Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi urged visiting French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday to pursue international sanctions against Rwanda for its alleged military support to the M23 rebellion.
Macron said he was waiting for the end of several ongoing peace negotiation efforts before considering such a step. But he vowed that France would be “faithful to its role as an unwavering ally of (Congo) to defend its integrity and sovereignty."
Eastern Congo has been mired in conflict for decades, with armed groups vying for control of the region's vast mineral resources. Most recently, Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels, who have seized control of large swaths of the country's east.
Rwanda has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Peace talks have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya and Angola's capital, Luanda. Regional leaders have called for a cease-fire in eastern Congo and for the M23 rebels to withdraw from the territory they are holding.
On Saturday, the French president said that 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,” Macron said.
Tshisekedi pressed his French counterpart for sanctions against Rwanda, saying he remained “doubtful 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,” Tshisekedi said, accusing Rwanda of “systematic plundering."
Ahead of Macron's arrival late Friday, nearly two dozen citizen 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 Congo.
“The silence of the French president in relation to the demands of the Congolese people for sanctions against Rwanda speaks volumes about what he really wants,” Mabunguta said. “Macron must openly condemn Rwanda for its support of the M23.”
Congo was Macron's last stop on his trip to Africa, which also included visits to Gabon, Angola and Republic of Congo. On Friday in Brazzaville, Macron pledged France would help in the fight against climate change and pledged support for forest conservation initiatives.
___ Associated Press writers Christina Malkia in Kinshasa, Congo and Louis Okamba in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo contributed.