French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday pledged 34 million euros ($36 million) in aid to Congo’s conflict-torn east and said any side trying to derail peace efforts should face sanctions.

Macron was speaking during an official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the perception of French support for neighboring Rwanda has fueled anti-French sentiment as eastern regions are fighting an offensive by the M23 rebel group that Congo has backed over Rwanda. Rwanda denies this.

France has previously joined the United Nations, Congo, and other countries in accusing Rwanda of supporting the M23, but during a news conference in Kinshasa, Macron was asked to condemn Rwanda more strongly.

“I have been very clear about the condemnation of the M23 and those who support it,” Macron said.

A peace process mediated by regional powers in Angola in November has so far failed to end the fighting, but Macron said he was confident of the plan.

“If they do not respect it, then yes there can be sanctions,” he said without naming any particular party.

Congo saw several small-scale protests ahead of Macron’s visit – signs of anti-French sentiment in parts of francophone Africa that he is trying to address on a tour where he has seen a new form of partnership with the continent.

By Archana

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