AFRICA/D.R. CONGO - High tensions between the DRC and Rwanda; concerns about human rights abuses

Saturday, 5 November 2022 armed groups   human rights  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - Tension is rising between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of "interference" in the east of its national territory. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi called on young people to "organize themselves into vigilante groups" in the face of the M23 rebellion which, he said, enjoys "Rwanda's support".
Rwanda has "expansionist tendencies, with the main interest in the appropriation of our minerals", he accused, in a message to the nation broadcast on national television.
To do this, he seeks to destabilize eastern Congo in order to create a zone of lawlessness to satisfy his criminal appetites", continued the president of the DRC,
deploring that the various diplomatic initiatives undertaken to ease tensions have led to "no tangible results".
The appeal of the Congolese head of state to organize "vigilance groups" recalls the denunciation of Human Rights Watch (HRW) which, in one of its reports, affirms that, in the fighting against the M23, some Congolese national army units have resorted to armed groups implicated in serious human rights violations. The M23 is a guerrilla movement that signed a peace agreement with the Kinshasa government in 2013 (see Fides, 13/12/2013) but has recently taken up arms again. After several weeks of calm, the M23 rebellion has been on the offensive since 20 October in the territory of Rutshuru, where it has conquered several localities on a strategic road axis towards Goma, capital of North Kivu province.
Between May and August 2022, the Congolese army fought against M23 together with a coalition of Congolese militias and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). In some cases, Congolese army officers provided direct support to armed groups. "Some Congolese army units are again resorting to the squalid practice of seeking the cooperation of certain armed groups, often responsible for serious violations of human rights", the report said. "The Congolese government must put an end to this collaboration, which is in fact an expression of the army's complicity with the armed groups and of its involvement in the violence they commit. The government should therefore identify the agents involved in order to that they can be held responsible for their behavior".
In June, in Nairobi, the member states of the East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda and the DRC) officially announced the creation of an intervention force for the east of the DRC. under the command of Kenya.
Besides the 1,000 soldiers pledged by Kenya, the regional force will also include troops from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan. A Rwandan contingent will be positioned along the border with the DRC but will not be part of the force deployed on Congolese territory due to a veto from Kinshasa. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 5/11/2022)