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France Tells Rwanda to Withdraw Troops from DRC; Cease Support for M23 Rebels

France has called on Rwanda to stop supporting the M23 rebels and also withdraw its soldiers from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“France condemns the continuing offensives by the M23 with the support of Rwanda and the presence of Rwandan forces on Congolese territory,” said France’s Ambassador to Uganda, Xavier Sticker, on Wednesday.

“The M23 must stop fighting immediately and withdraw from all the areas it occupies, in accordance with the decisions taken as part of the Luanda process,” said Xavier, adding, “We call on Rwanda to cease all support for the M23 and to withdraw from Congolese territory.”

The ambassador was interacting with the media at his residence in Nakasero, Kampala.

France joins other European countries and the United States, which have in recent weeks piled pressure on Rwanda to cease support for the rebels.

Fighting between government forces and the M23 rebel group flared up again on Monday in the eastern DRC after a brief lull.

During the clashes, two rockets landed close to the UN peacekeeping base in Kimoka, about four kilometers northwest of Sake in North Kivu.

Humanitarian crisis

Fighting erupted earlier this month near Sake, driving nearly 144,000 people from their homes, mostly towards Goma.

Rwanda has denied supporting the M23 rebels and instead blamed Kinshasa for failing to address the insurgents’ concerns.

Kigali also accuses DRC authorities of supporting the FDLR, an armed group derived from the militias that committed the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

Xavier said France remained concerned about the situation in eastern Congo, in North Kivu, and in particular around Goma and Saké.

“The attacks on the territorial integrity of the DRC and the situation of the civilian population are unacceptable,” he observed.

“France calls on all armed groups to put an end to the violence,” he added.

The envoy also said the armed forces of the DRC must cease all collaboration with the FDLR.

“France reiterates its full support for the regional mediation processes aimed at finding a negotiated solution to the conflict,” said Xavier.

In September 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron facilitated a meeting between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Xavier said Macron remained in regular contact with the two heads of state, working closely with the Kenyan and Angolan facilitators of the Nairobi and Luanda processes.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, has just contacted his Congolese and Rwandan counterparts in the same spirit, according to Amb. Xavier.

He said France, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, supported the sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations and breaches of peace and the reconciliation process in the DRC.

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