Clashes in eastern DR Congo is pursuing the ‘Dialogue’ initiative as an envoy

Clashes in eastern DR Congo is pursuing the ‘Dialogue’ initiative as an envoy


Troops and rebels exchanged heavy fire in DRC on Monday, a military source and local residents said, as an East African bloc envoy urged all armed groups to “silence guns.”

Government forces and the M23 militia were fighting in Kibumba, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the strategic town of Goma, the sources said over the phone.

M23 fighters have also been sighted about 40 kilometers northwest of the city in Virunga National Park, a wildlife haven famous for its mountain gorillas but also a hideout for armed groups, the sources said.

A mainly Congolese Tutsi group, M23 – the March 23 Movement – rose to prominence in 2012 when it briefly took Goma before being expelled.

After years of lying dormant, the rebels took up arms again in late 2021, claiming that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had failed, among other things, in a pledge to integrate them into the army.

Since then, they have won a series of victories against the military and seized parts of the territory, prompting thousands of people to flee their homes.

The resurgence has heightened diplomatic tensions, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbor Rwanda of backing the group.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador late last month as the M23 advanced and recalled its own envoy from Kigali.

Rwanda denies any support for the M23 and accuses the Congolese army of collaborating with the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – a notorious Hutu rebel movement involved in the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.

“The Rwandan army and its M23 allies don’t stop launching attacks on our various positions in Kibumba every day,” Lt. Col. Guillaume Ndjike, army spokesman for eastern North Kivu province, told reporters.

Witnesses in the rebel-held town of Kiwanja also said last week that school cafeterias supported by the World Food Program were looted on Sunday and Monday.

“There was cornmeal and oil. They took these supplies as food rations,” said a local resident.

Another said oil cans, sacks of flour and beans had been taken away in trucks the previous day.

– ‘Silence the Guns’ –

The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced two bloody regional wars in the 1990s.

This conflict, along with the Rwandan genocide, left a legacy of numerous armed groups that remain active throughout the region, but particularly in North Kivu.

The leaders of the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) announced on Sunday that they would hold a “peace dialogue” over the conflicts in the region.

“All groups that are currently armed should lay down those arms and choose the path of peace through dialogue,” EAC mediator former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday.

He arrived in Kinshasa the day before to hold consultations ahead of the Nov. 21 peace talks in Nairobi.

“Fire up the guns to silence and engage in a political process,” he urged local armed groups.

For foreign groups, “the Democratic Republic of the Congo is no longer the battleground for issues that don’t originate in this country,” Kenyatta added.

“There is nothing that can be gained by the barrel of a gun.”

Angolan President Joao Lourenco is exploring another diplomatic avenue.

He met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Friday and with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on Saturday.

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