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Fighting escalates in the Kivus and western officials censure Kagame

Despite growing alarms about regional conflict, EU officials announce MOU on minerals with Kigali

Deepening hostilities between Kigali and Kinshasa were the subject of several closed-door meetings at African Union summit on 17-18 February in Addis Ababa. Yet on 19 February, the European Union announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda on sustainable raw materials value chains – the fight for control of Congo-Kinshasa's mineral reserves are at the heart of its fight with Rwanda.

Despite these mixed signals, pressure is mounting on Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. In separate statements over the weekend, the United States and France urged Rwanda to remove its soldiers from eastern Congo-K and condemned Kigali's support for the M23 milita group (AC Vol 64 No 22, Kagame tests his security playbook to the limit and Vol 65 No 2, Harsh realities face Tshisekedi after vote).

Along with Britain, which has not condemned Rwanda's support for the M23, France is one of Kigali's main western allies, but international patience is wearing thin.

Kagame's government, which continues to deny it supports M23, was particularly angered by the US State Department's demand that Rwanda 'immediately withdraw all Rwanda Defense Force personnel from [Congo-K] and remove its surface-to-air missile systems.'

The US statement represented 'an abrupt shift in policy, or simply a lack of internal coordination,' retorted Rwanda's foreign ministry, adding that it had to 'question the ability of the United States to serve as a credible mediator'.

President Joe Biden's Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Molly Phee, held talks with Congo-K's President Félix Tshisekedi on the margins at the Addis Ababa summit.

Earlier, a mini summit with Rwanda, South Africa and Congo-K hosted by Angola's President João Lourenço on 16 February failed to make any progress, with Tshisekedi telling officials that Kigali was perpetuating insecurity in the region and looting the region's mineral riches.

In its statement over the weekend, Rwanda's foreign ministry said that it was 'deeply concerned by the abandonment of the Luanda and Nairobi Processes' by Congo-K, and by the international community's indifference to Kinshasa's 'dramatic military build-up'. Kigali accused Congo-K of having 'launched massive combat operations in North Kivu' which 'clearly aims to expel M23 and Congolese Tutsi civilians into neighbouring countries.'

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