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DR Congo leader urges Macron to back sanctions against Rwanda

Macron says he would wait until the end of several peace negotiations before considering such a move.

President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has urged visiting French President Emmanuel Macron to pursue international sanctions against Rwanda over alleged military support for M23 rebels.

Macron said he was waiting for the end of several ongoing peace negotiations before considering such a move. But he promised that France would be “true to its role as staunch ally of (DRC) to defend its integrity and sovereignty”.

The eastern DRC has been embroiled in conflict for decades, with armed groups vying for control of the region’s vast mineral resources. Recently, the DRC has accused Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels, who have taken control of large parts of the east of the country.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied the accusation.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa (Samy Ntumba Shambuyi/AP Photo)

Peace talks have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya and Angola’s capital, Luanda. Regional leaders have called for a ceasefire in the eastern DRC and the withdrawal of the M23 rebels from the territory they control.

Macron said all sides had given “clear support” to a ceasefire next Tuesday, as envisioned in the Angola-brokered timeline.

The French president said the DRC “must not be the spoils of war”.

“This is precisely the meaning of my presence today, to tell everyone that there should be no double standard between the tragedy that is happening in Ukraine on European soil and that which is happening on African soil,” Macron said.

Tshisekedi pressed his French counterpart for sanctions against Rwanda, saying he “remained in doubt about the good faith of those who attacked us”.

“There was no reason to justify this aggression, except for economic reasons, which were specific to Rwanda, the instigator of this aggression,” said Tshisekedi, who accused Rwanda of “systematic looting”.

Earlier on Saturday, Brussels said it was setting up a “humanitarian airlift” to deliver aid to eastern DRC.

The airlift will connect to Goma, the capital of the eastern province of North Kivu, where fighting with the M23 rebel group has displaced more than 600,000 people.

The operation will “deliver humanitarian aid in the form of medical and nutritional supplies along with a range of other emergency resources,” according to a statement from the European Commission.

The EU said it also released some €47 million ($50 million) to channel through humanitarian partners for immediate needs such as food, healthcare, shelter and water.

“The EU stands ready to mobilize all necessary resources to support humanitarian workers, including logistics and air transport, to meet the needs of the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic.

Before Macron arrived late on Friday, nearly two dozen civic groups had called for protests.

Emmanuel Mabunguta, a member of the Justice in Action movement, accused Macron of supporting Rwandan president Paul Kagame and said the French president was not welcome in the DRC.

“The silence of the French president regarding the Congolese people’s demands for sanctions against Rwanda speaks volumes about what he really wants,” Mabunguta said. “Macron must openly condemn Rwanda for supporting the M23.”

The DRC was Macron’s last stop on his journey to Africa, which also included visits to Gabon, Angola and the Republic of Congo. On Friday in Brazzaville, Macron pledged that France would help fight climate change and support forest conservation initiatives.