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Qatari envoy meets DRC president amid violence between M23 and army despite ceasefire

To date, there have been no updates on the postponed talks in Doha between the conflicting sides.

Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Regional Affairs Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Khulaifi met with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa, on Tuesday.

“The meeting dealt with discussing bilateral relations, and international efforts to achieve stability in the region,”Doha’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Qatari diplomat also sent a written message by Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to Tshisekedi “pertaining to bilateral relations and the means to enhance and develop them”.

The meeting comes amid ongoing escalations between DRC and Rwanda as the Gulf state supports existing mediation efforts between both sides.

In January, Qatar attempted to host peace talks between the conflicting sides, bringing together representatives from Angola, Kenya and the African Union.

While previous reports said the meeting was cancelled due to a no show of DRC’s leader Felix Tshisekedi, Al Araby Al Jadeed reported last week that Doha hosted talks that were not publicly announced.

Qatar has maintained communication between officials in hopes of guiding Rwanda and DRC back to the Luanda Agreement, which was signed last year following mediation by Angolan President Joao Lourenco.

Various discussions between Qatar and Angola have taken place in recent days, pointing to ongoing efforts by the former to bring together Kigali and Kinshasa onto the table of negotiations.

As part of an African tour, Dr. Al Khulaifi visited Kigali last week where he also handed a written message to Rwandan President Paul Kagame “pertaining to bilateral relations and means of supporting and developing them.”

Last year, the eastern side of the DRC faced increasing violence when clashes erupted between troops and rebels from the M23. 

The United States and DRC said M23 is backed by Kigali, though it has denied those claims. 

Several civilian casualties were recorded on Monday following clashes that erupted between M23 rebels despite a ceasefire brokered by Angola last week, AFP reported.

Both sides have exchanged blame for the attacks.

On Saturday, DRC’s president urged French President Emmanuel Macron to impose sanctions against Rwanda for its alleged military support to the M23 rebels.

“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,” Tshisekedi said, as quoted by the Associated Press (AP).

According to AP, Macron said he would wait for the end of peace negotiation efforts before making such a decision.

Some countries that hosted peace talks included Nairobi, Kenya and Angola.

Before Macron’s arrival, dozens of citizen groups urged protests, accusing the French president of supporting Kagame.

“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,” Emmanuel Mabunguta, a member of the Justice in Action Movement, told AP.

Rights organisations have raised concerns over the humanitarian situation in eastern DRC.

Last month, an Amnesty International investigation revealed that the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels raped at least 66 women and girls while killing at least 20 men in eastern DRC in November.

“Since these attacks survivors have been living in terror and utter destitution. While some rape survivors received basic medical attention from community health facilities most urgently need adequate medical and mental health care as well as humanitarian assistance,” Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said.