The past week for the Eastern region of Africa has been very nerve-racking, owing to an impending war between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The latest violence comes one day after Kenyan troops were deployed to eastern DRC, as part of a peacekeeping operation from the EAC bloc.
The tensions have escalated resulting in a spill-over effect. Kenya has already pledged its allegiance to the DRC side, noting that it has its commercial interest to protect in the country. Troops have been deployed, and finances have been set aside to service said troops. In July this year, Congolese citizens also protested against President Kagame and Rwanda and the recent developments have become a cause for concern in the region.
A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before being driven out and going underground. The group re-emerged in late 2021, taking up arms again on claims that the DRC had failed to honour a promise to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.
The M23’s resurgence has cratered relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the militia. Despite official Aan unpublished report for the United Nations seen by AFP in August pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23. Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month, as the M23 captured more territory, while also recalling its envoy from Kigali.
Fortunately, East African leaders have announced the commencement of peace talks before tensions further widen beyond resolve. The region’s heads of state hope to stabilize the DRC, where M23 rebels clashed with troops just north of its key city of Goma over the weekend. Deadly clashes lasted until Sunday night at Kibumba, another settlement about 20km from Goma, according to local residents and security officials
According to an Al-Jazeera report by Malcolm Webb,
“The Congolese army, North Congress army, says that they’re fighting soldiers from Rwanda and Uganda. The rebel group is widely understood to be a proxy of Rwanda, although Rwanda denies it. And so, people have fled…to try and get away from the fighting.”
“Meanwhile, community leaders on the other side of the frontline have told us that about 60,000 people are stuck behind the front line in the territory held by the M23 rebel group and that they want a humanitarian corridor to be created so they can leave that area before the fighting gets closer to them.”
The conflict between Congo and Rwanda stems from a suspicion that Rwandan authorities are secretly supporting the M23 rebels. However, Rwanda has vehemently denied the accusation. The M23 rebels of late have been gaining ground against the Congolese army, recording victories against the army and capturing significant territories. However, other military sources suggest that the situation was complex, with M23 fighters killed “en masse” and dead on the Congolese army’s side too.
Towards a peaceful resolution of dispute
Due to the increasing fissures in the Eastern region, African leaders on Sunday announced peace talks in a bid to stabilise the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where most of the violence took place. The seven-nation East African Community (EAC) stated that it would hold a “peace dialogue” on eastern DRC on November 21 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The ratcheting tensions have spurred a bout of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Angolan President Joao Lourenco met Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on Saturday, for example, after visiting Rwanda the previous day.
On Sunday, Kenya’s ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC’s mediator for the situation, was also due in Kinshasa for talks.