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Rwanda has written to the United Nations Security Council objecting to its plan to support a military deployment by southern African nations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The letter, dated Feb. 12, comes amid a flurry of diplomatic and military activity that threatens to put South Africa on the opposite side of a conflict to Rwanda. 

South Africa said it’s deploying 2,900 troops to the region as part of a Southern African Development Community mission that will fight the M23 rebel group, which UN experts have accused Rwanda of supporting. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has denied the allegation, will attend a meeting of heads of state in Ethiopia on Friday that was called by Angola to discuss the escalating conflict in Congo, his spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said. 

“The government of Rwanda would like to request the UNSC to avert the escalation of the conflict in eastern DRC by reconsidering the request to provide logistical and operational support” to the SADC mission, Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister, said in the letter, seen by Bloomberg. “The UN Security Council should instead encourage the government of the DRC to pursue a peaceful solution.” 

Biruta argued that the mission and UN support for it will embolden Congo’s government to seek a military victory, rather than a diplomatic solution to a dispute that has wracked the Great Lakes region of East Africa for decades. 

The SADC force is set to gradually replace soldiers from the UN, who have been in the region for 25 years, and some from East African community states, who have been there for a year but have now been asked to leave by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

A war that began in the region in 1998 and lasted until 2003 dragged in troops from nine nations and saw Zimbabwean and Angolan forces among others fighting the Rwandan army. Conflict has simmered ever since as Rwanda says elements of forces that carried out a genocide of the Tutsi ethnic group in the country in 1994 have taken refuge in Congo. Kagame, a Tutsi, led an army that overcame those forces and has ruled Rwanda since. With assistance from Michael J. Kavanagh, Bloomberg

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