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Dangerous Times as Tensions Boil Between Kenya and DRC
Dangerous Times as Tensions Boil Between Kenya and DRC
| June 7, 2024

Image of Kenyan President William Ruto and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, amid accusations by Kinshasa of Rwandan interference in the affairs of the Congolese, particularly in the mineral-rich eastern Congo. Photo: Handout

The Congolese presidency opted not to attend Friday’s EAC summit, citing concerns over recent statements made by Kenyan President William Ruto regarding the deteriorating security situation in the DRC during his visit to Kigali in late May.

This decision is viewed as a diplomatic gesture aimed at expressing discontent to Nairobi and other member states of the East African Community especially Kigali and Kampala regarding the aforementioned remarks.

Ruto, who raised concerns about the DRC’s attribution of the M23 rebellion to Rwanda during the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, a capital deemed hostile by Kinshasa, was unable to attend as he was en route from DubaiHe delegated his top diplomat, Musalia Mudavadi, to represent him in a meeting chaired by his South Sudanese counterpart and EAC chair, Salva Kiir.

Ruto’s statements have exacerbated existing tensions between Nairobi and Kinshasa and drawn ire from Congolese authorities.

Recent efforts to mend the strained relationship between Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo could face uncertainty following Ruto’s remarks in Kigali on May 17.

During an interview with the Africa Report, he referred to the M23 rebellion as “a Congolese problem,” a statement that has sparked tensions.

“If they are Congolese, how is it? Is this becoming a problem of Rwanda? How does this become a Kagame problem? Ruto asked.

According to the Kenyan leader, the M23 want to be involved in the DRC dialogue.

“I don’t find any better outcome than a citizenship that has grievances, that have issues with their government in a discussion so that they can sort out their grievances,” he said.

Ruto’s statement behind closed doors sparked outrage within the Congolese presidency and authorities, who have long associated the M23 with Rwanda.

According to sources familiar with the matter, a Kenyan citizen has been detained on suspicion of involvement with the M23 rebel group.

Kinshasa has not officially confirmed this accusation, and Nairobi has refrained from commenting on the issue.

The escalation in tensions follows a meeting between Kenya’s top diplomat Musalia Mudavadi and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on May 10.

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The meeting aimed to ease strained relations between Kenya and the DRC, which had intensified in April due to Kinshasa’s arrest of two Kenya Airways staff and Kenya’s alleged inaction regarding the presence of M23 rebel leader Bertrand Bisiimwa on Kenyan soil.

Bisiimwa had launched a political-military outfit aimed at overthrowing the Kinshasa government last December.

In response, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recalled its ambassador to Nairobi and summoned the Kenyan envoy in Kinshasa, who has already been changed.

Despite promises made during the rapprochement meeting in April to allow the return of John Nyakeru, the ambassador to Kenya and brother of the Congolese first lady, Denise Nyakeru, tensions have prevented his return to Nairobi.

Kenyan Foreign Policy sources indicate that Nairobi had extended an invitation for President Tshisekedi to undertake a state visit, which he had accepted.

However, the visit is now in jeopardy due to the escalating tensions between the two countries.

In Kinshasa, the Kenyan Ambassador-designate to the DRC, Col (Rtd) Shem Amadi, has yet to present his credentials, despite his arrival in the Congolese capital over six months ago.

Congolese authorities have declined to accredit the former Kenya Airforce Colonel as a protest against Kenya’s support of Rwanda in the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC.

The duration of these delays could vary, ranging from months to even years, depending on the host government’s level of anger.

Currently, a charge d’affaires, Kevin Thuo, from the foreign office in Nairobi, was dispatched in April and is serving in that capacity.

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