Congo asks France to impose sanctions on Rwanda as civil war spreads

Congo asks France to impose sanctions on Rwanda as civil war spreads
Map of Africa. There were Special Operations Forces deployments in 33 African countries in 2016.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo asked France to support international sanctions against Rwanda over its military support to M23 rebels who have taken over a growing area in eastern Congo. In the 1990s, six million people died in eastern Congo in a bloody civil war that led to mass killings and starvation.

France’s president Macron said he was waiting for the end of peace negotiations before considering such a step. But he promised that France would defend the Congo’s “integrity and sovereignty.”

The eastern part of the Congo has been torn by war for decades, with militias and bandits vying for control of its vast mineral resources. Most recently, the neighboring country of Rwanda has supported M23 rebels, who have seized control of large chunks of the Congo’s east. Peace talks have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya and Angola’s capital, Luanda. Regional leaders have called for a ceasefire in eastern DRC and demanded that M23 rebels leave the territory they control.

Macron, who was visiting the Congo, said that all sides had “given clear support” to a ceasefire next Tuesday, as agreed to in a compact mediated by Angola. He said the Congo “must not be a spoils of war….This is the very meaning of my presence today, to tell everyone that there cannot be a double standard between the tragedy being played out in Ukraine on European territory and that being played out on African soil.”

The Congo’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, accused Rwanda of “systematic plundering,” saying “There was no reason to justify this aggression, except for economic reasons, which were specific to Rwanda, the instigator of this aggression.”

Tshisekedi was installed as Congo’s president in 2019, after a fraudulent election in December 2018 that was actually won by Martin Fayulu. The regime of Congo’s longtime ruler, Joseph Kabila, reached a corrupt deal with Tshisekedi to declare Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential election, in exchange for Tshisekedi allowing Kabila’s allies to retain much of their power. Polls around the time of the election showed that Fayulu was supported by a comfortable majority in the Congo.

Tshisekedi has released political prisoners and allowed protests, but Congo remains as corrupt and kleptocratic as before, and remains one of the world’s poorest countries. It has not improved any in the economic freedom indexes produced by the Fraser Institute, the Cato Institute, or the Heritage Foundation. Judicial effectiveness and enforcement of property rights, already dismally bad, have gotten slightly worse in the Congo, while the regulatory environment, which was quite bad, has gotten slightly better.

On March 4, the European Union said it was setting up a “humanitarian air bridge” to deliver aid to eastern Congo.

The air bridge will link with Goma, the capital of Congo’s eastern North Kivu province, where fighting with the rebel group M23 has displaced more than 600,000 people.

The operation will “deliver humanitarian support in the form of medical and nutritional supplies along with a range of other emergency items”, a European Commission statement said.

The EU said it was also releasing some 47 million euros ($50m) to provide humanitarian assistance such as for food, water, medicine, and shelter.

“The EU stands ready to mobilize all the necessary means to support humanitarian workers, including logistics and air, to meet the needs of the population in Democratic Republic of Congo,” said the EU’s commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic.