By Samuel Burke & Claire Calzonetti, CNN
One of the deadliest countries on earth may be on the cusp of peace its prime minister told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
Nearly four million people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since war erupted in 1998. A brief lull brought some calm until a rebel group called M23 launched a rebellion in resource-rich Eastern Congo last year and subsequently took over the city of Goma.
“Peace is really now at our reach in the whole of the DRC,” Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon told Amanpour. “If M23 rebels did not have external support to come and destabilize both territories, by now, we would have had peace and security on the whole of the DRC.”
A recent U.N. report accused the DRC's Western-backed neighbor, Rwanda, of supporting the M23 rebel group, although President Paul Kagame denied the accusation in an interview with Amanpour just last week.
“It's a big ‘no’ on the issue of saying that I am accepting this kind of responsibility,” Kagame told Amanpour. “But what I am accepting is that people can work together to find a solution to this problem that affects Rwanda [and] also affects the Congo.”
Prime Minister Ponyo said that the DRC takes the U.N. accusations aimed at Rwanda at face value. “It's not only the DRC that says it, even the United Nations says so,” adding that the alleged interference is an obstacle for achieving peace.
He also emphasized that the DRC President Joseph Kabila cannot restore peace overnight given that war has torn apart the DRC for more than a decade.
Prime Minister Ponyo is currently in the United Staes to pursue further diplomacy at the U.N. and in Washington, D.C.