Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the March 23 Movement (M23) -- a rebel group in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo -- was not his country’s problem to deal with, despite reports suggesting Rwanda has backed the movement.
“What I want to say clearly: This problem was not created by Rwanda, and is not Rwanda’s problem, it is Congo’s problem,” Kagame said at Semafor’s Africa Summit on Wednesday.
What he said
Kagame said the East African region was doing its best to assist in the crisis, adding that about 80,000 refugees had migrated to Rwanda since the start of the conflict in the eastern Congo region.
However, he pushed back against pressure from the international community to resolve the conflict.
“It seems the entire responsibility has been put on the shoulders of Rwanda,” he said. “And we say: ‘No, this is not our problem.’”
He rejected the argument that Rwanda has a role to play in resolving the conflict because many of those impacted are Congolese people of Rwandan-decent. He added that international actors should instead blame colonialists who drew Africa’s borders without consideration of pre-established ethnic community borders.
“I cannot be responsible for the fact that there are Congolese of Rwandan-ethnicity that are being denied their rights as a citizen,” he said.
M23 was largely formed in 2012 by Tutsi people -- an ethnic group targeted by the Hutu ethnic community during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Kagame, who has served as president since 2000, is also Tutsi. Thousands of civilians have been killed or displaced since the conflict began.
Rwanda has never tied itself to M23 but international organizations have said that Rwandan officials may be complicit in war crimes through military backing of the M23 rebels.
Fighting between rebels and the Congolese army has broken out in recent months, leading to a diplomatic crisis between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.N. said that at least 131 civilians were killed at the end of November.