Tensions continue to rise between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is mainly due to the attacks by the Rwandan rebels Movement of March 23 (M23) in the eastern region of the DRC. In the process, the two countries accuse each other and one wonders whether East Africa will once again witness the genocidal events of 1994.
Like a horror movie, feelings of hatred and confrontation seem to be resurfacing more and more in East Africa. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), approximately 75,000 people have been forced to move internally from the DRC, and a further 11,557 people have taken refuge in Uganda since the fighting began in November 2021. How high will the statistics go if the violence does not stop? These tensions between the two countries, which have already lasted for several weeks, are causing numerous reactions and raising fears of mass killings in the region.
Towards a diplomatic breakdown?
On 15 June, the Congolese Higher Defence Council met under the chairmanship of the Head of State, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi. The agenda focuses on the security situation in the east of the country. Important decisions were announced, mainly concerning relations with Rwanda accused of supporting the M23. Among other measures, according to Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman, these include the suspension of all agreements and pre-agreements signed with the Rwandan state. Kigali is also called upon to withdraw its troops from Congolese territory. Moreover, he adds that many M23 fighters belong to the Tutsi ethnic group, the same as that of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
From the beginning of the story, Kigali has dismissed the charges out of hand before stating through its Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta, that Rwanda will “retaliate” in the event of an attack on its territory from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Kinshasa, where a demonstration had already taken place last Monday, the demonstrators, surrounded by police, gathered in front of the Rwandan embassy shouting “Let the Rwandans go home”.
Calls for peace continue to grow
African and international organisations are concerned about the issue. According to Jakob Kerstan, Konrad Adenauer Foundation representative in the DRC, it is important to continue to seek a peace consensus. ” At the level of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, we remain convinced that the dialogue promised by the heads of state in the region remains one of the best ways to achieve peace. Young people in the region need to realise their role in this process and get on with it quickly. said M. Kerstan. Monusco, the UN stabilisation mission in the DRC, has reiterated its call for an end to hostilities in eastern DRC. It also calls on the various actors to show compassion so that the killing of civilians stops.
Monusco’s deputy spokesperson, Ndeye Khady Lo, recalls that the blue helmets will continue to support the Congolese army. ” Monusco provides the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo with constant and comprehensive support in several forms: intelligence, logistics with supplies and health support. It adds that this support to the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo against the armed groups operating in eastern DRC is multifaceted. Our peacekeepers are ready to continue this support in accordance with their mandates.
The AU chairperson said he was also concerned about the tension in eastern DRC and “calls on both countries to calm down and engage in dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the crisis with the support of regional mechanisms and the African Union”. I hope that the conflicting groups understand each other for the sake of peace in East Africa.
A look at some reasons
Apparently, this latest spike in tension is due to allegations that Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels. Indeed, it should also be noted that with a surface area of 2,345,000 km2 , roughly the size of Western Europe, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The national institutions, the decision-making bodies, are based in Kinshasa, so the armed groups take advantage of the absence of the state in these areas to impose themselves in the region. The other major cause is the exploitation and illegal trafficking of mineral materials.
Congolese citizens and researchers have reportedly suspected Rwanda of encouraging instability in this geographical area in order to weaken the Congolese government’s ability to control the trafficking of natural resources (minerals, fauna and flora) there.
It should be remembered that the DRC is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of subsoil and that Rwanda has one of the most efficient armies in Africa.