursue international sanctions against Rwanda for its alleged support for the M23 rebellion, an allegation Kigali has refuted.

Relations between the two countries have gone from bad to worse in the past two years, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of supporting the M23 rebels' resurgence. Kigali maintains that the sustained collaboration between the Congolese army and armed groups, especially the FDLR - a militia formed nearly three decades ago by the masterminds of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi - is at the heart of the insecurity affecting the region.

The FDLR, a UN sanctioned genocidal group based in eastern DR Congo for close to three decades, has launched attacks on Rwanda throughout the years, including in 2019 when fighters of its RUD Urunana faction killed 14 civilians in Musanze District in Northern Province.

A 2022 report by Pole Institute, a non-governmental organization operating in DR Congo, indicates that the genocidal militia makes enormous amounts of money in different illegal trade activities in eastern DR Congo. It shows that the economic empire of the FDLR is based on three pillars - illegal exploitation of the country's timber, poaching, and collection of royalties for agriculture as well as transport exploitation.

Lately, 17 provincial members of parliament in North Kivu have asked President Felix Tshisekedi to address the issue of FDLR's presence in eastern DR Congo as part of find a lasting solution to the situation

Peace talks aimed at restoring order in DR Congo have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya and Angola's capital, Luanda as well as in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and New York, USA, among other places.

Regional leaders have called for a cease-fire in eastern DR Congo and for the M23 rebels to withdraw from territories they are holding, and the FDLR to disarm and embark on an unconditional repatriation. The M23 rebels withdrew from some areas but the genocidal militia has not budged.

President Paul Kagame has noted that blaming Rwanda without addressing the root causes of the conflict, which include failure by successive Congolese governments to honour several agreements it had signed with M23 to reintegrate them will not solve the problem.

Ahead of Macron's arrival in Kinshasa, some Congolese demonstrated outside the French Embassy in Kinshasa and elsewhere against his trip to their country. Chanting "Macron assassin" or "Macron get out", protestors accused Macron of backing Rwanda which their government claims is supporting the M23 rebels in eastern DR Congo.

The M23 rebels are fighting for the rights and the safety of their communities - Congolese Tutsi, who, for nearly 30 years, have been targeted and killed based solely on their ethnicity.

The continued persecution and a consistent threat to the lives and livelihood of Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese have forced close to 80,000 to seek refuge in Rwanda. Since November 2022, Rwanda has been receiving more than 100 Congolese refugees every day on average.

In February, Rwanda announced that it was reinforcing defensive and preventive mechanisms to guard against violations of the country's airspace and borders, given its legitimate security concerns triggered by DR Congo's deliberate defiance of regional peace processes.

Some Congolese claim that Rwanda is backing the M23 rebels as part of Kigali's ploy to plunder the country's riches. But this theory is debunked by, among others, the simple fact that the country's leaders have never used its enormous resources to benefit its citizens.

Much of the vast natural resource-rich country is mired in conflict, with more than 130 armed groups operating in the east alone. Despite being endowed with rich natural resources, the second-largest country in Africa is among the five poorest nations in the world.

According to the World Bank, DR Congo is endowed with exceptional natural resources, including minerals such as cobalt and copper, hydropower potential, significant arable land, immense biodiversity, and the world's second-largest rainforest.

A long history of conflict, political upheaval and instability, and authoritarian rule have led to a grave, ongoing humanitarian crisis. In addition, thousands of Congolese citizens live in neighbouring countries as refugees while thousands others languish in internally displaced peoples' camps in the country.

In 2021, nearly 64 percent of Congolese, just under 60 million people, lived on less than $2.15 a day. About one out of six people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa lives in DR Congo.

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