Tshisekedi and Kagame Discuss Africa’s Latest Flash Point

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at talks between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Boris Johnson’s latest setback, and more news worth following from around the world.

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Tshisekedi and Kagame Meet in Angola

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at talks between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Boris Johnson’s latest setback, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Tshisekedi and Kagame Meet in Angola

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi meets his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, today in the Angolan capital, Luanda, as the two leaders discussed the latest flash point in a war-ravaged region.

The latest dispute centers around the activities of the M23, a Congolese rebel group that has recently reemerged after a 10-year hiatus. The group has launched sophisticated military operations in recent weeks, overrunning the town of Bunagana near the Democratic Republic of the Congo border with Uganda and Rwanda. Congo has been adamant that the group’s revival comes with Rwanda’s blessing—as well as military backing.

Mélanie Gouby, reporting from Bunagana for Foreign Policy on Monday, spoke with M23 fighters who said they had lain dormant until now, surviving in the mountains along the Congo-Rwanda-Uganda border. “It remains hard to square how the group survived five years on an inhospitable mountain with the sudden, spectacular conquests of recent weeks,” Gouby writes.

The increased tensions came after Tshisekedi invited troops from neighboring Uganda late last year to help combat a separate rebel group—the Allied Democratic Forces. Rwandan officials worry that Uganda will use the ongoing operation as a pretext to increase its own sphere of influence, raising the possibility that it will intervene.

Although historical grievances in the region run deep, there’s much more than pride at stake. Congo’s rich mineral deposits, particularly the metals needed to power the world’s electronic devices and batteries, have made the country a valuable target for its neighbors, which have profited from smuggling networks.

Congo’s resource wealth has helped make gold Uganda’s prime export, despite most of it originating in Congo. The same goes for the metallic ore coltan, which Congo’s neighbors export in large numbers despite not having close to the same reserves.

If he does decide to deploy military forces, Kagame is unlikely to face Western pushback. Kagame, who has helped build up the country’s position as a “donor darling” despite repressive policies and human rights abuses, has recently cast the country as a Western partner on immigration—inking deals with both the United Kingdom and Denmark to take asylum-seekers.

He’s also fresh off the PR victory of hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the capital, Kigali, in June.

Aside from Tshisekedi’s efforts, the International Crisis Group recommends that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta attempt to pressure Kagame on the issue. Not only is Kenya set to reap the trade benefits of Congo’s new status as a member of the East African Community, but it also acts as a security partner through its participation in the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, which is charged with fighting rebels in Congo.

Claude Gatebuke, the director of the African Great Lakes Action Network, worries that the region could soon descend into wider conflict. “Without a vigorous confidence-building process between the two sides, a wider interstate conflict is a strong possibility,” Gatebuke told the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “That would likely draw in Uganda and possibly Burundi on the side of the DRC.”

What We’re Following Today

Boris Johnson’s future. After months of scandals, Boris Johnson’s tenure as British prime minister came closer to ending on Tuesday with the surprise resignation of two of his most high-profile ministers: Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid. (Two other lower-ranking ministers resigned on Wednesday morning, and various Conservative Party members of Parliament have withdrawn their support of Johnson.)

The two men announced their departures after Johnson admitted to appointing a Conservative MP, Chris Pincher, to a senior position despite knowing that sexual misconduct complaints had been made against Pincher. Under Conservative Party rules, Johnson cannot face another no-confidence vote until next summer, although party officials are able to change those rules as they see fit, and either of the departing ministers may yet position himself to mount a challenge.

The scandals appear to have weighed on the Conservative Party’s popularity. The latest poll, taken before the resignations, shows the opposition Labour Party 9 percentage points ahead, although Conservatives can take heart that fresh elections are not due for two years.

In a year of twists and turns, Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, speaking to the BBC, compared Johnson’s survival to that of the Russian mystic Rasputin: “He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body’s been dumped in the freezing river, and still he lives.”

Today’s Daily Mail front-page headline was less lyrical: “Can even Boris the Greased Piglet wriggle out of this?”

Donetsk next? Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Ukrainian province of Donetsk, has called for the 350,000 remaining civilians there to leave as Russian forces turn their attention to the area after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in neighboring Luhansk on Monday. Kyrylenko said that the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk are now Russia’s “No. 1 target.”

Keep an Eye On

Blinken’s travels. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs Washington today on a trip to Southeast Asia that will include stops in Bali, Indonesia, for a meeting of G-20 foreign ministers, as well as Bangkok. The State Department has confirmed that Blinken will meet with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi while in Bali.

Iran talks. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday criticized Iranian negotiators for “consistently” introducing “extraneous demands” in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, adding that Iran was showing a “lack of seriousness.” The comments come after indirect talks between the United States and Iran ended in Doha, Qatar, without plans to reconvene. European Union foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell, after speaking with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday, expressed hope a deal could still materialize but said that “decisions are needed now.”

Odds and Ends

Sporting authorities in Sierra Leone are investigating two soccer matches over suspicions of match fixing. The two games in question ended 95-0 and 91-1, respectively, with 177 of the 187 total goals coming in the second half of both matches.

Sierra Leone Football Association President Thomas Daddy Brima has vowed a full investigation into the four teams involved. “We can’t stand by and see an embarrassing situation like this go unpunished,” he told BBC Sport Africa.


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