AFRICA/D.R. CONGO - Controversy over sending a regional military force to pacify eastern DRC

Tuesday, 21 June 2022 violence   civil society   bishops  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - A regional peacekeeping force to stabilize eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This was agreed in Nairobi during the June 20 meeting between East African leaders on security in this region of the DRC, also taking into account the recent tensions between Kinshasa and Rwanda, which accuse each other of supporting anti-government guerrilla movements. "The Heads of State indicated that the regional force should, in collaboration with the army and the administrative forces of the DRC, seek to stabilize and guarantee peace in the DRC. The Heads of State called for an immediate ceasefire and an immediate cessation of hostilities", said a statement issued by the Kenyan presidency, which chaired the meeting. The announcement of the dispatch of the regional force to the eastern regions of the DRC provoked strong reactions in Congo. Citizens' movement Lucha said that in fact soldiers from neighboring countries are already present in the DRC "in one form or another". In an open letter to Congolese President Felix Tshiseked, Lucha stresses that "the Rwandan army is associated with M23 in North Kivu and supports Red Tabara in South Kivu. The Ugandan army has been operating with its authorization in North Kivu and Ituri since November 2021. The Burundian army operates regularly in South Kivu and the South Sudanese army in the province of Haut-Hulé". " As for the armies from Kenya and Tanzania - continues the document sent to Fides - they are already present in North Kivu and Ituri as part of the United Nations Rapid Intervention Force". Lucha recalls that in eastern DRC, various local and foreign forces have been vying for control of territory and local resources for more than 30 years, and that Congolese territory is used by certain foreign armed movements to launch attacks against their governments. The presence of UN blue helmets for decades has not made it possible to secure the area. Instead of the regional force, Lucha calls for a reinforcement of the UN forces, the withdrawal of the Ugandan military, the launch of a process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the militias and the creation of an international tribunal for the east of the DRC. Faced with the escalation of violence committed by the M23, the Bishop of Goma, His Excellency Mgr. Willy Ngumbi Ngengele had recently urged "not to fall into the trap of the enemies of peace". "In the situation of recurrent insecurity in the east of the DRC, it is important to ask for peace, a precious treasure that has been denied to us for more than three decades". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 21/6/2022)