Tshisekedi pegs longer stay of EACRF on M23 respecting ceasefire

The Democratic Republic of Congo has signaled it will be amenable for the longer stay of East African Community Regional Forces (EACRF) as long as they can force armed groups to respect the ceasefire.

The apparent climb-down emerged on Monday as President Felix Tshisekedi hosted his Burundian counterpart Evariste Ndiyishimiye, the current Chair of the East African Community.

And the meeting saw Tshisekedi, once a bitter critic of EACRF say there has been some positive engagements with regional leaders who now see the need for permanent ceasefire as a requirement for any peace talks with armed groups.

The Congolese leader did not expressly mention the end of the EACRF’s mandate, which is supposed to expire at early September. But he did say that there is now a better response from the troop contributing countries.

“It’s true that some days back, I expressed my certain annoyance at the behaviour of the East African regional force. But time has passed and the meetings have started being much tougher on the armed groups, just like the last one (on 24 August with the Defence ministers in Nairobi) in which our Deputy Prime Minister of Defence, Jean-Pierre Bemba, took part. “That meeting was much tougher on respecting the terms of the agreements reached through the Nairobi process, which is enriched by the Luanda roadmap

Nairobi and Luanda processes are part of a regional project to force the parties involved in the Congolese conflict to observe a ceasefire, before embarking on the road to peace.

“Time will tell if those talks can be transformed into action because decisions have been taken and these decisions apply immediately. We need to commit the M23 to respecting the terms of these processes,” said Félix Tshisekedi.

Ndayishimiye said a Summit of the heads of state will be held soon to examine DRC’s demands.

The Congolese president said his country will use that meeting to express its views on the basis of the findings, namely whether the M23 would finally be allowed to go into cantonment. 

The Congolese government has always taken the view that since March this year, the M23 has not really withdrawn from the conquered areas, even though there has been no fighting with the Congolese army for nearly six months. In Kinshasa, in the final joint communiqué signed by the DRC and Burundi, the two heads of state say that they “note and deplore the fact that the M23 does not have the will to disengage and go to the cantonment centres.”

Ndayishimiye and Tshisekedi “appealed to the region to assume its responsibilities and force the M23 to go into cantonment”.

Although the Congolese president was less vehement about the EACRF, he nevertheless continued to deplore the “laxity” he felt was being shown by the Eastern bloc contingents, with the exception of the Burundian troops, who he felt were more active in Kivu.  Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan are the other troop contributors to the EACRF.

“We are asking the EACRF to be more active, like the Burundian contingent, because in some places we continue to observe laxity on the part of the other contingents, who authorise the collection of taxes by the M23, which is totally illegal and unacceptable,” they said.

The two leaders said that, in addition to defence and security issues, on which they committed their two countries to work together more closely, the Burundian leader had visited Kinshasa to strengthen ties of cooperation.

They agreed to speed up an integration project, namely the construction of a bridge linking the Cibitoke  Province in Burundi with  South Kivu in the DRC. A railway is also to be built, linking Tanzania, Burundi and the DRC. Infrastructure projects should also include a road linking Bujumbura to Uvira and then Bukavu. In the commercial sphere, the two presidents have agreed to set up banking branches in Burundi and the DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has signaled it will be amenable for the longer stay of East African Community Regional Forces (EACRF) as long as they can force armed groups […]

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Families face starvation over insecurity in DRC-Uganda border

Several residents near the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border in the Kasese District face starvation due to insecurity caused by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.

According to the residents, many of them abandoned their gardens in the DRC, fearing for their safety after the June 16 attack on Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Secondary School where more than 40 people lost their lives including 38 children.

However, this has exposed them to hunger. We were not able to establish how many residents are affected.

Previously, the residents would cross to the DRC using porous borders and rivers to cultivate their gardens.

However, due to the prevailing insecurity, Ugandan security forces have tightened control of the borders. Anyone crossing to the Congo is required to use only recognised crossing points.

Ms Rebecca Kyakimwa, 50, says her two-acre garden is in Domena Village, DRC.

She said the crops in the garden, which include cassava, sweet potatoes, and yams, are ready for harvest but she is unable to access the garden.

 “Since the ADF rebels incident happened in Kasese, I cannot access my garden anymore because of the insecurity in Congo,” she said.

Mr Manasi Kakuhi had to abandon his garden near the border for fear of being caught in attacks by the rebels.

His family of 10 now faces starvation as their primary source of food is lost.

“When you want to cross to DRC using the main channel, you are required pay Ush10,000 ($2.78) at the border and the many of us don’t have that money. We also fear losing our lives,” he said.

“We sometimes hear gunshots at night, and I fear risking my life going to harvest crops from my gardens. We have nothing to eat at home and we are only living at the mercy of God,” he added.

The insecurity in the DRC has also affected the business community.

Mr Daniel Bwambale used to deal in shoes from DRC but with the ongoing insecurity in the country, his business has come to a halt.

Several residents near the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border in the Kasese District face starvation due to insecurity caused by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. According to the residents, […]

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UN warns of disastrous humanitarian situation in east DRC

The United Nations expressed alarm on Tuesday over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in three eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly 3.3 million people have been displaced since March 2022.

Militias and rebel groups have plagued much of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s. 

One particular armed group, the M23, has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu since taking up arms again in late 2021 after years of dormancy.

The UN warned on Thursday that to meet the needs of the people affected by violence in the region, humanitarian workers need more than $1.5 billion in funding.

“The humanitarian situation in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, already catastrophic, has deteriorated in recent months, and it has been essential to increase the scale of our operation,” said Suzanna Tkalec, UN coordinator for interim humanitarian aid in the DRC.

Humanitarian organisations have distributed aid and assistance to more than 910,000 people in those three provinces in the last six weeks, the UN office said.

“But by the end of the year the UN, the Red Cross and NGOs will need to be providing emergency aid to nearly 5.5 million people,” the UN said. 

Independent UN experts, the DRC government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of actively backing the M23, despite denials from Kigali.

The United Nations expressed alarm on Tuesday over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in three eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly 3.3 million people have […]

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40 civilians killed over 3 days in DRC’s Ituri Province, UN says

At least 40 civilians died in attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province over the course of three days last week, the UN said Tuesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said it was “sounding the alarm on a significant escalation of violence” in the area.

Armed groups have terrorized civilians in the former Zaire’s eastern region, where Ituri is located, for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.

“In the past week, at least 40 civilians were killed in the span of three days in attacks by armed groups near the city of Bunia,” Ocha said.

“Overall, more than 600 civilians have been killed in Ituri this year, while some 345,000 have been displaced,” it said.

“We strongly condemn this violence and call on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights principles,” Ocha said.

In the first quarter of 2023, the UN and its partners supported 460,000 people in Ituri, but a representative said the UN humanitarian response plan for the DRC is only 30 percent funded.

“We urge the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of the DRC and provide the support needed to address this spiraling humanitarian crisis,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

At least 40 civilians died in attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province over the course of three days last week, the UN said Tuesday. […]

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LGBTQ ‘merchandise’ ignite dispute at DR Congo mining conference

Controversy erupted at a key mining conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after merchandise said to promote gay, lesbian queer and other special sexual groups were distributed at the venue.

The mining conference known as the DRC Mining Week had opened its 18th edition on Wednesday in Lubumbashi, in the south of the country.  But the appearance of rainbow-coloured bags on the first day of the conference annoyed some groups.

“The promotion of homosexuality is against our morals, our values and our laws. And we won’t let this sham pass!” protested a group calling itself the Civil Society of Lubumbashi, in a statement.

“It’s a misguided attempt and a trial balloon in the form of a provocation! No LGBT in Lubumbashi” wrote the group. 

The youth group threatened to disrupt the conference on Thursday by staging a sit-in in front of the Pullman hotel, which is hosting the event.

In the DRC, the law does not specifically criminalise LGBTQ people, but they are culturally loathed.

The controversy overshadowed the debates on the first day of the conference, which had focused on electrical energy whose access in the DRC has become a major problem for the mining sector in particular.

Several mining firms have said they are considering working on a solution that would involve importing electricity in Zambia to compensate for the shortage in the DRC, with a view to enabling the mining industry in the Congo to develop more effectively.

Mr Owen Silavwe, the Managing Director Zambia’s Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc: “We are committed to identifying mutually beneficial public-private partnership projects that will support electricity consumers in Zambia and the DRC”. 

This year, the conference includes three days of exchanges between nearly 3,000 professionals and 200 exhibitors from more than 40 countries, aims to present and explore the projects and investment opportunities offered by the mining sector in the DRC.

Controversy erupted at a key mining conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after merchandise said to promote gay, lesbian queer and other special sexual groups were distributed at […]

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CIVIC SPACE IN NUMBERS

The CIVICUS Monitor measures enabling conditions for civil society or civic space. We provide ratings for civic space in 197 countries and territories (all UN member states and Hong Kong, Kosovo, Palestine, and Taiwan). At CIVICUS, we see civic space as the respect in policy and practice for the freedoms of assembly, association and expression which are underpinned by the state’s duty to protect civil society.

We view civic space as a set of universally-accepted rules, which allow people to organise, participate and communicate with each other freely and without hindrance, and in doing so, influence the political, economic and social structures around them.

CIVIC SPACE IN 2022

Today, only 3.1% of the world’s population lives in countries with Open civic space. 

For better accuracy and comparison over time, this year we added a decimal point to the percentages.

GLOBAL CIVIC SPACE RESTRICTIONS 

Over the past year, civil society across the world has faced a variety legal and extra-legal restrictions. Below we document the top ten violations captured in the CIVICUS Monitor.

Top 10 Violations to Civic Freedoms

COUNTRY RATINGS

The CIVICUS Monitor currently rates 39 countries and territories as Open, 41 rated as Narrowed, 42 rated as Obstructed, 50 rated as Repressed and 25 rated as Closed.

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS

 OpenNarrowedObstructedRepressedClosed
Africa2413246
Americas 109952
Asia and Pacific8710114
Europe and Central Asia1921644
Middle East and North Africa00469
This page was last updated on 22 June 2022

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The CIVICUS Monitor measures enabling conditions for civil society or civic space. We provide ratings for civic space in 197 countries and territories (all UN member states and Hong Kong, Kosovo, Palestine, and Taiwan). […]

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Congolese Tutsis describe violent campaign to stop them voting

A group of Congolese Tutsis were guarded by armed police as they registered to vote in the eastern town of Nyangezi in February, with one of the groups describing a campaign of threats and violence aimed at excluding them from the upcoming election.

One newly registered voter at the enrolment centre had a bruised face and cradled her wrist after she was allegedly beaten with sticks and rocks by youths on her way to sign up.

“They were saying, ‘go home’,” said Philippe Ruhara, a local representative of the Tutsi ethnic group in South Kivu province known as the Banyamulenge.

“Look at how her arm is broken, her face injured,” he said on February 25, gesturing towards the woman who asked not to be named or quoted.

Anonymous leaflets

He said members of his community had received anonymous leaflets warning them not to vote — part of a hostile campaign that has also seen groups of young men gather at registration centres to deter would-be Tutsi voters.

Elsewhere, in the courtyard of a school in the provincial capital Bukavu, a group of young men shouted and jeered as they scuffled with a Tutsi man who had come to register to vote on February 24, according to a Reuters witness.

The state representative in Nyangezi, Papy Migabo, said on Sunday local authorities and the police had intervened after such incidents were reported in February. Since then “enrolment is going well and we hope that it will continue like this,” he told Reuters.

The Tutsi minority has long faced discrimination in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to their ethnic link to Rwanda’s Tutsi community.

M23 rebel group

Congo accuses Rwanda of seeking to destabilise its eastern territories — most recently by supporting an offensive by the M23 rebel group that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Rwanda denies supporting the armed group.

The offensive has fuelled internal tensions as Congo gears up for presidential and parliamentary elections in December. The United Nations has expressed concern about the spread of hate speech in the run-up to the vote, particularly towards the Banyamulenge.

On February 27, President Felix Tshisekedi addressed the issue in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

“The Congolese government stands firm against any individual or group of individuals who would engage in such a speech and reiterates its request to every person, organisation or external partner to denounce it.”

There is no data on how many Banyamulenge have been prevented or deterred from registering to vote since enrolment kicked off in South Kivu on February 16.

Cases of intimidation

Enock Sebineza, a prominent community elder and former deputy minister, told Reuters he was aware of numerous cases of intimidation in South Kivu and elsewhere, including in the eastern city of Goma and the capital Kinshasa.

“Today, unfortunately, hate speech based on how you look is excluding us from the country and we are excluded from the electoral process,” he said.

Everyone with the appropriate voter card has the right to register to vote, said Godens Maheshe, head of the election commission in South Kivu province.

“Citizens must respect the law,” he told Reuters.

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A group of Congolese Tutsis were guarded by armed police as they registered to vote in the eastern town of Nyangezi in February, with one of the groups describing a […]

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DR Congo EALA representatives boycott Kampala meeting

The Democratic Republic of Congo representatives at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have boycotted a retreat of the members of the regional body that is being held in Kampala, Uganda.

Mr Stephen Odongo, a Ugandan representative in the EALA, said their DRC counterparts were concerned about their security while in Kampala. They are said to have avoided entering Rwanda for the committee sessions of EALA on the same grounds.

Members of the regional body were Monday evening hosted to a dinner by the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Anita Among at her residence in Kampala where she committed to have the Speakers of the respective parliaments in the region develop standards to be observed by EALA members.

“Let us have a meeting as Speakers and agree on what should be done by our members who are in the community,” Ms Among said.

Caution

Speaking about the boycott, Ms Among cautioned members against involvement in matters that do not concern them.

“Don’t enter into wars that do not concern you,” she said.

Ms Among’s remark was prompted by Mr Odongo when he raised concern about the boycott and called upon her to give assurance to the legislators about the state of security in Uganda.

“As the number three in the country, we would wish that you make a very strong statement of the state of our security to inspire confidence in our colleagues who are not here with us that this country is safe and we are here for regional integration,” Odongo had appealed.

EALA Speaker Joseph Ntakirutimana said he was shocked when he received the communication from the DRC representatives that they would not attend the committee sessions both in Kigali and Kampala.

M23 rebels

DRC last year severed relations with Rwanda as the former accused Kigali of providing material support to the M23 rebels who have captured swathes of territory around North Kivu province.

Both the United Nations and the United States accuse Rwanda of supporting the rebels but Rwanda has vehemently denied the allegations.

However, the relations between Kampala and Kinshasa appear to have been warm, signified by the signed Status of Forces Agreement which has allowed the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) to hunt down the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group in the jungles of eastern DRC.

The same cannot be said for Rwanda whose deployment of the country’s army as part of the East African Joint Regional Forces has been objected to by DRC.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo representatives at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have boycotted a retreat of the members of the regional body that is being held in Kampala, […]

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Fears for DR Congo census as rebel attack kills five in Ituri

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels on Wednesday killed five civilians in troubled Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern province of Ituri, local sources said.

The latest unrest stoked fears of disruption of a regional census due to be held Thursday across the country’s east, plagued by years of violence from a plethora of rebel groups.

A nationwide process to confirm voters on electoral rolls began in the west in December with central and south eastern districts added to the census last month ahead of presidential polls slated for December 2023.

Thursday was due to see the enrolment extended to seven eastern and north eastern provinces but the ongoing violence could hamper the process.

Volatile province

Ituri is a volatile province where at least 20 civilians were killed in weekend militia attacks, according to the UN and local sources.

Since the end of last year, numerous attacks by militants in Ituri, some linked to insurgencies, have left several dozen dead nearly every week and left thousands of people displaced.

The neighbouring province of North Kivu has also suffered repeated attacks attributed to the ADF, which originates from Uganda and which the so-called Islamic State group claims as its central African affiliate.

“There was an incursion (Wednesday) by ADF rebels in the locality of Bukima. They killed five people — a man, three women and a child,” said civil society representative Faustin Brazza, who added that two people were injured.

Confirmed tally

Babanilau Tchabi, the head of Brazza’s village group, confirmed the tally and said the repeated attacks had seen the bulk of the area’s residents leave the area fearing for their safety.

Tchabi said he hoped the joint efforts of Congolese and Ugandan forces to try to pacify the area would bring some respite and “reassure civilians” to allow the census to go ahead.

Brazza expressed doubts, asking: “How are people going to obtain their (voting) cards given this repeated insecurity?”

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The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels on Wednesday killed five civilians in troubled Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern province of Ituri, local sources said. The latest unrest stoked fears of […]

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EU blames Rwanda, DR Congo over fighting amid calls for ceasefire

The European Union is blaming Rwanda, again, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for ignoring proposals of regional peace initiatives even as Kinshasa’s government forces battle the M23 rebel movement.

A statement issued on Tuesday said Rwanda, the DRC and the M23 should adhere to regional peace processes and lay down arms. 

The European bloc said all armed groups should also withdraw from the positions they occupy and take part in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process. It blamed Rwanda for fanning M23, and DRC for continued collaboration with other armed groups.

“The European Union condemns their violent actions and urges Rwanda to cease its support to the M23, and to use all means to put pressure on the M23 to withdraw from the occupied areas, as foreseen in the plan agreed between the East African Community heads of state and government on 9 February in Nairobi,” the EU said.

Attacks on civilians

It said the Congolese army, FARDC, should stop collaborating with armed groups, including the FDLR, seen by Rwanda as remnants of the 1994 genocidaires.

The EU “strongly condemns the repeated attacks targeting civilians carried out in particular by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) in North Kivu and Ituri,” it said.

In December, the EU had accused Rwanda of fomenting rebellion in eastern DRC by arming and supporting the M23, claims that Kigali denied.

On Tuesday, the EU said the peace process under the EAC — known as the Nairobi process — and another under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region — known as the Luanda process — must be supported.

Withdrawal of M23

The Nairobi Process is pursuing both military and diplomatic solutions. On February 9, military chiefs from the East African Community proposed that the M23 should begin its withdrawal from February 28 for a period of one month.

DRC’s Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula says the new withdrawal timetable and the new deployment plan for EAC member countries’ troops are only proposals at this stage that the government will assess.

“We are following this with great attention, anything that is not in the sense of allowing the republic to fully exercise its sovereignty, to safeguard its territorial authority, to safeguard the independence of our country, we will not accept it, that’s for sure,” said Lutundula.

“We will further decipher the content, not only the writing, but the spirit of what has been proposed. We are following that very carefully”, he added.

Rapid EAC troops deployment

The European Union also encouraged the rapid deployment of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) and the continuation of an inclusive dialogue.

The deployment is supposed to follow the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) but the Congolese government has not yet confirmed the arrival of new troops this week.

“We will evaluate the SOFA without any omissions. I can say that we will not hesitate to put an end to it. But we don’t want to. Our view is that we must continue to review the SOFA,” said Lutundula on Monday.

Despite this roadmap signed on November 23, 2022, and the appeals of heads of state, the parties continue to fight, causing civilians to flee en masse.

The European Union noted that “the lack of implementation of commitments and decisions taken by the various parties, and the continuation of fighting, particularly around Goma, is aggravating a disastrous humanitarian situation”.

Though critical of Kigali’s involvement in the conflict, the EU last week renewed a refugee holding programme with Rwanda for Kigali to help with hosting refugees rescued from Libya as they await processing to other countries. The programme is to last for three years.

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The European Union is blaming Rwanda, again, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for ignoring proposals of regional peace initiatives even as Kinshasa’s government forces battle the M23 rebel […]

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EAC army chiefs order full troop deployment to DRC

Defence chiefs from the East African Community (EAC) member states have directed the immediate deployment of troops from countries yet to join the regional force in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The military bosses who met in Nairobi this week in the presence of the EAC Secretariat followed the bloc’s head of State’s directive last week to have forces on the ground but based on a timeline agreed on by the security chiefs.

In addition, they agreed to deploy troops to areas earmarked for M23 phased withdrawal and the protection of civilians in areas vacated by the rebels.

Although the finer details of the outcome of the meeting have yet to be shared, the chairperson and Burundi’s Chief of the Defence Force, General Prime Niyogambo, expressed hope that the deliberations will contribute towards creating lasting peace and stability in Eastern DRC.

“I am optimistic that the deployment of the remaining East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) contingent will expedite the regional forces to deliver on its mandate,” the chairperson stated.

Military strategy

The force was deployed as a peace enforcement unit but is yet to get the nod to engage the armed rebel groups since the regional leaders prefer political dialogue, placing combat as a last resort.

But piling pressure offensive against M23 and the fluid security dynamics that led to the killing of a United Nations peacekeeper from South Africa in an attack on their helicopter on Sunday could lead to a change in strategy in the approach to end the conflict in the region.

Also read: 8 dead in attack on UN mission in DRC

Currently, only Kenya has sent its troops to the eastern DRC under EACRF, with Ugandan and South Sudanese forces deployment allegedly dragged by delay in the issuance of permits by Kinshasa.

During the EAC 20th Extra-Ordinary Summit last Saturday, the presidents urged DRC to facilitate the deployment of troops from South Sudan and Uganda to the regional force.

Staffing officers from the Rwandan Defence Forces serving at the EACRF headquarters in Goma were expelled a week ago, as tensions flared following Rwanda’s shooting of a Congolese fighter jet at the border. However, no other decision has been made regarding the pull-out of Rwanda from EACRF.

Security

The rest of the Rwandan contingent has been situated at its border with DRC, as with the Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan forces.

Since the start of its mission in November, the EACRF troops have secured the Goma International Airport and offered protection for internally displaced persons and areas vacated by the M23 — Kibati, Kibumba and Rumagambo.

The Kenyan troops have also secured the Bunagana-Kiwanja-Rutshuru-Goma route, aided humanitarian assistance through Medicap and escort of humanitarian aid, and conducted joint patrols and training with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).

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Defence chiefs from the East African Community (EAC) member states have directed the immediate deployment of troops from countries yet to join the regional force in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic […]

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Uhuru warns planners over delayed closure of DRC peace meeting

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the facilitator of the East Africa Community (EAC)-led Nairobi Peace Process that seeks to end the war in DRC, Monday read the riot act to the organisers of the meeting after it emerged that participants’ allowances would be less than had been planned before they left their homes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Without mentioning their names, a visibly angry Mr Kenyatta called out the organisers for delaying the closure of the meeting which he extended to Tuesday to give room for the funds to be made available as earlier planned.

“My intention is that we finish the meeting well and I know that is what you also want. So, I ask that we postpone today’s meeting to tomorrow and I assure you that the planners of this event do not assume that peace is something to toy around with. Be here tomorrow, if not, I shall stand and ask the whole world to deny them funds if they cannot plan things effectively,” he said on Monday.

Hr added, “Let us meet again at 10am and attend to the issues that have cropped up before closing the meeting. Maybe they (organisers) have done this thinking that my influence waned but they shall realise that it hasn’t.”

Funds adequate

Mr Kenyatta warned the organisers that failure to release the funds as earlier planned will have consequences.

“Let them sleep wherever they are but bring the funds that had been rightly allocated to the participants of this process tomorrow. I know we have adequate funds because I was among those that were sourcing for the funds,” he said.

The week-long event in Nairobi began on Monday last week, bringing together over 50 armed groups, victims of atrocities taking place in eastern DRC, civil society, special interest groups and government officials.

On Wednesday last week, the participants engaged the facilitator in focus group discussions where they each shared their grievances and proposals for a peaceful DRC.

The meeting was to end on Saturday but was pushed to Monday to allow for adequate discussions into the matters arising.

The outcome of the discussions will inform the speed at which the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) will engage in combat the armed groups fighting in eastern Congo.

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Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the facilitator of the East Africa Community (EAC)-led Nairobi Peace Process that seeks to end the war in DRC, Monday read the riot act to […]

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‘Around 300’ dead in east DR Congo massacre blamed on M23 rebels

Around 300 people died in an attack on villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last week blamed on the M23 rebel group, government minister Julien Paluku said on Monday.

The government has been locked in a months-long conflict with the notorious armed group M23 — with the latest violence coming just five days after a ceasefire was agreed between the rebels and Congolese forces.

The army originally accused the M23 insurgents of killing at least 50 civilians in Kishishe village in eastern North Kivu province last week, before the government put the number of dead at more than 100.

But Paluku and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya laid out updated figures for the deadly attack during a press briefing on Monday, citing data collated by civil society and communities in the region.

No connection with militia

“We are looking at around 300 deaths” of “people known to be regular inhabitants of Kishishe,” industry minister Paluku said, saying the victims had no connection with militia groups.

“Every community has been able to record the people who died from units in Kishishe and its environs,” said Paluku, who was governor of North Kivu province from 2007 to 2019.

“One community alone has more than 105 deaths,” he added.

The rebel group has denied it was responsible and called the allegations “baseless” — although it said eight civilians were killed by “stray bullets” during clashes in the village on November 29.

All the fatalities were civilians and at least 17 believed to be children, Muyaya told reporters, saying there were fatalities recorded from a church and a hospital.

Calls for investigation

The UN’s peacekeeping mission in DR Congo has led calls for an investigation after the government said 50 villagers had been massacred by a notorious armed group in the country’s troubled east.

Representatives for the United States and European Union said the killings were potential war crimes, while Human Rights Watch said UN troops should be deployed to protect survivors.

The government has said it is difficult to confirm the data because the area is still under rebel control.

Muyaya said consolidation work was underway to try and ascertain the full number of victims.

Residents who spoke to AFP by telephone said they had been ordered by the rebels to bury the victims in mass graves.

The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June. 

After a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months.

Kigali disputes the charge and has accused Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the genocide of the Tutsi community in 1994 in Rwanda.

Talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on November 25. It should also have been followed by a pull-out by the M23 two days later from territory it had seized, but this did not happen.

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Around 300 people died in an attack on villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last week blamed on the M23 rebel group, government minister Julien Paluku said on Monday. […]

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Regional forces mull next step after M23 decline ceasefire

Regional forces assembling in the Democratic Republic of Congo have underlined the priority of guarding civilians suing for peace, by providing a buffer against M23 rebels, The EastAfrican can reveal.

The decision came in response to a defied ultimatum given to the M23 last week by leaders who had gathered in Luanda, Angola.

And as community and armed groups representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo gathered in Nairobi this week, seeking long-term peace, military experts were holed up in Goma mulling the next step after M23 rebels defied a ceasefire call.

The three-day dialogue forum, the third in a series of the Nairobi Process, is backed by the East African Community.

Yet to ease hostilities

In Goma, military experts from EAC member states contributing troops to the regional force (EACRF), as well as the UN stabilisation mission (Monusco) were activated after participants of the Nairobi process reported that the group was yet to ease its hostilities in spite of publicly vowing to do so last week.

As the first step, sources told The EastAfrican the Kenya Defence Forces troops which have been on standby in Goma will be tasked with creating a ring around civilians to reduce casualties among local communities.

The idea is to ensure M23 attacks are thwarted by the Congolese forces, FARDC, the regional EACRF and Monusco, if the regional heads of state under the East African Community approve it.

The decision was first mooted in Angola last week, where a mini summit of the EAC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), under the chairmanship of Angolan President Joao Lorenco, called for ceasefire by all armed groups or they be forced out of occupied territories.

“Kenya to initially deploy its contingent in Goma, DRC and subsequently in Banagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja upon the withdrawal of M23 to its initial positions not beyond the line along Sabinyo (DRC side), Bigego, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkokwe,” the communique stated.

Continued battles

The M23 in a statement had agreed to the ceasefire call by the Heads of State after the Luanda process with a rider that they would not cease to defend themselves if they were violated by FARDC. But this week, locals reported continued battles between the rebels and Congolese forces.

The peace bid is, however, challenged by DRC’s own local politics. Kinshasa had opposed the idea of the buffer zone, fearing it could incite political heat, including ethnic divisions. Such an eventuality could hurt President Felix Tshisekedi as he bids for re-election due on December 20, 2023.

In the DRC, well before the announcement of the election date, candidates had already declared themselves for the elections and political parties had already put themselves in order of battle. Among the candidates is Martin Fayulu, his challenger in the 2018 election, who claims he won. Others are Moïse Katumbi. The former governor of the ex-province of Katanga is currently allied to Tshisekedi but is expected to challenge him.

Party dynamics

Former president Joseph Kabila’s camp has remained uncertain as his party the Common Front for Congo has yet to reveal its intentions. The other is Dr Denis Mukwege, the famous gynaecologist who co-won the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018. 

Some Congolese have asked him to stand, something he hasn’t taken on but which has attracted jibes on him from Tshisekedi.

After the announcement of election dates, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission Denis Kadima mentioned “constraints that may hamper the implementation of the elections.”

Among the challenges is insecurity, with Mr Kadima admitting that parts of DRC in rebel hands “have an impact on the smooth running of the elections.”

“No electoral operation can be organised properly without security for voters, electoral agents, sites of operations, materials and candidates,” he said last month.

Corneille Nangaa, former chairman of the electoral commission, said DRC’s “number one enemy of the electoral process is mistrust between actors and stakeholders.”

The registration of the estimated 50 million voters has not yet started, he told The EastAfrican.  In 2018, the electoral body needed 15 months to be ready.

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Regional forces assembling in the Democratic Republic of Congo have underlined the priority of guarding civilians suing for peace, by providing a buffer against M23 rebels, The EastAfrican can reveal. The decision […]

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The sweet and sour of the Luanda summit on DRC and the M23 rebels

If Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has ever dreamt of lifting a magic wand to have M23 rebels and Congolese Tutsi instantly vanish from his country’s territory, the mini-summit in the Angolan capital Launda last week might have been the closest he’ll ever get to realising such a dream.

It was a heads of state summit’ communiqué which read as though it had been written by some bored Congolese populist on Twitter, living on welfare in Brussels who’s never set foot in eastern DR Congo.

Essentially, the Luanda mini-summit stipulated that:

•M23 would withdraw from all seized territories and retreat into their initial positions.

•The relinquished territories would be taken up by a buffer regional force led by Kenyan troops, who form part of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF).

•The Rwandan genocidaire forces in DR Congo, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) would then be disarmed and repatriated.

It pains to say that nothing from that communiqué will be implemented, mainly because none of the recommended actions are realistic. For starters, the five days’ ultimatum to M23 was not feasible. At the time of the communiqué, in which warring parties were called to a ceasefire, fighting was ongoing in Kichanga, Masisi territory, and the 1,000 troops Kenyan contingent is too small to man a territory twice the size of Rwanda.

Not a total waste

That said, although Luanda wasn’t the turning point we all weren’t expecting, it wasn’t a total waste of time either. By asking M23 to relinquish Ruchuru and return to its initial positions, Tshisekedi unwittingly admitted for the first time that M23 did not come from Rwanda, that they were always within Congolese forests – and they listed them: Bigega, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkonkwe. The second takeaway from the summit was the admission of the threat posed by FDLR.

The rest of the communique was meant to appease the Congolese hoi polloi – and that too is a first. I suspect that following the episodes in August this year, when angry mobs looted Monusco headquarters in Goma and Beni in reaction to its spokesperson’s declaring that the UN body had no proof of Rwanda’s support to M23; and that the Monusco had no force, strong enough to face M23, it seems the international community seems to have agreed with Tshisekedi to “protect the Congolese from the truth,” so to speak, to avoid further attacks on, say the American and French embassies and the UN headquarters in Kinshasa. Also, to de-escalate the possibility of UN forces having to open fire on Congolese mobs attacking them.

Indeed, to appease the masses, the honest Monusco spokesperson was given 48 hours to leave the country, while the Rwandan ambassador who insisted his country wasn’t supporting any militia in DR Congo suffered the same fate.

Self-defence

The Monusco elements returning from a rest and recreation and shot in self-defence and killed Congolese mobs charging at them at the border with Uganda, were repatriated and the incident silenced.

The issue with this new theatrical approach is that if negotiators keep-up the smokescreen, they’ll lose all legitimacy.

Is it necessary to remember that M23, which stands for “Movement of March 23, 2009”, refers to peace accords signed on that date between its ancestor the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and Kinshasa.

On November 20, 2012, M23 took control of Goma, and was asked to relinquish it in exchange for the implementation of its grievances captured in said accords.

The M23 movement has its roots in the “Banyarwanda question.” Communities of Rwandan ancestry, speaking Kinyarwanda and practicing the Rwandan culture, are estimated to number 40 million, all located in the Great Lakes region. Only 13 million of them are Rwandan citizens. The majority are Ugandan citizens and the rest are located mainly in Burundi, DR Congo and Tanzania. The presence of Banyarwanda in those areas predates both colonialism and African borders, and their Congolese nationality is a consequence of the division of Africa at the Berlin conference on 188-1885.

Catastrophic déjà-vu

When the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was fighting for the return of Tutsi refugees to Rwanda in the 1990s, the government in Rwanda brought in the question of their citizenship. To then president Juvenal Habyarimana, the Tutsi had no place in Rwanda and were to be “sprinkled” across countries of the region. Today, Congolese are saying the same thing.

But Tutsi aren’t spices that are to be peppered into other communities and expected to shrink into oblivion. That is what the 1994 genocide perpetrators in Rwanda wanted. Tutsi are a community with an identity and one of the oldest cultures in the region. They trace their ancestral homestead in this region and in current DR Congo since the seventeenth century. It is uncanny that the colonisers’ Berlin Conference of 1884/1885 should be the prism through which Africans interact with one another in this day and age.

Tshisekedi’s request for M23 to withdraw to their initial position has the hallmarks of FDLR leaders written all over it, straight from Habyarimana’s disastrous playbook of the 90s.

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If Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has ever dreamt of lifting a magic wand to have M23 rebels and Congolese Tutsi instantly vanish from his country’s territory, the […]

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Mediators walk a tightrope with mention of fear of polls

When Rwanda President Paul Kagame this week gave a speech criticising his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, it looked like he was merely responding to Kinshasa’s incessant accusations that Kigali fuels rebel activity in its territory.

President Kagame, while addressing legislators in Kigali, said, “This problem can be resolved if one country headed for elections next year is not trying to create an emergency so that the elections don’t take place…”

“If he is trying to find another way of having the next elections postponed, then I would rather he uses other excuses, not us,” Kagame said.

He did not name Tshisekedi by name but DR Congo is heading into elections in December next year.

Initially political friends, Kagame and Tshisekedi have been exchanging barbs, often cooling on mediation, but resuming exchanges soon after. The bone of contention is rebel movements in eastern DRC. The region has at least 120 armed groups but the main focus has been on M23 and the FDLR, which the two countries alternately accuse one another of sponsoring to interfere with each other’s stability. Each side denies the charge.

Focused on M23

In his speech that lasted for over an hour, President Kagame said the country has focused on the M23 rebel group, even when over several other armed groups are operating in the Eastern DRC.

There is a historical problem to it. The M23 is mostly made up of ethnic Tutsi, who are in Rwanda. The Forces Démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) is seen as made up of remnants of the genocidaires who fled Rwanda after Kagame defeated the Hutu-led genocide gangs.

Kagame said he offered President Tshisekedi assistance to fight off some of the rebel groups including the FDLR, which is responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but the latter refused. DR Congo in fact has argued the FDLR, having been disarmed, is not a big problem.

The ethnic link and association with past atrocities have elevated hate speech in the DRC, a UN official warned this week. The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu expressed concern that the spread of hate speech and armed groups and violence in Eastern DRC could trigger a genocide. Some of those massacres have been linked to people who originally fled genocide in Rwanda.

Warning sign

“The current violence is a warning sign of societal fragility and proof of the enduring presence of the conditions that allowed large-scale hatred and violence to erupt into a genocide in the past,” she said after completing her three-day visit to Eastern DRC.

Her visit followed a technical-level mission by her office that established that indicators and triggers contained in the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes, including dissemination of hate speech and absence of internal mechanisms to address it, were present in DRC

Other triggers are the politicisation of identity, proliferation of local militias and other armed groups across the country, widespread and systematic attacks including sexual violence against the Banyamulenge on the basis of their ethnicity and perceived allegiance to neighbouring countries.

According to Ms Wairimu, the current violence in Eastern DRC mainly stems from the refugee crisis that resulted from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, leading to formation of armed groups that have led to the conflict that has rocked the region for two decades.

Mediators headache

The complexity of ethnic compositions, political grievances and interested parties mean mediators must walk on eggshells in seeking peace. That burden is now carried by former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC Facilitator for Peace in the DR Congo.

Mr Kenyatta must push for penalties on errant parties, while rewarding those suing for peace. Peace, however, is not the reward everyone wants.

This week, all the EAC leaders except South Sudan’s Salva Kiir took part physically or via video link in the discussions in the Nairobi Process that are meant to lay the foundation for continuous dialogue between the government in Kinshasa and the armed groups as well as neutralise negative forces in eastern DRC.

“There are groups that are yet to honour promises to lay down arms and we urge those who are not yet with us on the table to still give support to the Nairobi process. The resources of Congo are supposed to foster development and not to shed blood,” said Mr Kenyatta.

Agreed to disarm

The armed groups agreed to disarm and gave their proposals including withdrawal of foreign armed groups, freeing of imprisoned fighters by the FARDC and amnesty for those wanted for running armed groups.

The call for ceasefire was partly heeded by more than 52 armed groups that showed up for the Nairobi peace process.

The armed groups include those from North and South Kivu, Ituri armed groups, Maniema and Tanganyika as well as a small portion of the M23 rebels.

In attendance at the Nairobi meeting included Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco), a mystical-military organisation that claims to defend members of the Lendu community in Ituri region; Collective Movement for Change (CMC), based in Rutshuru, Masisi, and Nyiragongo; and the Mai Mai. 

The Ugandan rebels based in DRC, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and the M23 were not invited. Both the governments of Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi have designated the two groups as terrorist organisations.

DRC’s plans

President Felix Tshisekedi’s Special Envoy Prof Serge Tshibangu said DRC has plans to absorb the local armed groups’ ex-combatants into the army after the due recruitment process has been followed.

“The amnesty will however, not be automatic to all armed groups that lay down their arms as some will have to go through the transitional justice process and be held accountable for their atrocities,” he said. In the past three weeks, Mr Kenyatta has visited Bujumbura, Kinshasa, Goma and Luanda in his diplomatic endeavours.

However, some of the armed groups that are involved in the diplomatic process are concerned that EAC leaders are not doing enough to pressure President Felix Tshisekedi to listen and act on their grievances. Basa Zukpa, the spokesperson for Codeco, said they have had formal talks with President Tshisekedi since 2019, but Kinshasa instead prefers to send delegations to tell them to lay down their arms.

“We are willing to lay down our arms but we need the EAC leaders to make serious efforts to bring peace to eastern Congo because our previous talks with the government have not produced any formal agreement,” said Mr Zukpa.

He said that Codeco is more concerned about intermittent attacks by the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) while their only intention is to defend their people from negative forces.

Jules Mulumba, the spokesperson for the Collective Movement for Change (CMC), expressed similar sentiments, saying they have been in touch with the government but there is no official communication yet.

Expressed frustrations

However, President Tshisekedi, while addressing the gathering via a video link, expressed frustrations that criminal activities are sabotaging diplomatic efforts to bring peace.

President Kagame said that persistent insecurity in eastern DRC is due to the failure to implement various agreements in the past years. He, however, sees some hope in resolving the conflict because the recent resurgence has attracted attention globally.

On the other hand, President Museveni said that the region should adopt a dual approach: Political dialogue and military action against those groups that don’t want peace.

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When Rwanda President Paul Kagame this week gave a speech criticising his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, it looked like he was merely responding to Kinshasa’s incessant accusations that Kigali fuels […]

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M23 urged to stop targeting civilians as 50 killed in east DRC

Emotions are still running high after the killing of civilians in Kishishe, in the chiefdom of Bwito, Rutshuru territory, about 100 kilometres from Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the Congolese army, 50 civilians were killed by the M23 rebels with the massacre being condemned by various agencies.

In the DRC, the government declared three days of national mourning while the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) denounced “these appalling acts”.

In its statement, Monusco called on “all relevant authorities to investigate without delay and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

Amnesty International also reacted by calling on M23 to cease targeting civilians following the killing of dozens of non-combatants in towns in the east of the DRC in recent days in indiscriminate attacks and, in some cases, summary killings.

“The M23 rebel group must immediately end deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes Region.

Protect civilians

“We urge all forces in the area, including the Congolese army and the East African Community Regional Force, to take all necessary measures to protect the civilian population while respecting international humanitarian law,” Ms Mwangovya added.

Human Rights Watch is also calling for an independent investigation and sanctions. The massacre of civilians in Kishishe could constitute a war crime, said Stephanie Miley, chargé d’affaires of the US embassy in Kinshasa.

Young men targeted

According to local civil society sources in North Kivu, the M23 targeted young men from Kashishe who had previously ambushed the rebels through community defence groups.  The bloody attack also claimed the lives of children and elderly people.

According to the Congolese army (FARDC), several other civilians are now missing or have been kidnapped by the M23.

General Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman of the Congolese army, also denounced the forced recruitment of young people by the M23 and the use of children in the fighting.

The fighting resumed Thursday in North Kivu in violation of the ceasefire decreed in Luanda, Angola.

On November 23, East African heads of state and other political leaders from the region declared a ceasefire.

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Emotions are still running high after the killing of civilians in Kishishe, in the chiefdom of Bwito, Rutshuru territory, about 100 kilometres from Goma in the east of the Democratic […]

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Pope Francis to visit DR Congo and South Sudan early 2023

Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan early 2023, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Apostolic Nuncio to the DRC, has said.

Monsignor Balestrero made the announcement after meeting President Felix Tshisekedi on Thursday in Kinshasa. He said that Pope Francis will make the already announced trip to DRC from January 31, 2023 to February 3. He will visit Kinshasa and South Sudan on an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.

Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde revealed that Pope Francis will arrive in Kinshasa at the invitation of President Félix Tshisekedi, adding that the pontiff’s arrival is “a comfort for the Congolese people”.

The prime minister asked all DRC citizens to “remain in an attitude of prayer” as they welcome the pope, especially at a time “when the DRC is going through all these security situations”. He also asked the Congolese to re-launch the preparations for the visit which had been prepared a few months ago.

Initial visit postponed

Pope Francis had earlier been expected visit to the DRC and South Sudan in July but the visit was called off after he developed a knee problem.

“Accepting the request of the doctors and in order not to cancel the results of the knee therapies still in progress, the Holy Father is forced, with regret, to postpone the apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, planned for 2-7 July, to a new date to be determined,” the director of the Pope’s press office Matteo Bruni announced then.

In the postponed papal trip, the pontiff had been scheduled to visit the DRC capital Kinshasa and Goma in North Kivu province, where M23 rebels have been fighting with government forces. But in the January 2023 trip, the pope will stay in Kinshasa before flying to Juba, in South Sudan, skipping Goma

The announcement of the pope’s planned arrival in the DRC has already started generating enthusiasm among the Catholic faithful.

In July, several towns in the DRC had put up billboards with the image of the pope under the theme “All reconciled in Jesus Christ”.

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Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan early 2023, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Apostolic Nuncio to the DRC, has said. Monsignor Balestrero made the announcement […]

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DR Congo accuses M23 rebels of civilian massacre, breaching truce

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army on Thursday accused M23 insurgents of killing 50 civilians and breaching a five-day-old truce in the country’s restive east.

The rebel group issued a statement late Thursday denying the alleged massacre of civilians.

The ceasefire took effect in North Kivu province at the weekend following a summit between DRC and its neighbour Rwanda.

It was to have been followed by a rebel pull-out from captured territory, a withdrawal that has yet to take place.

General Sylvain Ekenge said the M23 group was “carrying out massacres… the most recent of which is that of 50 Congolese civilians, heinously murdered on Tuesday in Kishishe,” a village some 70 kilometres north of the eastern city of Goma.

‘Baseless allegations

Ekenge claimed that while Congolese forces had “scrupulously observed the truce”, the M23 had attacked government positions.

The M23 responded with a statement describing accusations of a massacre in Kishishe as “baseless allegations” and insisting that “it has never targeted civilian populations”.

Sources said earlier that fighting had resumed Thursday in Kirima in the same region, about 10 kilometres from the town of Kibirizi.

“The rebels have crossed the bridge, heading for Kibirizi… there’s panic,” said Paul Lutibahwa, head of civil society groups for the Bambo region.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused the M23 of having breached the ceasefire and “carrying on looting and fighting”.

“The fighting is heavy — we are using heavy artillery,” said a DRC army officer who also asked not to be identified.

Contacted by AFP, M23’s military spokesman Willy Ngoma confirmed that there was fighting with the army.

Resurgent force

The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June. 

After a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October 2022, greatly extending the territory under its control and advancing towards the city of Goma.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months. 

Accusation disputed

Kigali disputes the charge, and in turn accuses Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. 

Talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital of Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on Friday, November 25 at 1600 GMT and be followed by a pull-out by the M23 two days later.

A parallel initiative has been undertaken by the East African Community (EAC), a seven-nation regional bloc that includes Rwanda.

It has decided to deploy a regional force to help stabilise the region, for which Kenyan troops are already deployed in Goma, and on November 28 launched peace talks, to which the M23 are not invited.

Until Thursday’s violence, there had been no fighting between government forces and the M23, although the rebels had clashed with local militia, especially in the Bambo area, where civilian casualties were reported.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army on Thursday accused M23 insurgents of killing 50 civilians and breaching a five-day-old truce in the country’s restive east. The rebel group issued a […]

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Kagame claims Tshisekedi using DRC crisis to delay presidential poll

Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday accused DRC leader Felix Tshisekedi of exploiting the ongoing insecurity in eastern Congo to postpone next year’s presidential election.

Addressing a parliamentary session after the signing in of new members of the Cabinet, President Kagame said he believes the current leadership of the Democratic Republic of Congo is creating a security emergency a year before the country holds presidential elections in order to find a reason to postpone the elections scheduled for December 2023.

“This problem can be resolved if one country headed for elections next year is not trying to create an emergency so that the elections don’t take place, not that he won the first elections as we know. If he is trying to find another way of having the next elections postponed, then I would rather he uses other excuses, not us,” Kagame said.

ReadCaution greets DRC deal on rebel violence

Tshisekedi came to power in January 2019 and DRC will hold its next presidential election in December 2023.

President Kagame was addressing MPs on Wednesday while officiating the swearing-in of Rwanda’s new minister of Health, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, and the permanent secretary in the ministry, Ivan Butera.

In his speech that lasted for over an hour, President Kagame said Congo has focused on the M23 rebel group, even when over 400 other armed groups are operating in eastern DRC.

The M23 is among armed groups that have turned eastern DRC into one of Africa’s most violent regions.

‘Assistance declined’

He said that when the conflict resumed, he offered President Tshisekedi assistance to fight off some of the rebel groups including the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), which is said to be responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but the DRC leader declined.

ReadRwanda army kills ‘unidentified’ DRC soldier

Given how long the conflict has been ongoing and how attempts to solve the issue remain ineffective, President Kagame said that he believes that someone somewhere wants the issue to remain unresolved.

“It has become so convenient for a long time that all problems are put on the shoulders of Rwanda. Rwanda is always the culprit, not FDLR. The government of DRC should be responsible for its people, not the UN, not the powerful countries like the US, UK, and France. Why does it always come back to Rwanda,” Kagame said. 

ReadLuanda hosts summit on DRC, Rwanda crisis

He added that “the blame that Rwanda carries for DRC issues should be carried by Congo and those who want to alleviate DRC’s responsibilities”.

Military clashes between rebel groups in the eastern DRC have forced thousands out of their homes. By Monday, a ceasefire between government troops and M23 rebels appeared to hold for a third day despite clashes between rival militias.

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday accused DRC leader Felix Tshisekedi of exploiting the ongoing insecurity in eastern Congo to postpone next year’s presidential election. Addressing a parliamentary session after […]

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Unite for lasting peace, Uhuru Kenyatta urges DR Congo citizens

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has implored on Congolese citizens meeting with him in Nairobi for the third Inter-Congolese dialogue this week to embrace forgiveness as the search for lasting peace in the eastern parts of the country continues.

Mr Kenyatta is leading the East African Community-led Nairobi Peace Process talks that have brought together armed groups, civil society groups, women and youth groups, survivors of the conflict and government representatives led by Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi’s Special Envoy Serge Tshibangu.

The groups are represented in Nairobi by about 350 participants, over 50 of whom represent armed groups fighting in eastern DRC.

“Though the pain from the atrocities committed against you may be too much in the last 20 years as lives have been lost, animals stolen and minerals stolen by foreign nations who are happy to spur conflict as they steal your minerals leaving your children unable to go to school and your mothers unable to give birth in hospital, let us embrace a forgiving heart and agree to unite to bring lasting peace to the region,” he said.

Territorial sovereignty

Mr Kenyatta assured the participants that the talks will not delve into discussions over DRC’s territorial sovereignty.

“The Republic of DRC belongs to the Congolese and we are not here to discuss how an inch of your territory shall be cut off. Ours (the Nairobi Process) is to find ways you can co-exist with one another and resolve conflicts that arise between you without taking arms against one another,” he said.

The Luanda process that is closely inter-linked with the Nairobi process is attempting to resolve external conflict between DRC and Rwanda.

“We believe we shall find solutions from both processes so that you can live in peace at home, refugees and internally displaced persons can go back to their home and that all arms in the hands of armed groups shall be silenced and surrendered to the government,” Mr Kenyatta said.

In the last Luanda meeting held last week, EAC member states ordered M23 and other foreign groups operating in eastern DRC to ease hostilities, lay down their arms and leave the country unconditionally.

Conditions for M23

The M23 was particularly asked to leave Banagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja but they are yet to do so and that is why they are not part of the armed groups attending the Nairobi peace process.

“Until that is done, the M23 cannot be part of these discussions. The process happening here only involves armed groups that have agreed to lay down their arms and ease hostilities,” said Mr Kenyatta.

But Prof Tshibangu confirmed that about six percent of the M23 group has shown up in Nairobi and reiterated that the Congolese government will not negotiate with groups that have deliberately declined to take part in the process.

“There will be no amnesty for these people. There will be no forum for us to discuss with foreign armed groups. They should lay down their arms and go to their homes. There shall be no negotiations with them; military action shall be deployed against them,” he said.

Absorb ex-combatants

He added that DRC has plans to absorb other ex-combatants into the army known by its French acronym FARDC after the due recruitment process has been followed.

“The amnesty will however not be automatic to all armed groups that lay down their arms as some will have to go through the transitional justice process and be held accountable for their atrocities,” he said.

The dialogues are meant to create mechanisms for bringing back peace in eastern DRC where more than 120 armed groups are fighting.

They kicked off on Monday with a resolution by EAC heads of state to deploy troops against armed groups that defy calls to ease hostilities, create channels for voluntary repatriation of IDPs and refugees hosted in neighbouring countries in addition to a call for the unconditional departure of foreign armed groups from DRC territories.

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Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has implored on Congolese citizens meeting with him in Nairobi for the third Inter-Congolese dialogue this week to embrace forgiveness as the search for lasting […]

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New clashes erupt between DR Congo army and M23 rebels

Fighting with heavy weapons erupted between government forces and M23 insurgents in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, shaking a five-day-old truce, security sources and rebels said.

The ceasefire took effect in North Kivu province at the weekend following a summit between DRC and its neighbour Rwanda.

It was to have been followed by a rebel pull-out from captured territory, a withdrawal that has yet to take place.

The sources said fighting resumed Thursday in Kirima, about 10 kilometres from the town of Kibirizi.

“Fighting resumed this morning between the FARDC and the M23,” said Paul Lutibahwa, head of civil society groups for the Bambo region. The FARDC stands for the armed forces of the DRC.

Panic

“The rebels have crossed the bridge, heading for Kibirizi… there’s panic,” he said, an account confirmed by a representative of civil groups there, who said that people were fleeing.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused the M23 of having breached the ceasefire and “carrying on looting and fighting”.

A DRC army officer, who also asked not to be identified, said: “The fighting is heavy — we are using heavy artillery.”

Contacted by AFP, the M23’s military spokesman Willy Ngoma confirmed that there was fighting with the army.

Resurgent force

The March 23 movement, or M23, is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

It took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda in June 2022. 

After a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October, greatly extending the territory under its control and advancing towards the city of Goma.

Kinshasa accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months.

Kigali disputes the charge, and in turn accuses Kinshasa of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the genocide of the Tutsi community in 1994 in Rwanda. 

Luanda talks

Talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital of Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on Friday, November 25 at 1600 GMT and be followed by a pull-out by the M23 two days later.

A parallel initiative has been undertaken by the East African Community (EAC), a seven-nation regional bloc that includes Rwanda.

It has decided to deploy a regional force to help stabilise the region, for which Kenyan troops are already deployed in Goma, and on November 28 launched peace talks, to which the M23 are not invited.

Until Thursday’s violence, there had been no fighting between government forces and the M23, although the rebels had clashed with local militia, especially in the Bambo area, where civilian casualties were reported.

Pope’s visit

The Vatican, meanwhile, announced that Pope Francis would visit the DRC and South Sudan from January 31 to February 5.

His trip to the two countries had been planned for July this year but was postponed because the pope was undergoing treatment for knee pain.

His stay in the DRC from January 31 to February 3 will take place in Kinshasa and no longer includes Goma. 

The site that had been chosen for a papal mass, located 15 kilometres north of Goma, is currently occupied by a forward position of the armed forces.

Scores of armed groups roam eastern DRC, making it one of Africa’s most violent regions.

Many are legacies of two wars before the turn of the century that sucked in countries from the region and left millions dead.

Demonstrators protesting perceived international indifference to the crisis rallied in Goma early Thursday.

Another march staged by the Catholic church took place in Bukavu, in neighbouring South Kivu province.

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Fighting with heavy weapons erupted between government forces and M23 insurgents in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, shaking a five-day-old truce, security sources and rebels said. The ceasefire […]

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Surrender or face military action, rebel groups in DR Congo told

The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the government failure to which military action will be taken against them.

The Democratic Republic of Congo government has reiterated that it will not offer amnesty to the group which continues to defy calls for cessation of hostilities and exit from the areas of Bunagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja where they were last week asked to leave after the last meeting of the Luanda process in Angola.

“If they are your brothers and sisters, I advise you to tell them to come while the arm is still stretched towards them. Do not want to be in conflict with the government and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF),” President Felix Tshesekedi’s special envoy Serge Tshibangu Wednesday told the armed groups attending the third Nairobi Peace Process on.

He reiterated that Kinshasa will not engage the foreign armed groups fighting in eastern Congo and that they must leave the country forthwith.

“We have met only six percent of the M23 group who are represented here. The rest have decided to isolate themselves and they continue to carry out attacks,” Prof Tshibangu added.

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator for the Nairobi process. He said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

Groups in Nairobi meeting

The EAC facilitator for the process, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns.

“The Luanda process was very clear that M23 should ease hostilities — which they have done — and vacate from three locations. Until that is done, M23 cannot be part of these discussions,” Mr Kenyatta said.

“The other foreign armed groups were told to leave the DRC territory and go back to their home countries. If they will not, they shall face military action by FARDC and the EACRF,” he added.

ReadM23 asks to meet Uhuru Kenyatta

Day two of the Nairobi Inter-Congolese dialogues was off to a slow start following the late arrival of yet another group of 82 representatives of armed groups, community leaders, civil society groups and youth groups from Goma.

Largest inter-Congolese dialogue

The arrival of the group on Tuesday afternoon added to the groups that arrived over the weekend from North Kivu, Ituri and other regions, bringing the total number of participants to 350, who include over 50 armed groups, making it the largest inter-Congolese dialogue since the inception of the Nairobi peace process in April this year.

The late arrival of the team pushed Tuesday’s negotiations to Wednesday.

Participants who spoke to The EastAfrican expressed hope that the meeting would find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflict in eastern Congo, which some claimed is mainly fuelled by foreign fighters.

ReadM23: Ceasefire deal doesn’t concern us

Others intimated that the conflict has entirely destabilised their lives as a result of a growing number of victims who are now disabled as a result of the war, besides cases of rape and defilement — resulting in the siring of “unwanted” children — and a delayed school calendar among other woes.

“We thank Kenya for the part it is playing in helping us find lasting peace because we need an end to all of the trouble happening back at home. I have just received a call from my children telling me that there was a fight in the morning. We hope the M23 can go back to where they came from,” one of the victims said.

Counselling for war victims

Psychiatrists from the Kenya’s Ministry of Health have been seconded to the week-long event at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel to offer counselling to the victims as they come face to face with some of the persons suspected to be behind the crimes committed against them.

One rebel group’s representative confessed that the support for some of the armed groups indeed comes from some neighbouring countries, which he declined to mention, but quickly pointed out that they were ready to surrender their guns to the DRC government if the issues affecting the region are addressed.

ReadExperts: Don’t include rebels into DRC army

Regarding the decision by EAC member states to deploy troops to the region, he said they are waiting to see if indeed their intention is to ensure peace.

“If that is indeed their intention, we shall be happy to support them. All we have been fighting for is the protection of our fellow countrymen and resources. We have seen some groups that are supported by foreign countries steal our minerals and fight our people, we want an end to that and a country that is peaceful,” he said.

Hope in Nairobi process

Prof Tshubangu expressed hope that the Nairobi process would bear fruit and come up with strategies that bring peace in eastern DRC.

“We think we are going to leave this country with resolutions and commitments. Remember all the eyes of the entire world are on us. I’d like to urge all of us that it is important that what we discuss here is executed for the sake of our country and future generations,” he said on Tuesday.

“This is your historical moment. Use it to bring lasting peace to your home country,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau told the participants.

The dialogues are meant to create mechanisms for bringing back peace in eastern DRC where more than 120 armed groups are fighting.

They kicked off on Monday with a resolution by EAC heads of state to deploy military action against armed groups that defy calls to ease hostilities, create channels for voluntary repatriation of internally displaced persons and refugees hosted in neighbouring countries in addition to a call for the unconditional departure of foreign armed groups from DRC territories.

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The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the […]

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Truce holds in east DR Congo despite ambushes by rival militias

A ceasefire between government troops and M23 rebels appeared to be holding for a third day on Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite clashes between rival militias, residents told AFP.

Under the ceasefire that came into force on Friday night, the March 23 group, which has seized swathes of territory, was to withdraw from “occupied zones,” failing which an East African regional force would intervene.

But by Monday local people reported no sign of a rebel pullout of those zones.

Over the weekend, sporadic clashes occurred between the mainly Congolese Tutsi M23 fighters and Hutu factions such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation Rwanda (FDLR).

“During the night, an M23 vehicle was caught in an ambush” at Kinyandonyi village in Rutshuru territory, a hospital source said Monday.

“There were deaths but it’s difficult to know more.”

Another attack

On Sunday, the FDLR, present in the sprawling DRC since the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda, carried out another attack 30 kilometres (18 miles) away at Biruma, a resident said.

On Saturday, six civilians died when a local ethnic militia and the FDLR clashed at Kisharo, close to the same area, a hospital source said.

Despite fighting between the M23 and the army continuing right up to the ceasefire deadline north of the provincial capital Goma, no clashes have since been reported between the two, according to locals telephoned by AFP.

Frontlines calm

The frontlines have remained calm, they said.

AFP was unable to independently confirm the accounts from local people.

The March 23 group had been dormant for years, but took up arms again late last year accusing the government of failing to honour a disarmament deal.

M23 has overrun large tracts of mountainous Rutshuru territory north of Goma, a city of one million which they briefly captured 10 years ago.

The advance on Goma has halted over the last two weeks but the rebels had still been gaining ground on other fronts, in the west towards Masisi and in the northeast.

The DRC accuses neighbouring Rwanda of supporting the rebels — charges Kigali denies and in turn alleges Kinshasa works with the FDLR.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi attended a regional mini summit in the Angolan capital Luanda last week, agreeing a deal on the cessation of hostilities from Friday evening.

Nairobi talks

A fresh round of talks with armed groups opened in Kenya on Monday, without the M23 present.

Minister and government spokesman Patrick Muyaya repeated the M23’s position, telling journalists: “The M23 will not take part in the Nairobi talks until it has liberated the occupied localities”.

The UN’s peacekeeping force in eastern DRC, Monusco, said on Monday it had been “officially requested by the DRC’s foreign ministry to support the implementation of decisions adopted in the context of the Luanda and Nairobi peace processes”. 

It said it was “ready to set up a coordination mechanism” with the East African regional force.

The M23 is among scores of armed groups that have turned eastern DRC into one of Africa’s most violent regions.

Many are legacies of two wars before the turn of the century that sucked in countries from the region and left millions dead.

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A ceasefire between government troops and M23 rebels appeared to be holding for a third day on Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite clashes between rival militias, […]

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Clashes in eastern DR Congo as Uhuru pursues ‘dialogue’ initiative

roops and rebels traded heavy fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, a military source and local inhabitants said, as former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community’s mediator in efforts to end the war between DRC forces and M23 militants, called for all armed groups to “silence the guns”.

Government forces and the M23 militia were fighting in Kibumba, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the strategic city Goma, the sources said, speaking by phone.

M23 fighters were also seen about 40 kilometres northwest of the city in the Virunga National Park, a wildlife haven famed for its mountain gorillas but which is also a hideout for armed groups, the sources said.

A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 (the March 23 Movement) leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before being driven out. 

M23 grievances

After lying dormant for years, the rebels took up arms again in late 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

They have since won a string of victories against the military and captured swathes of territory, prompting thousands of people to flee their homes.

The resurgence has ratcheted up diplomatic tensions, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the group.

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

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

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

Witnesses in the rebel-held town of Kiwanja also spoke last week of school canteens backed by World Food Programme being pillaged on Sunday and Monday. 

“There was corn flour and oil. They took these provisions as food rations,” a resident said.

Another said oil cans, flour sacks and beans had been taken away by truck the previous day.

‘Silence the guns’

Eastern DRC saw two bloody regional wars in the 1990s.

That conflict, along with the Rwandan genocide, bequeathed a legacy of scores of armed groups which remain active across the region but especially in North Kivu.

The heads of the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) on Sunday announced they would hold a “peace dialogue” on the region’s conflicts. 

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

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

“Silence the guns and join in a political process,” he urged local armed groups. 

To foreign groups, “the DRC is no longer the battleground for problems that are not from this country,” Kenyatta added. 

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

Angolan President Joao Lourenco is exploring another diplomatic path.

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

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roops and rebels traded heavy fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, a military source and local inhabitants said, as former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African […]

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Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Kinshasa for DR Congo peace talks

The East African Community (EAC) is engaged in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A day after the arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma, North Kivu, former President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Kinshasa where he is to stay for two days. The EAC facilitator is accompanied by East African Community Secretary General Peter Mathuki.

Advisers to the chairperson of the East African Community heads of state summit and President of the Republic of Burundi, H.E. Évariste Ndayishimiye, have also been invited to the talks.

The Eastern bloc authorities are preparing for the third round of the Nairobi dialogue, which will bring together the Congolese government and Congolese armed groups.

The Kinshasa talks come a week after a high-level meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, with President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Kenyan President William Ruto.

Mr Kenyatta is scheduled to meet President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa.

“The former Kenyan president will also meet the presidents of the two chambers of parliament (National Assembly and Senate), members of the government, diplomats and representatives of local communities, leaders of religious denominations, traditional chiefs and women’s associations of the provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu who have travelled from Kinshasa to meet and exchange with the team of President Uhuru on Monday,” reads a statement from President Tshisekedi’s office.

Also Read: DRC, Rwanda to maintain ‘political dialogue’

This will be an opportunity for Mr Kenyatta to talk with the communities and understand what they think after so many years of war.

Talks with M23

The meetings are being held against the backdrop of an intense war between the M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in North Kivu.

For the East African leaders, the parties involved must favour dialogue to achieve peace.

The DRC authorities say they have a “double strategy”: diplomacy, but also war to impose peace.

Also read: Cost of DRC war on EAC economies

For this reason, Kinshasa simultaneously says it remains open to dialogue while continuing to fight the rebels who paradoxically also say they are open to dialogue.

President Tshisekedi on Saturday welcomed President João Lourenço, the Angolan head of state and mediator of the Luanda negotiations.

João Lourenço was in Kigali on Friday to meet President Paul Kagame, again in the search for peace. For the moment, despite the increasing number of meetings, the resolutions of the Luanda roadmap, in particular the ceasefire in the theatre of war, have remained a dead letter.

In the DRC, many Congolese reject the idea of dialogue with the M23.

Kinshasa has already set its conditions, including the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions.

Martin Fayulu, a very vocal opponent of Félix Tshisekedi, also believes that Congo “should not dialogue with the M23”. He proposes to talk with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi “so that they withdraw their soldiers from the DRC”.

Fayulu also rejects the deployment of Kenyan troops in the DRC. According to him, “this deployment is a big joke”.

Almost the entire Congolese public opinion does not want to see DR Congo in talks with the M23. With one year to go before the general election, the authorities are sensitive to national opinion.

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The East African Community (EAC) is engaged in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A day after the arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma, North Kivu, […]

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DR Congo army clashes with rebels as Angola pursues peace bid

M23 rebels and DR Congo troops clashed heavily in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president pursued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbours Kinshasa and Kigali.

Tensions between DR Congo and Rwanda are at their highest in years, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour of backing the M23, charges the Rwandan government denies.

In eastern DRC, locals reported hearing heavy artillery fire around Rugari, in Rutshuru territory, from early morning as the army targeted M23 combatants.

The DRC military had this week deployed Sukhoi-25 jets and Mi-24 helicopters against the M23, a mainly Tutsi Congolese militia.

People flee for safety

The clashes sent more people fleeing for safety, one witness told AFP by telephone from Rumangabo, 10 kilometres (six miles) from Rugari.

“We can hear the sound of the bombing,” he said.

Medical sources said at least five civilians, including two children, were killed and 11 wounded in Friday’s fighting.

The artillery fire was coming from Kibumba on a main road that runs to the regional capital Goma.

An AFP reporter on the edge of the city saw an army tank and lorry loaded with munitions heading towards the combat zone.

“Fighting continues at Rugari. We are making progress,” a security source said.

Power disruption

During the afternoon, power was disrupted in Goma after a transmission line from a hydroelectric plant was hit, Virunga Energies said.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said gunmen had attacked UN-backed school canteens in the Rutshuru area, which is under M23 control.

“Six primary schools were targeted for now and food stocks taken forcibly,” a WFP statement said.

‘Regional efforts’

“Armed groups came with lorries and took the stocks that were at the schools in Kiwanja and Rutshuru,” said the WFP coordinator for the region.

“At the moment, in Rutshuru territory, it’s M23 who are active. Obviously we suspect them, because they control the two towns,” in North Kivu province, he added.

The M23 has won a string of victories against the DRC’s army in North Kivu province in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under its control.

Mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed militias including the M23, which rose to prominence in 2012, briefly occupying Goma.

Dormant for years

But after laying mostly dormant for years, it resumed fighting in 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

Eastern DRC has been plagued for nearly three decades by armed groups, many of them inherited from the wars that bloodied the region in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco was visiting Rwanda on Friday as part of diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute with the DRC and is due in Kinshasa Saturday.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month, while also recalling its envoy from Kigali.

Lourenco was to hold talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “as part of the regional efforts to normalise relations between Rwanda and DR Congo”, the ruling party newspaper The New Times said.

The meeting comes on the heels of talks between the countries’ two foreign ministers who agreed on Saturday to accelerate efforts to resolve the diplomatic crisis.

Roadmap to end hostilities

A roadmap for ending hostilities had been reached at an Angola-brokered summit between Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi in July. 

On Wednesday, Kenya’s parliament approved the deployment of more than 900 troops to the DRC as part of a regional force established to try to restore security in the east.

Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community bloc’s mediator for the situation, will visit Kinshasa on Sunday for a 48-hour working visit, the DRC’s presidency said.

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M23 rebels and DR Congo troops clashed heavily in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president pursued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbours Kinshasa and Kigali. Tensions between […]

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Kinshasa, Kigali row spells trouble for regional economic recovery

The diplomatic feud between Kigali and Kinshasa threatens to undermine the region’s favourable economic outlook if tensions escalate as both sides trade accusations of aiding armed militias in the volatile eastern DRC region bordering Rwanda.

In its latest sub-regional economic outlook report for Eastern Africa to be released next week, UNECA projects the region will marginally grow at 4.3 percent in 2022 — well above the continental forecast of 2.7 percent and the global 2.5 percent.

“This is a relatively good performance in East Africa when compared with others. However, compared to itself, a growth rate of 4.3 per cent this year shows a slower economic expansion from 2021, when we recorded an average growth rate of 6 per cent,” Mama Keita, Director, Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, UNECA based in Kigali told The EastAfrican on Thursday.

Multiple shocks

However, the region now faces multiple shocks that have stalled recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic-induced economic downturn including climatic shocks that have intensified across the region with severe droughts and heavy rains being recorded more frequently and for longer periods than before.

The situation is worsened by the cost of living crisis, which is based on high fuel and food costs due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

“Added to this are the effects of internal tensions or security threats in the DRC, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. These multiple shocks are of course taking a heavy socioeconomic and humanitarian toll, with millions of lives and livelihoods at stake,. Keita said.

She underscored that the multiple crises not only negatively affect growth but also fuel other risks including the cost of living, the level of debt and the exchange rate — all of which affect the purchasing power of populations, reduce the fiscal space for governments and prevent them from investing and fostering growth.

Risk profile advisory

“This situation increases the vulnerability of countries,” she said.

Stakes remain high as analysts are also beginning to raise the risk profile of the region due to the ongoing crisis. For instance, in its latest rating released October 28, Fitch ratings gave Rwanda a ‘B+’ rating citing its low level of GDP per capita and persistent twin budget and current account deficits, which have resulted in high and rising public and external indebtedness.

While the country’s strong governance and highly concessional nature of its public sector debt mitigate these risks, analysts at Fitch said its outlook is negative with risks partly linked to the ongoing “adverse global economic and financing environment, and risks to grants and concessional government financing related to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Fitch expects Rwanda’s real GDP growth of 5.9 percent in 2022 and 5.5 percent in 2023, largely driven by a strong rebound in tourism and service sectors. Inflation is expected to average 15 percent in 2022 and 12.5 per cent in 2023, before easing in 2024.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning did not respond to our request for comment by press time on Fitch’s ratings.

Tensions remain

The forecast comes as tensions remain despite renewed regional diplomatic efforts to avoid an escalation.

Angola’s President Joao Lourenco, who is leading mediation on behalf of the AU, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Alfred Mutua were expected in Kigali on Friday in the latest attempt to quell tensions.

Their visit comes after Rwanda this week accused the Congolese government of violating its airspace after a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from Congo briefly touched down at Rubavu Airport in Rwanda’s Western Province.

Rwanda this week accused the Congolese government of violating its airspace after a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from Congo briefly touched down at Rubavu Airport in Rwanda’s Western Province.

“No military action was taken by Rwanda in response, and the jet returned to DRC. Rwandan authorities have protested this provocation to the DRC Government,” the Rwandan government said in a statement issued 7th November.

In their defence, the Congolese government said its jet “unfortunately” entered Rwandan airspace and that it has “never harboured intentions of violating that of its neighbour’s.”

Despite the simmering tensions, officials have so far ruled out going to war.

In a recent communique after a meeting between foreign ministers of both countries in Angola’s capital, Luanda on November 5, both parties agreed “to continue the political dialogue between the leaders of the DR Congo and the Republic of Rwanda, as a way of resolving the bad political atmosphere between the two neighbouring countries.”

In Rwanda, officials have raised concern about “provocation” but maintain that they are committed to the ongoing regional mechanisms to resolve the standoff.

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The diplomatic feud between Kigali and Kinshasa threatens to undermine the region’s favourable economic outlook if tensions escalate as both sides trade accusations of aiding armed militias in the volatile […]

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Kenya: This is why we deployed our troops in DR Congo

Kenya has defended deployment of peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it has strategic investments interests to protect in the mineral-rich country.

While seeking parliamentary approval for the deployment, Nairobi said it has a lot to lose if the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC is not stopped.

The National Assembly this week endorsed the deployment, completing formalities for the participation of Nairobi in its first ever direct military engagement in the DRC

The troops, which will begin touching down in eastern DRC, and cost at least Ksh4.5 billion ($37 million) in the first six months, are being seen as a means to achieving Kenya’s mark on the DRC map.

Cost of not sending troops

However, Kenyan legislators agreed with a pitch by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale that the cost of not sending troops would be worse than deploying. Members of Parliament noted that Kenya’s rising business interests in the DR Congo means Nairobi has a personal investment in searching for peace.

“The long-term local and regional benefits in peace and stability, as well as strategic Kenyan investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo outweigh the costs,” Nelson Koech, MP for Belgut and chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations, told The EastAfrican.

“Through this deployment, Kenya will also secure its vital interests including Kenyan businesses like banks operating in the DRC, numerous Kenyan businesspeople in the country, bilateral trade with the DRC, and utilisation of the Mombasa port by the DRC among others,” he added.

The Committee which had been assessing Kenya’s formal deployment, a legal requirement, agreed that DRC’s entry into the East African Community earlier this year provides Kenyan businesses with an opportunity, if the country gets security.

The troops will be part of the regional force deployed by the EAC to target rebel groups who refuse to disarm. But it won’t be the only means.

“The troops deployment is complementary and very strategic to the ongoing political process in DRC. The Kenyan Contingent (KENCON) has a lot of goodwill from residents of Eastern DRC due to the fact that Kenya does not share a border with DRC,” Mr Koech added.

Provide leadership

“The KDF will therefore provide leadership and tangibly contribute to the maintenance of peace and security being a current non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council,” he said.

For months, the question has been how the regional force, technically a combat mission, will work with the UN peacekeepers under the Monusco mission in DRC. Kenya had participated in Monusco in the past but the troops to be deployed under the EAC will be Nairobi’s first combat engagement. Other countries sending troops are Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi with Rwanda allowed to deployed on the shared border with DRC.

On Friday, Kenyan President William Ruto hosted Huang Xia, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General to the Great Lakes region whom he told to push for further support for DRC’s institution rebuilding.

“We urge the International Community through the United Nations to put more resources into the peace efforts by East and Southern Africa nations in the DRC,” President Ruto said on Friday.

“We will support all initiatives to end conflict and bring stability and prosperity to East Africa and the Great Lakes Region.”

Exit strategy

Besides financing, the deployment had faced questions on exit strategy. And Kenya has argued this mission will be different from when it launched an operation on al-Shabaab 11 years ago, its then first combat dealings of any kind.

“In Somalia’s case the priority was to crush the Al-Shabaab infrastructure to incapacitate their ability to attack Kenya. In DRC, the mandate of the KDF is simple. We move in to facilitate ongoing regional stabilisation efforts to create room for dialogue,” Mr Koech explained.

The mission will, however, rely other factors to succeed. One of them is the relationship between Rwanda and DRC who accuse one another of fomenting rebel movements. This week, the two countries agreed, for the second time in three months, to seek a solution against their military escalation, through political channels. It was a decision out of a meeting in Luanda, Angola, of their respective foreign ministers

In a joint communiqué, Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula, his Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta and the Angolan Minister for External Relations agreed that the parties must speed up the implementation of the roadmap of July 6 this year. On that date, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi met his Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a summit mediated by Angolan President João Lourenço, the African Union’s appointed mediator to reconcile Kinshasa and Kigali. The Tripartite summit had ordered a ceasefire between the M23 rebel group and the Congolese army and the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions.

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DR Congo jets bomb M23 rebel positions in east of country

DR Congo’s military used newly deployed jets to bombard M23 positions in the east of the country on Tuesday, officials said, with some residents of rebel-held territory fleeing across the border. 

A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 first leapt to prominence in 2012, briefly capturing the main city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), before being driven out.

After lying dormant for years, the group took up arms again in late 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances. 

String of victories

M23 rebels have won a string of victories against the Congolese army in North Kivu province in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under their control.

Their resurgence has cratered relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the M23. 

On Tuesday, a Congolese security official who asked for anonymity said war planes were bombarding the rebel-held Tchanzu area of North Kivu and would continue “all day”. 

A resident of the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border -— which the M23 captured in June — confirmed to AFP that the aircraft were striking the area. 

“It’s every man for himself,” he said, describing how town residents were fleeing across the border into Uganda. 

Residents flee

Damien Sebuzanane, a local civil society representative, also said that Bunagana residents had fled. 

The DRC deployed two Sukhoi-25 jets to the troubled east over the weekend, after the M23 captured a series of settlements along an important highway leading to Goma. 

One on the planes violated Rwandan airspace on Monday — although Kinshasa said the incident was a mistake and not intentional. 

Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished report for the United Nations seen by AFP in August pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23.

The report also said the M23 plans to capture Goma in order to extract political concessions from the government in Kinshasa. 

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DR Congo’s military used newly deployed jets to bombard M23 positions in the east of the country on Tuesday, officials said, with some residents of rebel-held territory fleeing across the […]

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EAC defence chiefs to meet over conflict in eastern DR Congo

The Kenya Defence Forces has released a statement indicating that Kenyan troops will be deployed to the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) following a decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in Eastern DRC held in Nairobi in June 2022.

At the same time, Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is the chairman of the East African heads of state summit, has said that after consulting with his counterparts, the regional heads of defence forces will be meeting as soon as possible.

“President Evariste Ndayishimiye made a telephone conversation with his counterparts in the region with the aim of harmonising the views on the ways and means of managing the security crisis in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said a statement from the president Ndayishimiye’s spokesman Alain-Diomede Nzeyimana.

“At the end of the exchanges, it was decided that a meeting of the heads of defence forces of the EAC member countries should be held as soon as possible to study the parameters of a concerted and sustainable response, which will be followed by an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State,” the statement added.

Fighting intensifies

This comes as fighting between DRC forces and M23 rebels intensified in the eastern part of the country, forcing thousands of people to flee the country.

Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, allegations that Rwanda has denied.

While addressing the East African Legislative Assembly in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Tuesday, President Paul Kagame said his government is committed to peace and stability in the region.

“Rwanda remains committed to peace and stability efforts within the frameworks at both regional and continental levels,” said President Kagame.

His comments came after the DRC expelled Rwanda’s ambassador Vincent Karega. He was given 48 hours to leave the country.

Regional forces deployment

In June this year, Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who was then chairman of the East African Community heads of state summit, ordered the deployment of regional forces into DRC. The move came after M23 announced the capture of Bunagana city in the eastern part of the country, forcing hundreds of Congolese to flee to neighbouring Uganda.

Since then, there had been no any official announcement of deployment of the EAC standby force to DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo joined the East African Community in March this year. One month later, the new regional bloc member accused Kigali of destabilising the country by supporting the M23 rebels.

“There is concern about the escalation of the conflict between Rwanda and DRC, but the president (Kagame) was very clear that Rwanda is committed to existing regional and continental frameworks,” said George Odongo, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly from Uganda.

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The Kenya Defence Forces has released a statement indicating that Kenyan troops will be deployed to the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) following a decision endorsed and adopted by regional […]

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Kenya deploys troops ‘to protect humanity’ in eastern DR Congo

Kenya’s President William Ruto announced Wednesday the deployment of troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint regional operation against a rebel offensive.

Armed groups in eastern DRC have stepped up attacks, reviving ancient animosities and unleashing a surge in tension with neighbouring Rwanda.

Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) agreed in April to establish a joint force to help restore security in the region.

Speaking at a ceremony in Nairobi, Ruto said the troops were “on a mission to protect humanity”.

“As neighbours, the destiny of DRC is intertwined with ours,” he added.

“We will not allow any armed groups, criminals and terrorists to deny us our shared prosperity.”

Command the force

Kenya will command the force, which will also include soldiers from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan.

A Rwandan contingent will be deployed along the border, after Kinshasa objected to Kigali’s participation in any operations within the DRC.

Military officials in Nairobi declined to reveal the number of Kenyan soldiers involved, citing “obvious security reasons”.

A UN force, known by its French acronym of MONUSCO, is already operating in the DRC. Uganda and Burundi also sent troops to the DRC earlier at the invitation of the Congolese government.

M23 rebels

The M23 rebels, a mostly Congolese group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the DRC government of failing to honour an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.

Fresh advances by the militia across North Kivu province last month prompted the UN peacekeeping mission there to increase its alert level and boost support for the Congolese army.

The M23’s resurgence has had resounding repercussions for relations in central Africa.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of backing the militia, claims denied by Kigali.

On Saturday, Kinshasa decided to expel Rwanda’s ambassador. In turn, Rwanda accused Kinshasa of being “on the path of continued military escalation.”

The increase in violence has alarmed the international community, with the African Union appealing for a ceasefire.

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Kenya’s President William Ruto announced Wednesday the deployment of troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint regional operation against a rebel offensive. Armed groups in eastern DRC […]

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AU, EAC call for ceasefire in war between DRC army and M23

The African Union (AU) and the East African community (EAC) have called on the parties in the conflict between between the Congolese army (FARDC) and rebel group M23 to begin a ceasefire in order to enable a peaceful solution to the ongoing war.

The call came on Monday, a day after the Democratic Republic of Congo expelled Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega.

In a statement, Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is the AU chairperson, together with AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed their deep concern about the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of the DR Congo, and urged “all stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue. This, they said, should be within the framework of the existing African Union peace, security and cooperation framework for the DRC and the region, and the East African Community Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue.

The whole region is particularly concerned about the escalating violence that is trapping civilians. The war has intensified and the rebels have taken over two villages — Kiwanja and Rutshuru centre in North Kivu — in addition to Bunagana.

Military confrontation

In view of the current situation, the city of Goma, the most populated in North Kivu, risks experiencing a military confrontation like it did in 2012.

The possibility of an escalation in the most populated parts of eastern DRC could threaten the stability of the entire region. This is what African leaders are trying to avoid at all costs.

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the AU-Kenya peace envoy and facilitator of the EAC-led Nairobi process, called on “all parties to recognise that there is no military solution to the conflict and embrace a peaceful means to the settlement”.

Although DRC and Rwanda diplomatic relations are breaking down, both countries said they are fully committed to the Luanda process, where they had already begun negotiations in search for peace, under the aegis of Angolan President João Lourenço, who had been mandated by the African Union to spearhead the process.

Find a peaceful solution

On Sunday, the Angolan leader sent an emissary to DRC President Félix Tshisekedi to discuss the situation in eastern Congo. The Angolan Minister of External Relations Tete Antonio brought Lourenço’s message to President Tshisekedi that his Angolan counterpart intends “to continue his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the dispute between Kinshasa and Kigali through the application of the Luanda roadmap established in July 2022”, the communication office of the Congolese head of state reported.

The heads of state in the sub-region are clear have insisted on the need to resume negotiations within the framework of the ICGLR, the Nairobi process and the Luanda process.

With regard to the Nairobi process, the stakeholders, namely the Congolese state and various armed groups, are due to meet in the Kenyan capital for the third round of the Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue.

The third session, which was initially slated for November 7-14, 2022 has been rescheduled for November 21-27, 2022 in Nairobi.

During the first two sessions of these consultations, 30 representatives of the armed groups were present to negotiate for peace with representatives of the Congolese state.

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The African Union (AU) and the East African community (EAC) have called on the parties in the conflict between between the Congolese army (FARDC) and rebel group M23 to begin […]

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DR Congo expels Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels gain ground

The authorities in Kinshasa on Saturday announced they were expelling the Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels they accuse Kigali of supporting made fresh gains in the east of the troubled country.

The announcement, made by government spokesman Patrick Muyaya, came after a government meeting to assess the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The latest advance by rebel fighters prompted the UN peacekeeping mission there to increase its “troop alert level” and boost support for the army.

Muyaya said that in recent days “a massive arrival of elements of the Rwandan element to support the M23 terrorists” against DR Congo’s troops had been observed.

“This criminal and terrorist adventure” had forced thousands of people to flee their homes, he added.

Given Rwanda’s continued support for the rebels, the defence council, presided over by President Felix Tshisekedi, had decided to ask the government to give Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega 48 hours to leave the country.

M23 rebel fighters have seized control of Kiwanja and Rutshuru-centre along the strategic RN2 highway in the eastern province of North Kivu, local officials and witnesses told AFP by telephone earlier Saturday.

Rebels had also been seen at Rugari, just 30 kilometres (20 miles) down the RN2 from the provincial capital Goma, which it links with the north and Uganda.

Four peacekeepers were wounded by mortar fire and shooting at Kiwanja, the mission announced.

“Kiwanja and Rutshuru-centre are in M23 hands,” said civil society representative Jacques Niyonzima.

“The rebels have held two meetings and told local people to go about their work and those displaced to return to their villages, saying security was now guaranteed,” he said.

At Kiwanja, “in our area we recorded three deaths, a man, a woman and her child, killed by shells that landed on houses”, said local resident Eric Muhindo.

A general hospital official in Rutshuru added: “There were several wounded in Kiwanja after a small amount of resistance”.

“Calm has returned. People are moving about and shops are opening,” the official said, asking not to be named.

The UN’s MONUSCO mission condemned “the hostile acts of M23” and called for an immediate halt to the fighting.

The mission said on Twitter it was providing “air support, intelligence and equipment” as well as medical assistance.

The peacekeepers said they were “mobilised in support” of DRC’s army after residents reported at least 10 people dead since Sunday and dozens more injured near the RN2.

MONUSCO said it had set up an “operations coordination centre” with the army and was carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance flights, but did not provide further details about the alert level.

M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the government of having failed to honour an agreement over the demobilisation of its fighters.

It has since captured swathes of territory in North Kivu, including the key town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border in June.

The front line between Congolese troops and M23 rebels had been calm in recent weeks until last week, when clashes erupted again.

Last Sunday, M23 fighters captured the village of Ntamugenga in the Rutshuru area. It lies four kilometres (less than three miles) from the RN2 where the clashes spread on Thursday.

The UN humanitarian affairs office in the DRC said this week around 34,500 people had fled the Rutshuru region.

The group’s resurgence has destabilised regional relations in central Africa, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the militia.

Rwanda denies the charges and counters that DRC works with a notorious Hutu rebel movement involved in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis, the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which Kinshasa also denies.

A report by independent UN experts seen by AFP in August found that Kigali had provided direct support to the M23.

And this week a US representative to the United Nations spoke of Rwandan defence forces providing assistance to the M23.

Angola’s President Joao Lourenco said he would dispatch his Foreign Minister Tete Antonio to DR Congo to mediate the dispute, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said following a phone call between the leaders.

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The authorities in Kinshasa on Saturday announced they were expelling the Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels they accuse Kigali of supporting made fresh gains in the east of the troubled […]

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Armed group attacks peacekeeping base in DRC second time in a week: UN

UN peacekeepers have for the second time in the past week repelled an attack on their base in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a spokesman said on Thursday.

Suspected members of the Twirwaneho armed group on Wednesday opened fire on the base in Minembwe, in South Kivu province, said Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Our UN peacekeepers returned fire, forcing the assailants to disperse,” Dujarric told a regular briefing. “There are no casualties among peacekeeping troops. This is the second attack carried out by the group in a week towards the same UN base.”

He said a UN peacekeeper from Pakistan was killed in the September 30 attack, which was strongly condemned by Guterres. The Minembwe base in the tropical highlands of Fizi territory is part of the UN mission in the DRC known as MONUSCO.

The Twirwaneho is one of about 120 armed groups known to be terrorising the eastern DRC.

On Wednesday, the spokesman reported that MONUSCO dispatched a patrol of peacekeepers to join DRC forces in North Kivu province after eight civilians were killed in a raid in Beni territory believed to have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group.

Such attacks in the DRC’s mineral-rich eastern provinces have terrorised the civilian population.

Earlier this year, civilians staged demonstrations, some turning deadly, protesting what they said is a lack of protection and failure to halt the violence. 

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France ex-president urges regional forces in DRC to be on the offensive

Former French President François Hollande says the regional force to be sent by the East African Community to the Democratic Republic of Congo must be offensive and attack the enemy from the start.

Hollande who flew to Bukavu from Kinshasa for two-day trip in South Kivu, eastern DRC, met with Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018.

But he used the trip to address the issue of the deployment of regional forces to eastern DRC to quell rebel attacks.

While his host of the day, Dr Mukwege, is very much opposed to the deployment of contingents of soldiers to DRC, Mr Hollande suggests that the regional force should be deployed for a “short duration”.

This “force must be offensive. It must be a force of action,” he said on Wednesday.

Hollande made the trip to attend the inauguration of a modern operating theatre at the Panzi hospital which is run by Dr Mukwege, who is being pushed by several people in DR Congo to run in the 2023 presidential election.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing to host the contingents of the East African Community that will come to stem insecurity in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri regions in eastern DRC.

Burundian troops have already been on the offensive since August 15 in South Kivu, and President Félix Tshisekedi announced the arrival of Kenyan troops in the coming days. South Sudan has also said it has prepared 750 troops to go into the troubled eastern provinces of the DRC.

The presidents of the East African sub-region expressed their urgency to put an end to nearly 30 years of violence in the eastern DRC during the April 2022 conclave in Nairobi.

The former head of state believes that it is “necessary that in eastern Congo, France and several personalities work so that crimes do not go unpunished.”

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Former French President François Hollande says the regional force to be sent by the East African Community to the Democratic Republic of Congo must be offensive and attack the enemy […]

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Tanzania, DR Congo rank poorly on digital life quality: report

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania are among the countries with the worst digital quality of life globally, occasioned by slow internet speed, high costs of internet, and other factors.

The 2022 Digital Quality of Life Index, produced by Dutch network company Surfshark, reveals that DRC citizens have the least digital wellbeing, out of the 117 countries surveyed, with Tanzania ranking 107.

The index measures the quality or speed and affordability of internet in the countries along with the availability and strength of electronic infrastructure, security, and government.

Kenya was ranked the highest in East Africa, but 78th globally, with Uganda coming second in the region and 98th globally. There was no data on Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.

DRC came last, particularly in electronic infrastructure which assesses how developed and inclusive a country’s digital infrastructure is; and in electronic government that assesses how advanced and digitised the government services are.

Kinshasa also came last in electronic security, which measures how safe and protected people feel while in the digital space in the country. Uganda was ranked to have the second least affordable internet globally.

According to the Surfshark report, electronic infrastructure and government are the leading determinants of citizens’ digital well-being, as many countries that ranked low in these also ranked low in the overall index 92 percent of the time.

Internet affordability and quality are the least important factors of the quality of life, the report says.

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Rwanda, DR Congo differ on M23 threat, offer parallel solutions in French mediation

Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo agree that M23 and other armed militia are a major security threat and are hurting bilateral ties. However, the two countries are prescribing different solutions to the problem.

This week in New York, presidents Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame met under mediation of French President Emmanuel Macron. They agreed to resume talks on how to tackle the M23 threat.

“The two presidents agreed to act together to obtain, as soon as possible, the withdrawal of the M23 from all occupied regions and the return of displaced people to their homes, with the support of the United Nations and their partners in the African Union, the East African Community and the Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR),” the DR Congo presidency said in a statement.

The dispatch said President Kagame and President Tshisekedi “have also agreed to intensify their co-operation in the long term to fight against impunity and put an end to the action of armed groups in the Great Lakes region, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). These efforts will take place within the framework of existing regional peace initiatives, including the Nairobi process.”

Kigali did not release the “joint statement” but indicates that the leaders had discussed solutions to the conflict in the DR Congo’s eastern region.

The New York meeting, however, was preceded by harsh words for Rwanda by President Tshisekedi in a speech on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly.

He said that Rwanda was undermining peace efforts in the DRC.

“Despite my goodwill for the search of peace, some neighbours have found no better way to thank us than to aggress and support armed groups that are ravaging eastern Congo,” he said.

President Tshisekedi added: “In defiance of international law, [Rwanda] has once again not only interfered in the DR Congo since March by direct incursions of its armed forces, but also occupies localities in North Kivu province by an armed terrorist group, the M23, to which it provides massive support in terms of equipment and troops.”

President Kagame hit back a day later, noting that the insecurity situation in eastern DRC had exposed Rwanda to “cross border attacks that are entirely preventable”.

“The blame game does not solve the problems,” he said in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

“There is an urgent need to find the political will to finally address the root cause of instability in eastern DR Congo. These challenges are not insurmountable and solutions can be found. This would ultimately be much less costly in terms of both money and human lives,” President Kagame added.

Tensions have persisted, with officials from both governments telling The EastAfrican that no progress has been registered since the height of hostilities earlier this year.

“There is no improvement in relations at all. DR Congo has insisted on Rwanda as its scapegoat for the insecurity in the east, even when they have so many rebel groups operating there,” a Rwandan official said on condition of anonymity.

Kinshasa sees Rwanda as a state aggressor, particularly with the capture of Bunagana town by the M23 rebels. Rwanda sees the DRC as a supporter of former genocide masterminds FDLR group, which is hiding in DR Congo.

“Bunagana has to be free for RwandAir to be allowed to resume flights to DR Congo. This is DR Congo saying, ‘M23 is Rwanda’,” a DRC official told The EastAfrican.

Takeover

Since June, M23 rebels have controlled Bunagana town in the North Kivu province that borders Uganda.

The advance of M23 culminated in the suspension of RwandAir flights to the DRC, as well as the shelling of rockets into Rwandan territory by the Congolese army.

This week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told France 24, that the only way to achieve peace is through “serious” discussions between the DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

“We need to have a joint perspective to avoid this situation that always takes us backwards when we make progress.

“These countries need to understand each other. These countries must co-operate effectively for the security of the Congo and also to guarantee security in Rwanda and Uganda.”

The DRC and Rwanda had opened dialogue under a Joint Commission. But the two countries have only had one meeting, in late July. Previously, the Joint Commission had not met for 10 years.

After the resurgence of the M23 rebels, this year the DRC accused Rwanda of supporting the Congolese rebels militarily and in the supply of arms.

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KCB to finalize purchase of Congo lender by year end

KCB Group expects to finalise the acquisition of Democratic Republic of Congo lender Trust Merchant Bank (TMB) by the end of the year after receiving shareholder approval for the transaction.

The tier-one lender said the shareholders’ nod at an Extra Ordinary General Meeting (EGM) held in Nairobi on Wednesday will see it accelerate the acquisition, which it first revealed last month.

KCB, which already has operations in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan, wants to acquire an 85 percent stake in TMB and plans to buy the remaining shares within two years.

Read: EA’s top banks scramble for a piece of Congo’s market

The deal will be priced at 1.49 times the book value or net assets of the DRC lender, which as of the end of 2021 stood at Ksh14.15 billion. This would value the takeover at Ksh17.9 billion at this multiple.

“The approval of the transaction demonstrates the confidence our shareholders have in the financial and strategic benefits of the transaction and the value it provides our regional clients and communities,” said KCB Group CEO Paul Russo.

“The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.”

The deal will see KCB go to head-to-head with Equity, which entered the DRC in 2015 through a buyout of ProCredit Bank and increased market share in 2020 after acquiring another lender– Banque Commerciale du Congo (BCDC).

TMB is one of DRC’s largest banks, with Ksh181.5 billion ($1.5 billion) in total assets. The lender, which is headquartered in the DRC’s second largest city Lubumbashi, began operations in 2004.

As of June last year, the lender commanded an 11 percent market share in the DRC, having established 109 branches in the country and a representative office in Belgium.

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KCB Group expects to finalise the acquisition of Democratic Republic of Congo lender Trust Merchant Bank (TMB) by the end of the year after receiving shareholder approval for the transaction. […]

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Emmanuel Macron meets Paul Kagame and Felix Tshisekedi over DRC war

French President Emmanuel Macron has met with the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeing progress in easing tensions that have flared in recent months.

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Macron on Wednesday invited Rwandan President Paul Kagame to lunch with his DR Congo counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, who a day earlier had accused Kigali of backing rebel attacks in his country.

Read: Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels

The three leaders together “noted their concerns about the resurgence of violence in the east of the DRC,” the French presidency said in a statement.

France said that Kagame and Tshisekedi agreed on the need for the pullout of M23 rebels from the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border.

The three leaders want to “intensify lasting cooperation to fight impunity and put an end to activities of armed groups in the Great Lakes region,” including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, the statement said.

Kagame’s government has demanded a crackdown on the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu group that Kigali views as a threat due to links to the 1994 genocide.

But the M23, a separate group in the violence-wracked east of DR Congo, has been the focus of recent tensions. 

In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Tshisekedi alleged that Rwanda has provided “massive support” to M23, which he blamed for the shooting down of a UN peacekeeping helicopter in March, in which eight people died.

“Rwanda’s involvement and responsibility are no longer debatable,” he said.

Kagame called for calm in his own address on Wednesday.

“There is an urgent need to find a political need to find and address the root cause of instability in eastern DRC,” Kagame said.

“The blame game does not solve the problems. These challenges are not insurmountable and solutions can be found,” he said.

“This would ultimately be much less costly in terms of both money and human lives.”

Kagame’s government has long rejected allegations of backing the M23, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on an August visit to Kinshasa, said there were “credible” reports of Rwandan support.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has met with the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeing progress in easing tensions that have flared in recent months. On the […]

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Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels in DR Congo

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reignited an accusation against Rwanda, insisting that Kigali is still fanning rebel groups in his country’s territory.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Tshisekedi claimed his efforts to reunite the country and pursue peaceful settlements have been dragged by continual external interference, accusing Rwanda, in particular, of fomenting rebel movements.

“Despite my goodwill for the search of peace, some neighbours have found no better way to thank us than to aggress and support armed groups that are ravaging eastern Congo,” he told an audience on Tuesday night.

Read: DRC, Rwanda agree to ease tension and normalise diplomatic relations

Also read: The M23 demon: Could Rwanda ultimately invade eastern Congo?

Turning to Rwanda, he said: “In defiance of international law, has once again not only interfered in the DRC since MARCH by direct incursions of its armed forces (Rwanda Defense Force RDF), but also occupies localities in North Kivu province (eastern DRC) by an armed terrorist group, the M23, to which it provides massive support in terms of equipment and troops.”

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Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels in DR Congo

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 21 2022

    

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi at the UN headquarters.

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022. PHOTO | ANGELA WEISS | AFPADVERTISEMENT

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By PARTICK ILUNGA

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DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reignited an accusation against Rwanda, insisting that Kigali is still fanning rebel groups in his country’s territory.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Tshisekedi claimed his efforts to reunite the country and pursue peaceful settlements have been dragged by continual external interference, accusing Rwanda, in particular, of fomenting rebel movements.

“Despite my goodwill for the search of peace, some neighbours have found no better way to thank us than to aggress and support armed groups that are ravaging eastern Congo,” he told an audience on Tuesday night.

Read: DRC, Rwanda agree to ease tension and normalise diplomatic relations

Also read: The M23 demon: Could Rwanda ultimately invade eastern Congo?

Turning to Rwanda, he said: “In defiance of international law, has once again not only interfered in the DRC since MARCH by direct incursions of its armed forces (Rwanda Defence Force RDF), but also occupies localities in North Kivu province (eastern DRC) by an armed terrorist group, the M23, to which it provides massive support in terms of equipment and troops.”

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The accusation against Rwanda, which has been rejected many times before by Kigali, is likely to elicit a response when Kigali’s representative addresses the UN later in the week. But it could also signal simmering differences between the two countries that had initially cut official communication between them before resuming talks.

In July, after meeting in Angolan capital Luanda, under mediation of President Joao Lourenço, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and President Tshisekedi agreed to reopen dialogue and have their differences solved diplomatically.

Read: Region steps up diplomatic firefighting in Rwanda-DRC tensions

Tshisekedi told the audience he is always ready to pursue peace, speaking of recent arrangements to hold dialogue with rebel groups that did not succeed as other parties to the talks pulled out.

“Since my election as head of state of the DRC, I have not stopped fighting every day for peace. In order to definitively eradicate insecurity, restore lasting peace and ensure stability in the East of my country, several agreements have been signed with armed groups and even neighbouring countries.

“National and international mechanisms have been created. All these prospects for a final settlement of the conflict lasted only a few months. Soon, the architecture cracked and the building collapsed; we always start with the same tragedies.

Read: Rwanda: ‘Leaked UN report’ on DRC invasion a distraction from real issues

Tshisekedi spoke at the opening of the regular session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. And for 38 minutes, the Congolese head of state touched on global security issues, including terrorism, which he argued had not spared the African continent. He also talked about the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the need for a peaceful settlement between these two countries.

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DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reignited an accusation against Rwanda, insisting that Kigali is still fanning rebel groups in his country’s territory. In a speech to the UN General […]

Continue reading "Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels in DR Congo"

South Sudan on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

South Sudan is stepping up vigilance along its borders following an outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring Uganda.

Kampala on Tuesday confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the country, with experts confirming that it was the deadly Sudan strain that currently has no vaccine.

On Tuesday, South Sudan’s undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, Victoria Anib Majur, urged communities living along the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to report any suspicious cases of Ebola to health authorities.

“We are very concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Uganda because we share the border. We have a lot of movement across the border. Our families are in Uganda and Ugandans are on this side,” Majur told journalists in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

She also urged the public to refrain from eating bush meat as the Ebola virus can spread from animals to humans through contaminated bush meat.

Majur added that national assessment teams will be deployed in the border areas of Yambio and Nimule bordering DRC and Uganda, respectively.

On August 21, the DRC government announced an Ebola outbreak after detecting the virus in a 46-year-old woman living in the city of Beni, in the province of North Kivu. This came just a month after it had declared the end of the 14th Ebola outbreak in the country.

Majur added that Juba would partner with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to promote public awareness of the Ebola virus disease.

Fabian Ndenzako, the acting WHO Representative for South Sudan, said that the Ministry of Health has already activated the incident management system for Ebola virus disease.

“There is a lot of movement across the border, so it’s really important that this incident management system is really activated. We don’t have a case in South Sudan but, given the proximity and closeness, we have to prepare,” Ndenzako said.

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South Sudan is stepping up vigilance along its borders following an outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring Uganda. Kampala on Tuesday confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the country, with experts […]

Continue reading "South Sudan on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda"

Shelter Afrique approves $18m loan for DRC housing projects

Pan-African housing financier Shelter Afrique has approved an $18.5 million corporate loan to a Democratic Republic of Congo-based developer for three housing projects.

The five-year facility is part of “urban regeneration,” the lender said Tuesday and is the third credit line for the company since 2016.

The Katanga-based Maison Super Development (MSD) is building office blocks in the southern city of Kolwezi and southeastern Lubumbashi, the third-biggest DRC city, where it is also putting up a housing project.

“Lubumbashi and Kolwezi are two cities gradually being transformed into major cities in the DRC,” said Shelter Afrique acting managing director Kingsley Muwowo, adding that the funding makes it easy to “create a mix where both affordable housing would exist with commercial spaces to spur business activities and employment.”

“We are grateful for the partnership, which will enable us to change the face of Lubumbashi and Kolwezi one housing unit at a time,” said Dharmendra Kumar, MSD’s managing director.

Shelter Afrique has been ramping up its activities in DRC through public-private partnerships and equity investments in large-scale, low-cost housing projects. It also injected $11.4 million into a lender for mortgage financing.

The financier has been seeking to invest in lower-cost projects across its 40 member states in the continent. Early this year, it launched a ‘housing affordability calculator’ to vet proposals pitched by developers.

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Pan-African housing financier Shelter Afrique has approved an $18.5 million corporate loan to a Democratic Republic of Congo-based developer for three housing projects. The five-year facility is part of “urban […]

Continue reading "Shelter Afrique approves $18m loan for DRC housing projects"

East African standby force seeks to correct past mistakes in DR Congo

The imminent deployment of the East African regional force to the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo will be preceded by a massive civilian awareness campaign. Officials say they first want to correct errors committed by other international missions by educating civilians on the tasks of the force, which will include engagements with locals to abandon war.

It is a new tactic endorsed last week by Kinshasa to help begin a peacebuilding programme on a clean slate.

Christophe Lutundula, the DR Congo Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs last week signed agreements on the status of the regional force with Peter Mathuki, Secretary General of the East African Community, effectively permitting member states to deploy their troops.

But while it’s only a matter of time for troops to hit the ground, military chiefs from member states agreed in their Concept of Operations to give prominence to civilian engagements. They agreed that past deployments by the UN and regional bloc SADC faced routine public suspicions. For the UN, the forces have in the past been accused of atrocities including rape. Since July, protesters have targetted UN peacekeepers’ camps in eastern DRC, accusing them of failing to beat down rebels.

Read: One killed during anti-UN protest in east DR Congo

The standby force by the EAC will have an initial timeframe of six months, renewable, and will, besides combat, work on civilian programmes such as setting up social amenities and holding peace meetings with villagers in a new strategy meant to endear locals to the authorities.

“The objective is to stabilise the region, to put an end to terrorist and criminal activities and to promote cooperation, a true partnership, beneficial to all,” said Lutundula.

Vast distances

The deployment of this force will take place in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, three huge provinces whose combined area is seven times the size of Rwanda but which have not known peace for three decades. These provinces are also where a hundred or so armed groups of various kinds are hiding.

The deployment of the regional force will take place in a particularly tense context: The M23 rebels have resumed attacks on civilian and military bases, including the town of Bunagana, on the border with Uganda.

Additionally, Uganda’s ADF terrorists have been able to resist both the Congolese and Ugandan armies despite a joint operation launched in November. Last month, the ADF managed to carry out an escape operation of more than 800 prisoners in North Kivu. Authorities said some of the prisoners have now been recruited to fight for ADF.

Conservative estimates show that at least six million people have died from conflict in eastern DRC since 1994. This is in spite of various missions of peacekeeping, including the UN stabilisation mission (Monusco). Recent protests against Monusco were an expression of the inefficiencies of the missions.

Besides the forthcoming East African regional force, the area is already patrolled by the FARDC (the Congolese army), the UPDF (the Ugandan army) since last year, the Burundian army since last month and Monusco since 1999.

Expectations are high for the contingents. Reacting to the disillusionment of Monusco, with its 16,000 soldiers, in June, Bintou Keita, the head of Monusco explained the need for “a regional solution” to overcome the insecurity.

The contrast between the enormous expectations of the Congolese authorities with regard to the regional force, and the reticence of the same force by a part of the Congolese is striking, however. Roger Manzakele, spokesperson for the North Kivu civil society association said most Congolese “fear unnecessary and disorderly over-militarisation.”

“On top of that, there have been many other forces that have been here for a long time and yet the situation has never changed. We think that with this, the DRC will be too dependent on others for security,” he said.

The Congolese are trying to maintain a good hope that peace will return thanks to the actions of neighbours.

Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege and opposition leader Martin Fayulu have been among the doubting Thomases. Mr Fayulu told The EastAfrican last month that “DR Congo must not leave the issue of security in the hands of foreign armies.”

The deployment may bank heavily on a supportive vote by the public. But this early excitement may be pricked if rebels put up a fight.

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The imminent deployment of the East African regional force to the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo will be preceded by a massive civilian awareness campaign. Officials say […]

Continue reading "East African standby force seeks to correct past mistakes in DR Congo"

DR Congo pledges to pay EAC dues and cement role in bloc

The Democratic Republic of Congo says it will settle dues to the East African Community on time, reflecting the country’s commitment to its new membership in the bloc.

On Thursday, DRC Deputy Prime Minister Christophe Lutundula said Kinshasa is ready to send representatives to EAC organs to cement role in the bloc it formally joined in May. The country, like other member states, is required to pay at least $8 million a year.

Most countries owe the bloc membership fees, however, with South Sudan leading with more than $20 million due.

DR Congo needs to pass amendments to its laws to allow free movement of people, localise trade protocols of the EAC and send members to the East African Legislative Assembly, East African Court of Justice and the Secretariat.

He spoke as the EAC kicked off its first mission to the country led by Secretary General of the EAC Peter Mathuki.

Read: EAC team on orientation tour in DR Congo

Governance instruments

The mission aims to reflect on the key priorities for deepening integration and exploiting investment opportunities, a dispatch said.

It is also meant to help the DRC to improve the understanding of the integration pillars; Common Market, Customs Union, Monetary Union and Political Federation protocols; and the various governance instruments of the EAC to help it easily join the community.

Mr Lutundula said the DRC is preparing to “reorient its policies and resources to create favourable conditions for the development of international trade, to create favourable conditions for the development and achievement of the objectives of the Community.”

“As a member, the DRC will adopt legislation to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the Treaty establishing the East African Community.”

Kinshasa says it is already working on a policy for free movement of people, workers, labour, goods and services in the region.

Dr Mathuki said the DRC’s membership will expand the Community’s consumer market from 177 million to 260 million people, raising the GDP from $193 billion to $240 billion.

Although lacking in infrastructure such as roads linking the provinces, the DR Congo has 80 million hectares of arable land, over 1,100 different viable minerals and a market of 90 million people.

SOURCE

The Democratic Republic of Congo says it will settle dues to the East African Community on time, reflecting the country’s commitment to its new membership in the bloc. On Thursday, […]

Continue reading "DR Congo pledges to pay EAC dues and cement role in bloc"

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