Rwanda: U.S. and DRC’s Partners Call On Rwanda to Punish Forces Over Attack

The United States has called on Rwanda to punish forces behind an attack in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Both Kinshasa and the US accuse Kigali of meddling in DRC’s affairs.

The State Department on Friday accused Rwandan forces of joining M23 rebels in the attacks on a camp for internally displaced people in the outskirts of the eastern city of Goma that resulted in the death of over a dozen people.

Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo however, retorted that the US accusation was “ridiculous”. In a statement published on X, he said that Rwanda had a “professional army” that would “never attack” a camp for displaced people.

Asked Monday if the United States stood by its claim, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, “We absolutely do.”

He added, “The government of Rwanda must investigate this heinous act and hold all those responsible accountable. And we have made that clear to them.”

Rwanda’s alleged role

The United States has long said there was evidence to support charges by Kinshasa that Rwanda is backing the M23 rebels, who are mostly ethnic Tutsis who resumed their armed campaign in the historically turbulent country in 2021.

Nevertheless, the latest US statement marked an unusually direct accusation of Rwandan involvement.

Kigali insisted on Sunday that the claims it had a role in the camp attack were “unjustified” and accused the United States of “scapegoating” Rwanda.

“Rwanda will not shoulder responsibility for the bombing of the IDP camps around Goma, or the security and governance failures of the government of the DRC,” it said in a statement, calling for a “credible investigation” to establish what happened.

Rwanda has denied backing M23, although President Paul Kagame has voiced support for the cause of Tutsis living in DR Congo.

He has also called for the government in Kinshasa to act against a Hutu militia that he says has ties with the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which mostly targeted Tutsis.

The United States has sought to mediate between the two countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held meetings in Kigali in January and voiced the hope that Rwanda would engage in diplomacy.

More accusations

The European Union, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Congolese government have also condemned the attack.

Last week, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi met in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, who agreed that “Rwanda must end support for M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and withdraw troops from its neighbour’s territory.”

Five shells were fired from the hills of Kiroche, according to Kinshasa, a zone which is under the control of the Rwandan army.

For Kinshasa, the attack not only violate international humanitarian law, but reflect Rwanda’s refusal to comply with the international community’s call for a ceasefire and the withdrawal its troops from the DRC.

Lt. Colonel Ndjike Kaiko, a Congolese army spokesperson also blamed the attacks on M23. The African Union (AU) also condemned these attacks without naming their perpetrators.

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