By John Ikani
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reached out to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, appealing to him to avoid a direct armed conflict with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Guterres made this call amidst escalating security tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa, specifically concerning the M23 rebellion in the DRC.
On Tuesday night, the Rwandan government shared that ‘President Kagame had a fruitful phone conversation with UNSG António Guterres regarding the concerning rise in armed violence and ethnic tensions in Eastern DRC.’
Guterres becomes the second prominent international figure, following the United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, to engage with Kagame within a week regarding the deteriorating relations between Rwanda and the DRC.
Recent days have witnessed heightened confrontations between Congolese forces and M23 rebels, reportedly receiving support from Rwanda, particularly in North Kivu.
On Monday, the M23 rebels successfully seized key areas near Goma, the provincial city. These include Nyakabingu, Kabalekasha, Burungu, Rujebeshe, and Tebero.
With concerns of an imminent attack on Goma, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi ordered the army commander, Gen Christian Tshiwewe, to assess the city’s security situation and strengthen its defences.
As the battle between Congolese forces and M23 rebels unfolded, Gen Tshiwewe flew from Kinshasa to Goma, with the conflict located about 20 kilometres north of Nyiragongo, in close proximity to Goma.
Brigadier General Otávio Rodrigues de Miranda Filho, MONUSCO Force Commander, reported last week that M23 rebels were advancing southwards, notably along National Road 2 (RN2) and provincial road 1030 towards Sake, a critical point in Goma’s defense.
In his conversation with Guterres, President Kagame reiterated his firm belief that a political solution, rather than military intervention, holds the key.
Kagame and Guterres also explored their continued cooperation in fostering peace and stability in the DRC through ongoing regional initiatives.
On Monday, Blinken separately held discussions with Kagame and DRC’s leader, Felix Tshisekedi, regarding the volatile situation and the worsening humanitarian crisis along the Rwanda-DRC border.
He emphasized the need for a diplomatic resolution to ease tensions between the two countries and called upon both sides to de-escalate, including withdrawing troops from the border.
Both Rwanda and the DRC have recently bolstered their military presence along their shared border.
The DRC has undertaken the deployment of over 40,000 freshly trained regular forces near the Rwandan border, citing the need to counter the M23 rebels.
Informed sources suggest that Kigali holds strong concerns regarding the DRC’s intentions to launch an attack on Rwanda. Meanwhile, the DRC suspects that Kigali is strategizing to capture Goma.
For several months, clashes between Congolese forces and various armed groups have persisted in the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru, and Nyiragongo, leading to the displacement of approximately 300,000 people