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Macron to Kagame: "Stop M23 Support!"

FILE: Displaced people who fled clashes between the Congolese army and M23 rebels try to timidly return to their homes in Kibumba, a few kilometres from the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 1, 2022.

France has condemned Rwanda's alleged support for M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a volatile region where the militia has seized swaths of territory in recent months.

During a visit to the DRC's capital Kinshasa on Tuesday, French minister of state Chrysoula Zacharopoulou told reporters the M23 must lay down its arms and abandon the areas it occupies.

"Rwanda, because it must be named, must stop supporting the M23," she said. "We must put an end to the repetition of history in this region".

Zacharopoulou's declaration came after France's foreign ministry on Monday evening also called on Rwanda to cut links with the M23.

On Tuesday, Zacharopoulou said that "the role of a friend" is not only to denounce but also to find solutions.

"The relationship that we have rebuilt with Kigali, we are putting it at the service of peace," the minister of state said.

Relations between Paris and Kigali had long been strained due to the former's stance during the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.

A Tutsi-led rebel group, the M23 first leapt to prominence when it captured the eastern Congolese city of Goma in 2012, before being driven out and going to ground.

But it re-emerged late last year, claiming the DRC had failed to honor a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.

The M23 has since surged across North Kivu province and come within several dozen kilometers of Goma. The violence has also displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller central African neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23, which Kigali strongly denies.

However, US officials and United Nations experts agree that Rwanda supports the rebels. Belgium -- the former colonial power in both the DRC and Rwanda -- also recently urged Kigali to stop backing the militia.

The French government at the time of the genocide had been a long-standing backer of the Hutu regime in power.