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DR Congo/RwandaBack
[Published: Thursday February 22 2024]

 Relations between DR Congo and Rwanda are deteriorating

KINSHASA, 22 Feb. - (ANA) - What’s happening? Tensions are escalating between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following the advance of M23 rebel forces in recent weeks towards the city of Goma in eastern DRC. Dozens have reportedly been killed in the assault and the United Nations has accused M23 of “indiscriminate bombing.” DRC President Felix Tshisekedi has accused the Paul Kagame-led Rwandan government of backing M23 to destabilize the country. Rwanda has described the situation in eastern DRC as a national security threat and vowed to defend itself.
What’s the background to the conflict? 
Two years after defeating the government responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the Kagame-led Rwandan government went after ethnic extremist groups that were among the millions that fled Rwanda for neighboring DRC. This marked the first of two wars in eastern DRC and the beginning of constant conflict and instability in the region. M23, a group forged in that conflict, re-emerged in 2021 after years of being dormant. It is only one of over 100 armed groups vying for control of lucrative mines and trade routes in the mineral-rich region. Eastern DRC’s mineral resources include cobalt, a key component in many electronic devices.
Why is this escalation different from other periods of unrest? 
“The big fear is that this escalation could trigger a direct military conflict between Rwanda and DRC because of the military build up reported on both sides,” explained Nairobi-based security consultant Brian Githinji, warning that a war would have devastating consequences for the region. The UN is also warning of the risk of direct confrontation between the two countries, while the U.S. is urging them to “walk back from the brink of war.”
Why is this escalation happening? 
Githinji said the expiration of a ceasefire on Dec. 28, 2023, coupled with the exit of an East African peacekeeping force in November last year, had left eastern DRC exposed and allowed the M23 rebels to advance on Goma. He argued that the offensive had influenced the first battlefield deployment in DRC of a Southern Africa peacekeeping force in February.
Why is the U.S. criticizing Rwanda? 
The U.S., in a Feb. 18 statement, condemned Rwanda for its alleged support of M23 and demanded that Kigali withdraw military personnel and surface to air missiles from DRC. The statement was expected to put pressure on Rwanda, which has long denied links to M23. In response, however, Rwanda said it would seek clarification from Washington on whether the statement “represents an abrupt shift in policy, or simply a lack of internal coordination.”
Who else has commented? 
France on Tuesday called on Rwanda to “cease all support for M23 and to withdraw from Congolese territory.” While it welcomed the statement, DRC called for international economic sanctions against Rwanda over their support of M23.
What does the UN want? 
The UN has called on M23 to cease its offensive, noting the growing strain on resources to support an estimated 800,000 internally displaced people in the region, and 2.5 million more displaced in the larger North Kivu province. The UN Security Council on Tuesday sanctioned six people from five armed groups in eastern DRC.   - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/22 February 2024 — - -


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