Kenya: Rwanda Demands FDLR Demobilisation As Condition for De-Escalation With DRC

Displaced children in a temporary site for internally displaced people in DRC (file Photo).
20 February 2024

Nairobi — Rwanda has demanded the demobilisation and repatriation of the DRC-backed Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group as a condition to de-escalate a simmering conflict with Kinshasa.

The demand comes after the United States called on Rwanda to immediately withdraw its troops from the DRC and remove its surface-to-air missile systems, citing concerns over civilian safety and commercial flight operations in eastern DRC.

However, President Paul Kagame has maintained that he will not back down, emphasizing that DRC support for FDLR "is a matter of state policy, not the choice of individual actors."

"Ending Congolese state support for FDLR, and ensuring their demobilization and repatriation to Rwanda, is a non-negotiable requirement to protect Rwanda's territorial integrity and guarantee the preservation of our hard-won national unity for future generations," he said, asserting that Rwanda reserves the right to take any legitimate measures to defend itself so long as the threat exists.

Kagame has been strengthening his military position on the border with DRC amid mounting tension with President Felix Tshisekedi's regime.

He has accused the DRC of collaborating with FDLR to expel M23 rebels and Congolese Tutsi civilians into neighboring countries, exacerbating regional instability.

He attributed recent M23 advancements to the DRC's expulsion of the East African Community Regional Force in December 2023, tasked with overseeing ceasefire efforts.

Furthermore, Kagame stressed that protecting Congolese Tutsi rights falls under the responsibility of the Tshisekedi administration.

He criticized the DRC's failure to address the M23 insurgency, adding that it has exposed the entire Great Lakes Region to prolonged conflict and instability.

M23, a political problem

Kagame maintained that the decision by DRC to fully integrate FDLR into the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), as documented by the UN Group of Experts has further strengthened Rwanda's resolve to protect its sovereignty.

"Taken together, these facts represent a serious threat to Rwanda's national security. Because of that growing risk, Rwanda's position is that the M23 issue must be resolved politically amongst Congolese," he said.

"It will not be accepted for the problem to be externalized into Rwanda, by force, once again."

While condemning the deteriorating violence in the Eastern DRC blamed on the actions of the Rwanda-backed, US- and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group, the US warned that the escalation has increased the risk to millions of people already exposed to human rights abuses including displacement, deprivation, and attacks.

The US emphasized the importance of all states respecting each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity and holding accountable all actors for human rights abuses in the conflict in eastern DRC.

"We call on M23 to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw from its current positions around Sake and Goma and in accordance with the Luanda and Nairobi processes," US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Saturday, February 17.

About The Author


Bruhan Makong is a dedicated journalist who reports on crime, human rights and global affairs. He is passionate about uncovering the truth, amplifying the voices often drowned in silence and holding those in power to account.

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