DR Congo: US Government Strongly Condemns Attacks in the Eastern Province of Kivu by Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) Under the Cover of M23 Rebels

KAHUNGA position,  6 km North of the town of  KIWANJA, where the Radar of RDF Forces was located.

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On Saturday February 17, 2024, while the African Union was holding a Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the United States Government strongly condemned the worsening violence and war crimes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) committed  by the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) troops under the cover of M23 rebels. The condemnation followed the recent incursions of Rwandan troops  into the city of Sake, a few kilometers from the city of Goma, the capital of North-Kivu province,  the killings of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) peace keeping soldiers in DRC under the SAMIDRC, and the shooting of FARDC aircrafts  and  civilians planes  using drones. With the strong condemnations by the US Government, the questions have shifted to the next steps of actions  against the Rwandan government and military leaders.

The United States' new condemnation was released in a press statement by the US  State Department. The press release highlights that the M23 rebels proxy, under the cover which Rwandan troops have invaded Eastern DRC,  is an armed group sanctioned by the United States and the United Nations.

"The United States strongly condemns the worsening violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) caused by the actions of the Rwanda-backed, U.S.- and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group, including its recent incursions into the town of Sake." the press statement reads. 

For several days, intense fighting has opposed the Congolese army, FARDC,  to  the  Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) troops, under the cover of M23,  near the town of Sake, only about ten kilometers from the city of Goma, capital of the North Kivu province.

Earlier in this month, as the south African troops were being deployed, the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) troops, under the cover of the M23 rebels, launched bombs on the military camps of SANDF,  killing 2 south African  soldiers and wounding a number of other troops(see pictures at the bottom).  The attack has fueled questions on whether RDF are ready to directly confront SANDF and the entire SADC force  (see here: DR Congo: South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Troops in SADC Mission (SAMIDRC) Killed by Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) Under the Cover of M23 Rebels).

For the US State Department, this escalation has increased the risks for millions of people already exposed to human rights violations, including displacement, deprivation and attacks.


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US Government State Government's  Open Rebuke of Rwandan Military: What is Next?

The press statement by the US State Department  goes further, directly pointing the finger to the Rwandan military,  the true forces behind the invasion and worsening security and humanitarian situation, stating that : ”The United States condemns Rwanda’s support for the M23 armed group and calls on Rwanda to immediately withdraw all Rwanda Defense Force personnel from the DRC and remove its surface-to-air missile systems, which threaten the lives of civilians, UN and other regional peacekeepers, humanitarian actors, and commercial flights in eastern DRC.”

In the press statement, the US Government  State Department  recalls that it is essential that all States respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity and that all actors be held accountable for human rights violations committed in the context of the conflict in the east of the DRC. 

The press statement contains a warning to the DRC Government against cooperating with the Rwandan rebels known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

“We call on the DRC government to continue to support confidence-building measures, including by ceasing cooperation with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group described as a “negative force” by regional bodies and the government of the DRC, and which exposes the civilian population to risks,” urge the United States.

However, the recent reports by UN Experts, especially the mid-term report of December 30, 2023, have already shown that it is rather the Rwandan Defense Forces using FDLR soldiers into its troops deployed in the DRC. In fact,  the report states the following and shows the pictures taken of RDF forces combined with FDLR soldiers :

" According to former M23 combatants and intelligence sources, since early October 2023, RDF soldiers from five different battalions were deployed in Nyiragongo, Rutushuru and Masisi territories. RDF and M23 were supported by several combat support and reconnaissance teams totalling 250 former FDLR combatants and operating under the command of the Rwanda Defence Intelligence Department (DID)."

Reading the press statement, most independent observers and AfroAmerican Network contacts close to the DR Congo and Rwandan government leaders  have concluded that the US government has significantly voiced its disapproval of the aggressive and bloody  behavior of the  Rwandan government  and may be getting ready to move to the next steps, including potential sanctions against top  leaders of the Rwandan government and military institutions. 

AfroAmerica Network is still following the dynamics.

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