Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said Monday he had "no problem" with his troops being excluded from a proposed regional force for the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo
East African leaders agreed at a meeting in Kenya last month to deploy a joint force to quell fighting in the east of DRC but Kinshasa insisted it would not accept the presence of Rwandan troops, blaming Kigali for backing a resurgent rebel group.
"The third meeting we had in Nairobi was about having a force that Rwanda is not going to be part of, which I have no problem with," Kagame told state-run Rwanda Broadcasting Agency.
"Victory will come when you have solved the crisis and these political problems, not because you could not allow Rwanda (to be part of the force)."
The vast mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the volatile east, many of which are a legacy of two regional wars a quarter of a century ago.
A recent flare-up of heavy fighting in the east has revived decades-old animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali, with the DRC accusing Rwanda of backing the M23 militia -- claims denied by Kigali.
On Monday, Kagame echoed the denial, saying the rebels were Congolese.
"What is happening there is an internal crisis that touches the persecution of Congolese people," he said.
Relations between Kinshasa and Kigali have been strained since the mass arrival in the DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Ties had begun to improve after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019, but the recent flareup of violence linked to the M23 has reignited tensions.
The M23 or "March 23 Movement" is a former Tutsi-dominated rebel group that was defeated in 2013 but took up arms again in late 2021.
But the militia has recently made a comeback, clashing with Congolese troops in fighting that has forced thousands of people to flee to neighbouring Uganda.