Conflict in eastern DRC: why has the security crisis worsened?

    On October 29, the M23 rebels took control of Kiwanja and Rutshuru-centre, major strategic cities in the province of North Kivu, located about forty kilometers from the city of Goma.

    Kenya will deploy a contingent as part of a regional peacekeeping force in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Kenyan troops will help halt the advance of the M23 rebels.

    What happened?

    "It was too early around 5 a.m. when we heard gunshots. We fled in each direction," local BBC correspondent Shukuru Yvonne, a mother of three, told reporters. She says she walked for miles with two of her children to find shelter.

    “The M23 rebels entered on Saturday morning. The army had left Kiwanja and Rutshuru-centre before their arrival. But we hope that the army will recover these cities because many people who had fled Bunagana are in this area,” Patient Komayombi, president of Rutshuru Civil Society Dynamics, told the BBC.

    This situation has caused the displacement of thousands of people who lack everything.

    "We took the Goma line on foot; So we arrived yesterday around 6 p.m. I have a husband and three children. But I don't know where he is now. We were together. When we left the house in a hurry in dispersed order, he was holding one of our children. We could hear the shots. But I don't know where he went, so many of us, "says Yvonne.

    These displaced people urgently need water, food, medical assistance, shelter and other basic necessities, according to the humanitarians.

    In response, residents of the city of Goma took to the streets on October 30 and 31 to condemn Rwanda's alleged support for the March 23 Movement (M23).

    In their demands, some demonstrators called for the intervention of Russia and China to end the killings in this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The provincial government of North Kivu, in a communication broadcast on national television, asked the population not to organize a demonstration so as not to give the opportunity to other armed groups to sow even more insecurity in The area.

    The Congolese authorities accuse the M23 rebels of being supported by the Rwandan army, which Kigali rejects. In turn, Rwanda accuses the Congolese army of lending a hand to the Rwandan Hutu rebels, FDLR, an accusation that Kinshasa denies.

    It was last June that the M23 rebels took control of the border town of Bunagana.

    The reaction of the DRC

    Felix Tshisekedi

    Faced with this rapid progression of the M23 rebels on Congolese territory in less than a week, President Félix Tshisekedi urgently convened an enlarged meeting of the Higher Defense Council to assess the situation.

    “The President of the Republic first brought together the members of the government from this part of the country. Then, he chaired the meeting of the Superior Defense Council, at the end of which the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula, was instructed to notify the Rwandan ambassador of his expulsion, which been done today", reported Patrick Muyaya, government spokesman during a press briefing held on October 31 in the evening in Kinshasa.

    It was in the afternoon of October 31 that Vincent Kagera, Rwandan ambassador to the DRC left the country.

    "Here, we denounce this belligerent attitude of Kigali for which our armed forces will respond to the supreme sacrifice so that no square centimeter of the Democratic Republic of Congo can be ceded," said the Congolese spokesperson.

    Rwanda's response

    In a statement, the Rwandan government noted with regret Kinshasa's decision to expel Vincent Kagera. For Rwanda, the DRC government continues to blame Rwanda for its own governance and security failures.

    Rwandan security forces on the border with the DRC are now on high alert, the statement said, and continue to monitor the Congolese escalation. Kigali promises to give its position soon in response to the decisions taken by Kinshasa.

    Paul Kagame

    Last June, several decisions had already been taken against Rwanda. The government had suspended all memorandums of understanding, agreements and conventions with its neighbour.

    Other reactions

    MONUSCO condemned the M23 offensive which it described as unacceptable in the localities of Kiwanja and Rutshuru and the attacks against civilian populations, whose strikes caused loss of human life.

    MONUSCO also condemned the persistence of messages of hatred and incitement to violence, on the rise in this context of the deterioration of the security situation in North Kivu and the distress of civilian populations seeking refuge in secure areas.

    Four blue helmets were injured during these clashes.

    At least one truck belonging to UN forces was burned overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday when 'angry civilians' attacked the convoy of forces which were 'tactically withdrawing' from an area taken by M23 rebels after clashes. A local journalist told the BBC that "angry civilians" attacked the convoy above Kanyaruchinya, less than 10 km north of Goma, injuring some UN personnel in the convoy. In a statement, MONUSCO said peacekeepers fired to disperse the crowd and "succeeded in leaving the scene", adding that two of its engineers from Bangladesh were injured. On Tuesday afternoon, the blue helmets - who fight alongside the national army - declared that

    Un camion de la Monusco en feu

    The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced in a press release that it had raised the alert level of its troops to support the Congolese army.

    For its part, the African Union (AU) expressed deep concern over the deteriorating security situation in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and called for an immediate ceasefire.

    She called on all parties to respect international law, the safety of civilians and stability at the borders of all countries in the region, reads a joint statement signed by the current Chairman of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.

    The AU recommends that all parties participate in good faith in the Third Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue to be held in Nairobi from 4 to 13 November 2022.

    Capture d'écran communiqué Union africaine

    The same is true of the United States, which strongly condemns the resumption of fighting by the armed group of the March 23 Movement (M23) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and deplores the human suffering, in particular the forced displacement and killings of civilians.

    The United States calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

    The European Union, tweeted, said it associates itself with the statements of the African Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations following the resurgence of violence in eastern DRC. It affirms its solidarity with the thousands of civilians once again hard hit by this violence.

    Congolese President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo received on October 30 the special envoy of Angolan President Joao Lourenço. Tete Antonio, Minister of External Relations of Angola, declared, at the end of this meeting, that his message was part of the permanent consultation between the two Heads of State on bilateral cooperation but also on the files related to Peace and Security in Eastern DRC.

    "President Lourenço is mediating between the DRC and Rwanda within the framework of the ICGLR continues to find a peaceful solution to the dispute between Kinshasa and Kigali through the application of the Luanda roadmap established in July 2022", affirmed the Angolan special envoy to the Congolese press.

    How to read these latest events?

    The return to fighting can be explained by three facts, according to Congolese political analyst Christian Moleka.

    Christian Moleka
    image caption,

    Christian Moleka

    First of all, there is the ambiguity of the Congolese government in its security strategy in the sub-region.

    “At the start of his term, President Félix Tshisekedi began with a bilateral rapprochement with Kagame, with the M23. Then, he backpedaled which meant that several mechanisms that were being developed had been stopped,” explained the Congolese analyst.

    Then there is the isolation of Paul Kagame and his desire to keep a stranglehold on the security agenda in eastern Congo.

    Rwanda considers the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the FDLR, active in the DRC, as a danger to its security.

    According to the words of Christian Moleka, Kinshasa has favored bilateral cooperation with the Ugandan army leading to economic consequences which reduce the influence of Rwanda in the eastern part of the country. Projects such as the construction of the Kasindi-Goma-Butembo road, which is developing an economic partnership between the two countries to the detriment of Rwanda, which is at war for influence and positioning against Uganda around many projects, in particular that of the railway.

    “The resumption of fighting corresponds with the deployment of Ugandan forces and the road works at the Kasindi border post,” noted the Congolese analyst.

    And the third thing, according to him, is Kinshasa's refusal to negotiate with the M23 rebels.

    The military option is used to impose this dialogue that the Congolese president refuses.

    Angola has always sought to bridge the gap since the capture of Bunagana.

    For Christian Moleka, Angola is doing this with the support of the African Union and the American government.

    Since the implementation of the roadmap and the meetings, there has certainly been very little progress and Angola's goal today is to bring the two parties to the negotiating table and try to activate the implementation of the roadmap in order to provide a diplomatic response to the security crisis.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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