DRC-Rwanda Crisis: Rwandan Army Accused of War Crimes; Belgian King Philippe Condemns Rwanda; Focus on Prince Charles and Pope Francis

Felix Tshisekedi and Paul Kagame in Gisenyi, Rwanda, June 25, 2021

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On Wednesday June 8, 2022, Belgium’s King Philippe, who is currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a historic six-day tour, openly condemned the Rwandan army for invading the country. The condemnation came just a  day before the Rwandan army was accused of war crimes. In previous weeks, many prominent leaders, including those of the United Nations and the Catholic Church, called on the Congolese people to stand up against Rwandan invasion ()  

On June 9, 2022, the Congolese army, FARDC, accused the Rwandan forces of supporting the M23 rebels and launching rocket attacks on a primary school, killing 2 students, 6 and 7 years old, and destroying properties. The Congolese army spokesperson claimed to have videos taken from drones showing the presence on Congolese soil of Rwandan soldiers involved in the attacks. Later, the Rwandan army was accused of bombing another school, located in in Buhumba, Rutshuru territory, from the Rwandan territory. With these attacks, the Congolese Army accused the Rwandan army of war crimes.

Despite a relative calm, observed on Saturday June 11, 2022 in the territories of Nyiragongo and Rutshuru, in the East of the DRC,  many international organizations and Western countries have continued to call for de-escalation, while condemning, overtly or implicitly, the Rwandan government for being responsible for the on-going wars, chaos,  and the humanitarian crises in the region.

Belgium's King Philippe Condems the Invasion by Rwandan Military?

Meanwhile, Belgium’s King Philippe is scheduled to visit the city of Bukavu in South-Kivu Province on Sunday, June 12, 2022.
On Wednesday, King Philippe visited Congo's national museum in Kinshasa. In his statements during the ceremony, he said that the situation in eastern Congo "cannot continue." and recalled that that the country of DRC has the right to defend itself and its integrity.

Pope Francis Cancels a Planned Visit to DRC, Again. This time due to Health Concerns?

Pope Francis, who had planned to visit Eastern DRC in July, has cancelled his trip. According to reports from the Vatican, the cancellation is due to ongoing health issues, including knee prroblems. However, the cancellation has increased the focus on the on-going wars in DRC, as the pontif had planned to visit North-Kivu, and meet with top Catholic Church leaders, including those from Rwanda.

This is the second time Pope Francis cancels trips to DRC. On March 13, 2017 Pope Francis cancelled a long planned trip to DRC in July-August 2017. The trip cancellation was due to an already complex and deteriorating political situation in the DRC. Pope Francis, then, announced the trip cancellation in an interview with the German national newspaper Die Zeit, saying that:"It was planned that I travel to the two Congo's, but things are not well with Kabila; I believe I would not travel there." During his dictatorship, Joseph Kabila remained a close ally to Paul Kagame and allowed him to occupy most of Eastern DRC and to infiltrate and dominate DRC government and military institutions (see here DR Congo: Pope Francis Cancels Trip as Impasse of CENCO's Brokered Deal Remain).


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Is DRC Invasion Shifting Dynamics in the Region and the World Against Paul Kagame ?

According to the AfroAmerica Network sources in Rwanda, the latest stances by prominent World personalities and leaders, international organizations, and the international community have come as a shock to the government of Rwanda. Until recently, few dared to openly challenge the government of Rwanda for being the main actor behind the wars and related tragedies in the region. Many, among those who commented on the crisis, were only quick to condemn the M23 rebels, and call on the movement to lay down its arms,  but failed to mention the Rwandan army, which has founded, funded, armed, and supported the M23 rebels.

On Wednesday June 1, 2022, the United Nations called for effective military operations against M23 rebels, a congolese militia founded, supported, and reinforced by the Rwandan army. The call to the military response was made in Goma, North Kivu by Ms Bintou Keita, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC. The call followed a condemnation from Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the Catholic Church Leader in DRC.

Then, Huang Xia, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, visited the DRC and Rwanda and, according to AfroAmerica Network sources, pressured the Rwandan government to cut its support to M32 rebels. Meanwhile, Angolan President João Lourenço and an African Union (AU) envoy pressured the Rwandan government to release a Congolese politician, a member of the Congolese presidential majority, arrested in Gisenyi, Rwanda. In return, the DRC military released  two Rwandan Army soldiers arrested by the FARDC. João Lourenço has been pushing for a meeting between DRC president Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame.

On Saturday, the United Nations reaffirmed its "firm attachment to the territorial integrity of the DRC", while condemning the use by a foreign country of proxy armed groups. The US State Department's Bureau of African Affairs raised its concerns regarding cross-border attacks between the DRC and Rwanda, calling the leaders of the two countries to show responsible and constructive leadership.

The situation in Rwanda and the region has been complicated by a planned meeting of Commonwealth Heads of State, to be held in less than two weeks in Kigali, Rwanda. According to media reports, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who will be representing his mother, Queen Elizabeth I, stated that he was "appalled" about the recent deal between the UK and the Rwandan governments, on the "terrible policy" to deport asylum seekers from UK to Rwanda. The reality check of Prince Charles' statements may challenge the controversial policy led by Interior Minister Priti Patel and authorized by the British justice on Thursday ruling and may shadow the CommonWealth meeting in Kigali, already facing challenges due to the attacks in Eastern DRC by Rwandan troops under the cover of M23 rebels.

 AfroAmerica Network is still closely following the situation.


@AfroAmerica Network 2022