Congolese cautiously welcome dealings with rebel violence

Congolese cautiously welcome dealings with rebel violence


Congolese and security experts on Thursday reacted cautiously to the announcement of an imminent ceasefire in an escalating conflict in eastern DRC.

A militia called M23 has been gaining ground since the start of an offensive in North Kivu province earlier this year and is located just a few tens of kilometers from Goma, a town of around a million people.

The fighting has sparked a wave of diplomatic tensions with neighboring Rwanda, which has accused the DRC of supporting the rebels – an accusation Kigali denies.

On Wednesday, however, talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital Luanda resulted in an agreement on an “immediate ceasefire” that will take effect at 1600 GMT on Friday.

Both sides also agreed to demand “the immediate withdrawal” of the M23s “from the occupied territories”.

Onesphore Sematumba, an analyst at think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), said the fact that the Angola-brokered meeting took place was in itself good news “given the rising tensions”.

However, he questioned whether the deal between DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta would gain any traction.

The rebels did not take part, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame was also absent for reasons that are still unclear.

“The M23 can always say that they weren’t there… and that they are not responsible for a document that they didn’t sign,” Sematumba said, adding “it would have been better if President Kagame had been there.” “

Kagame’s absence is “not a good sign,” said Congolese politician Patrick Mundeke.

Jean-Claude Bambaze, leader of civil society groups in Rutshuru territory, much of which has been captured by the M23, said he hoped the rebels would pull out now.

But, he said, “we are concerned because it will not be the first time that (political) decisions have not been implemented.”

The DRC and Rwanda agreed on a de-escalation plan in July – but clashes erupted again the next day.

“The Luanda Summit sends a strong message to the M23 and we applaud it,” said Lumumba Kambere Muyisa, a member of a campaign group called LUCHA, which means “fight for change.”

But, he said, the question is “feasibility” – how the deal would be implemented on the ground.

– Resurgent Militia –

The M23, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, first rose to prominence 10 years ago by capturing Goma before being expelled and submerged.

It resurfaced late last year, claiming that, among other things, the DRC failed to live up to a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army.

The M23 is one of an estimated 120 armed groups that have turned eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo into one of Africa’s most violent regions.

Many of them are remnants of two wars before the turn of the century that swept through countries in East and Central Africa and claimed the lives of millions of people.

Rwanda denies the DRC’s allegations and accuses Kinshasa of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group formed after the 1994 genocide in the DRC.

The East African Community (EAC), of which Rwanda is a part, has also pledged to deploy a joint force to quell the violence.

Kenyan soldiers arrived in the DRC earlier this month, and Uganda says it will deploy around 1,000 troops shortly.

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