The origins of the current violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo lie in the massive refugee crisis and the spread of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. After Hutu genocidaires fled to eastern DRC and formed armed groups, opposing Tutsi and other opportunist rebel groups rose. The Congolese government was unable to control and defeat the various armed groups, some of which directly threatened populations in neighbouring countries, and eventually, war broke out.
From 1998 to 2003, government forces backed by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe fought rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda in the so-called Second Congo War. Although estimates vary widely, the death toll may have reached over three million people. Despite a peace agreement in 2002 and the formation of an interim government in 2003, violence by armed groups against civilians in the eastern region persists, mainly due to poor governance, weak institutions, and rampant corruption.
One of the most prominent rebel groups to emerge after the war was the March 23 Movement (M23), made up mostly of ethnic Tutsis, allegedly supported by the Rwandan government. The M23 rebelled against the Congolese government for allegedly breaching a peace accord signed in 2009. The UN Security Council authorized an offensive brigade under the mandate of the UN Organization for the Stabilization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to support the State Army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its fight against M23. The army of the Congolese along with the UN peacekeepers defeated the group in the year 2013, while the other armed groups emerged.
The country's vast resource wealth -- an estimated $24 trillion in untapped natural resources -- also fuels violence. The mineral trade provides funds for groups to operate and purchase weapons. The U.S passed legislation in 2010 in other to reduce purchases of "conflict minerals" and also to prevent funding for armed militias, but complex supply chains in the DRC mineral sales business have left companies buying resources from used buyers and making it difficult to get the certification. As a result, multinational companies stopped buying minerals from the DRC altogether, leaving many miners unemployed and even forcing some to join armed groups to gain a livelihood.
The Norwegian Refugee Council has declared the situation in DR Congo the world's most neglected refugee crisis - for the second time in a row. In the last iteration, which began in May, her army fought the M23 rebel group, which is wagging its most sustained offensive since a 2012-2013 insurgency as it seized vast tracts of land.
In terms of area, the huge Central African country is the second-largest country on the continent and the eleventh largest in the world. This space, particularly its mineral-rich eastern region, has been the battleground for more than a hundred armed groups fighting there for control of the territory or using it as a base for attacks on some of its immediate neighbours - Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Rwanda, and Uganda.
Consequently, this has resulted in the deaths and displacement of many Congolese citizens.
This month the Norwegian Refugee Council declared the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the world's most neglected refugee crisis - for the second year in a row. At least five million people are internally displaced and a million more are fleeing abroad, the aid organization said. The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by fighting by at least 122 rebel groups for more than 25 years, according to a recent United Nations census.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), M23, and the Mai-Mai are among the deadliest in North Kivu and Ituri, two local mining provinces bordering Rwanda and Uganda. On May 6, 2021, following growing insecurity in the east of the country, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, declared a state of siege in both provinces, and military governors were appointed.
However, fighting continues as even camps for displaced people and other civilian areas are attacked. According to a UNHCR statement, 94 people were killed at a site for internally displaced people (IDP) in Djugu territory in February.
According to UNHCR, more than 72,000 people have been displaced by fighting in recent weeks. On March 29, eight UN soldiers died in a helicopter crash in North Kivu. The incident hereby remains unexplained, according to the statement by the UN, but Kinshasa has blamed the M23 for the incident.
The governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda now accuse each other of supporting or supporting various armed groups and military provocations. A Congolese soldier was shot dead, prompting the DRC to close its border with Rwanda.
CODELCO is one of the armed groups in Ituri. It is a self-defence militia made up mainly of members of the Lendu ethnic group. The group has been operating since 2013 and has directed many killings, but their grievances remain unclear.
Ituri has also been beset by violence attributed to ADF rebels, believed to be the deadliest of the region's many armed groups. The ADF was formed in Uganda in 1995 before being relocated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Mai-Mai are warriors who claim to be protected by the magical properties of water. The group began as a rebellion that broke out in 1964.
On March 23, 2009, the Congolese government signed a peace agreement with a pro-Tutsi militia. The M23 fighters named themselves after this agreement. Almost a decade after disappearing after the 2012-2013 uprising, the M23 reappeared last November to attack Congolese army positions. November 2021, M23 rebels are accused of attacking the army positions in Rutshuru territory in eastern DRC. Since then they have continued their attacks on the Congolese army. According to a recent official statement by DRC Army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge Bomusa, Rwanda supports the Tutsi-led M23 movement.
After the Congolese statement, the Rwandan army denied the allegations. She countered by saying her neighbours attacked her army along with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia made up mostly of Hutu fighters. "Two of the Rwandan Defense Forces soldiers are abducted during a patrol," the Rwanda President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, repeatedly expressed his disappointment by not being involved in the military operations again the ADF and is believed to view Uganda's intervention in the DRC as a territorial threat. He said he has been considering various mechanisms in addressing the security situation in the eastern DRC. Kagame has also not had the best of relationships with Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, his former mentor, although that relationship is improving.
"The intervention of Uganda had profound geopolitical implications", according to the Congo Research Group report, the operation disrupted Rwanda, and that was one of the reasons for the resurgence of the M23 rebellion.
In Kinshasa, hundreds of activists and civil society groups have held anti-Rwanda rallies, accusing Kigali of instigating conflict in the eastern region for decades - ever since Hutu genocidal militants first fled Rwanda after the 1994 crisis.