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The European Union is blaming Rwanda, again, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for ignoring proposals of regional peace initiatives even as Kinshasa’s government forces battle the M23 rebel movement.

A statement issued on Tuesday said Rwanda, the DRC and the M23 should adhere to regional peace processes and lay down arms. 

The European bloc said all armed groups should also withdraw from the positions they occupy and take part in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process. It blamed Rwanda for fanning M23, and DRC for continued collaboration with other armed groups.

“The European Union condemns their violent actions and urges Rwanda to cease its support to the M23, and to use all means to put pressure on the M23 to withdraw from the occupied areas, as foreseen in the plan agreed between the East African Community heads of state and government on 9 February in Nairobi,” the EU said.

Attacks on civilians

It said the Congolese army, FARDC, should stop collaborating with armed groups, including the FDLR, seen by Rwanda as remnants of the 1994 genocidaires.

The EU “strongly condemns the repeated attacks targeting civilians carried out in particular by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) in North Kivu and Ituri,” it said.

In December, the EU had accused Rwanda of fomenting rebellion in eastern DRC by arming and supporting the M23, claims that Kigali denied.

On Tuesday, the EU said the peace process under the EAC — known as the Nairobi process — and another under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region — known as the Luanda process — must be supported.

Withdrawal of M23

The Nairobi Process is pursuing both military and diplomatic solutions. On February 9, military chiefs from the East African Community proposed that the M23 should begin its withdrawal from February 28 for a period of one month.

DRC’s Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula says the new withdrawal timetable and the new deployment plan for EAC member countries' troops are only proposals at this stage that the government will assess.

"We are following this with great attention, anything that is not in the sense of allowing the republic to fully exercise its sovereignty, to safeguard its territorial authority, to safeguard the independence of our country, we will not accept it, that's for sure," said Lutundula.

"We will further decipher the content, not only the writing, but the spirit of what has been proposed. We are following that very carefully", he added.

Rapid EAC troops deployment

The European Union also encouraged the rapid deployment of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) and the continuation of an inclusive dialogue.

The deployment is supposed to follow the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) but the Congolese government has not yet confirmed the arrival of new troops this week.

“We will evaluate the SOFA without any omissions. I can say that we will not hesitate to put an end to it. But we don't want to. Our view is that we must continue to review the SOFA,” said Lutundula on Monday.

Despite this roadmap signed on November 23, 2022, and the appeals of heads of state, the parties continue to fight, causing civilians to flee en masse.

The European Union noted that “the lack of implementation of commitments and decisions taken by the various parties, and the continuation of fighting, particularly around Goma, is aggravating a disastrous humanitarian situation”.

Though critical of Kigali’s involvement in the conflict, the EU last week renewed a refugee holding programme with Rwanda for Kigali to help with hosting refugees rescued from Libya as they await processing to other countries. The programme is to last for three years. - PATRICK ILUNGA, The EastAfrican

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