The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy arrived Wednesday in Kinshasa for a “private visit” during which is nevertheless planned a meeting with the Congolese head of state Felix Tshisekedi, against the backdrop of the crisis between the DRC and Rwanda, it was learned from airport and Congolese official sources.
According to the newsletter Africa Intelligence, which revealed this trip was “supposed to remain confidential”, Felix Tshisekedi would have asked the former French president “to facilitate a dialogue” with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, “which Nicolas Sarkozy is close”.
Historically complicated, relations between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been atrocious since the resurgence in late 2021 of the M23 (“March 23 Movement”) rebellion, which has seized large swaths of territory in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.
Kinshasa accuses Kigali of supporting this rebellion, which has been corroborated by UN experts and denounced by Western chancelleries, although Kigali denies it.
Several initiatives for de-escalation have been launched in Africa and the current French president, Emmanuel Macron, played the role of facilitator last September for a meeting between Félix Tshisekedi and Paul Kagame. But the rebellion then resumed its advances.
Visiting Kinshasa on March 4, the last stop on a tour of Central Africa, Emmanuel Macron did not clearly condemn Rwanda, as the Congolese were asking him to do, but issued firm warnings, including to Kigali.
“The arrival in our country of the former French president is in no way at the initiative of the president of the DRC,” said Tina Salama, spokesperson for Felix Tshisekedi, on Twitter, adding: “there is no mediation project in the Rwandan aggression that would be entrusted to Mr. Sarkozy.
“That said,” she added, President Tshisekedi “will be delighted to receive him during his private visit to Kinshasa.
According to an airport source, Nicolas Sarkozy arrived shortly before 17:00 (16:00 GMT) at Kinshasa International Airport, aboard a special flight from Paris.
Under his presidency (2007-2012), France and Rwanda were officially reconciled, after accusations of “complicity” in genocide brought by Kigali against Paris for its support to the Rwandan Hutu regime responsible for the death in 1994 of 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis. Nicolas Sarkozy had recognized in 2010 “serious errors of appreciation” and a “form of blindness” of France.