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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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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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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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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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 […]

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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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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 […]

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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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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 […]

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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 […]

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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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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 […]

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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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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.

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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, […]

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EAC troops get nod for deployment in east DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has signed a troop deployment deal with the East African Community (EAC), signalling the imminent formal sending of forces to combat rebels in the east of the country.

President Félix Tshisekedi witnessed the signing of the agreement by Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula and Peter Mathuki, the secretary-general of the EAC.

Mr Lutundula said “the deployment of this force will be in the execution of the political will expressed by all the Heads of State of the community, namely to definitively settle the issue of stability, security and peace in the Great Lakes region within the community”.

Dr Mathuki and Macharia Kamau, Kenya’s special envoy to the Nairobi Process launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta to seek peace in the DRC, have been in Kinshasa as part of the EAC mission to discuss the key priorities for deepening integration and exploiting investment opportunities in the region.

The troop deployment was agreed on in June by the EAC conclave of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. It was later endorsed by the EAC Summit, indicating an entire agreement of the bloc to support the DRC peace process.

Read: East African army awaits nod on rules for DRC mission

But the actual deployment has been awaiting a formal agreement, which will describe the terms of reference, legal obligations and rights of troops and financial responsibilities of troop contributors. The EAC deal is supposed to be followed by individual member states signing the document before troops are deployed.

Mr Kamau stressed that the security situation in eastern DRC is of great concern. He said the threat requires closer cooperation and collaboration in the region and internationally to eradicate it.

A conclave of East African heads of state held in Nairobi in April decided to create a regional force made up of troops from member countries that would be deployed to the troubled provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri to help combat insecurity.

The DRC authorities have ruled out Rwanda’s participation in the force, following accusations of alleged support by the Rwandan army for the Congolese M23 rebels.

Since August 15, Burundian troops have been deployed in South Kivu to fight local armed groups and rebels from that country who are in eastern Congo. DRC authorities explained that this deployment was part of the East African regional force. South Sudan has also prepared a contingent of 750 soldiers as part of the regional force expected in eastern Congo.

The diplomatic mission was also in the DRC to help Kinshasa improve its understanding of the integration pillars and the various governance instruments of the EAC, such as protocols, laws, regulations, policies and strategies, in order to ensure a smooth entry into the community for the DRC.

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One killed during anti-UN protest in east DR Congo

A man was killed on Tuesday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo during a protest against United Nations peacekeepers, police and the UN said, in the latest violence in the troubled region.

Returning from patrol, UN peacekeepers, escorted by DR Congo armed forces, “were attacked by demonstrators throwing stones”, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, said in a statement.

“Warning shots permitted a path to be made through. One person unfortunately lost their life,” it added. “A joint investigation with the Congolese authorities will enable the circumstances of this death to be established.”

A police spokesman Nasson Murara had earlier said that UN troops had been passing through the town of Beni in North Kivu province when protesters on motorbikes blocked them and started throwing stones.

The troops fired shots to disperse the crowd, he said. “Unfortunately, in this mess of bullets, there was a stray that hit a driver, who is dead,” he told AFP. Police have launched an investigation to “identify the perpetrators of these shots”, Murara said.

Pepe Kavotha, the head of a network of civil society groups in Beni, said they “condemned the peacekeepers firing on the population”. The latest unrest follows deadly protests in July against MONUSCO.

Read: Death toll from anti-UN protests in DRC rises to 19

Thirty-two demonstrators and four UN troops died over the course of a week-long disturbance, according to a Congolese toll, and UN bases were ransacked. An estimated 120 armed groups roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that flared in the last decade of the 20th century.

Many Congolese are frustrated by MONUSCO’s perceived ineffectiveness in the face of persistent violence. 

Read: EDITORIAL: Monusco attacks call for EAC force deployment

The United Nations first deployed an observer mission to eastern Congo in 1999. It became the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO — the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — in 2010, with a mandate to conduct offensive operations.

It has a current strength of about 16,000 uniformed personnel.

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EAC team on orientation tour in DR Congo

The East African Community officials are set to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo to enhance awareness of how the bloc works.

The team led by the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki will comprise heads of EAC organs and institutions and eminent regional business leaders.

The DRC delegation will be led by Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’ Apala.

The EAC mission to the DRC will take place in Kinshasa, between September 6 and 9.

The mission will kick off with a two-day forum with DRC government officials and the EAC Secretariat, the East African Legislative Assembly and the East African Court of Justice as well as the eight institutions of the EAC.

“This forum will create a platform to enhance understanding of the DRC government officials on the EAC instruments-protocols, laws, policies and strategies,” Dr Mathuki said.

Dr Mathuki said the forum will provide a platform for heads of EAC Organs and Institutions to enhance awareness and understanding of the various commitments in the integration pillars and the governing instruments that are in place at EAC level to DRC government officials.

The mission aims at enhancing awareness to the DRC government officials on the existing instruments, create trade synergies, explore and build business partnerships and immediate linkages for business associations.

During the forum, the private sector accompanying the Secretary General will hold business-to-business (B2B) meetings aimed at exploring opportunities for building business linkages and partnerships on areas of common interests in aim of developing trade and investment relations.

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DR Congo reports new Ebola case in eastern city of Beni

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed a new case of Ebola in its violence-wracked east, the country’s health ministry said, just weeks after the end of a previous epidemic.

The DRC early last month declared its latest Ebola outbreak over, more than two months after the virus re-emerged in the northwestern Equateur province.

Read: DR Congo declares Ebola over

Last week, however, the World Health Organisation said DR Congo was investigating a suspected case.

The sample from a 46-year-old woman who died on August 15 in Beni city, North Kivu province, “tested positive” for Ebola, DR Congo’s health ministry said in a statement published late Monday.

It added that tests showed the case is linked to a previous strain of the virus from 2018 and was not a new variant.

The ministry sought to reassure the public that officials were “hard at work on the ground” to respond to the situation. Around 160 people have been identified as contact cases, it added.

Ebola is an often fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. The disease was named after a river in Zaire, as the country was known when it was discovered.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Read: New Ebola outbreak declared in DRC

Over 120 militias roam the DRC’s mineral-rich but volatile east, where attacks on civilians are routine.

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Tshisekedi chairs SADC but banks on East Africa for trade, security

The Democratic Republic of Congo has signalled interest in remaining in the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC), even as it cements its place in the East African Community.

Two months after it joined the EAC, President Felix Tshisekedi this week took over the mantle of SADC, indicating for the first time his country’s desires to remain in a bloc whose role in Kinshasa was mainly security issues.

Read: Tanzania’s Samia in Kinshasa for SADC summit

Tshisekedi succeeded Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, during the 42nd ordinary summit of heads of state and government of the SADC which brought together a dozen heads of state in Kinshasa for the first time under Tshisekedi rule.

The summit was themed on economic development and industrialisation of the bloc including transformation of agricultural production and the processing of minerals, an indication of the potential of DRC.

But it also touched on the elephant in the room: insecurity in the DRC.

“Allow me to thank our community, SADC, for its solidarity with the Congolese people at a time when our country is the victim of a cowardly and barbaric aggression on the part of its neighbour Rwanda,” Tshisekedi told the audience, referring to Rwanda which it accuses of fanning rebel activity but which Kigali denies.

“Although particular emphasis will be placed on the development of infrastructure,” the condition for successful regional integration within the SADC remains the guarantee of peace and security, without which, “all this vision will be an illusion,” he stressed in his closing speech.

The final communiqué said SADC leaders “expressed their concern and solidarity over the recent security-related events in the eastern part of the DRC.”

Mr Tshisekedi paid tribute to the military personnel from SADC member countries, who are part of the Monusco intervention, deployed in eastern DRC.

“Our heartfelt thanks go to the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, whose valiant soldiers are sharing their fate with ours at the cost of the supreme sacrifice so that peace can return to the eastern part of our country,” he said. Among those in attendance were Tanzania President Samia Suluhu and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.

This was the first time that the Congolese leader had spoken extensively about security issues before his SADC counterparts.

When he came to power in January 2019, Tshisekedi had preferred to turn mainly to the East African Community, even to the point of asking to join the bloc. DRC is now the 7th member of the EAC.

Tshisekedi indicated that his country was in there to reap from economic cooperation. “I would be active in implementing programmes to develop infrastructure and services in the region that is directly linked to our main strategies to stimulate economic integration and eradicate poverty in the SADC.”

Inclusivity, Resilience

The leaders endorsed a theme of Inclusive and Resilient Economic Growth for the 42nd SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.

The communiqué said SADC will be a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle- to high-income industrialised region where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice, and freedom by the year 2030.

“Our targets 2030 as SADC put emphasis on industrialisation. During my days as chairman, I will ensure we foster that goal and especially by utilising our agricultural products to build an industrial economy,” Tshisekedi said.

Like other regional blocs, SADC’s Gross Domestic Product growth contracted by 4.6 percent in 2020, from a growth of 2.1 per cent in 2019, attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic that forced closure of borders and a slow-down of major economic activities.

While economic development is the target of all leaders, SADC’s problems are also internal and external. For example, the global crises such as Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have meant that the region is faced with rising cost of living.

But internally, its troubled DRC is a bother for all.

Reporting by Patrick Ilunga and Beatrice Materu

The Summit also approved and signed the Agreement Amending the SADC Treaty on Transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament.

The two-day Summit was graced by President Samia Suluhu (Tanzania), Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Wavel Ramkalawan (Seychelles), Hage Geingob (Namibia), Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi), Philippe Nyusi (Mozambique) and Emerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.

King Mswati III of eSwatini, Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, Prithvirajsing Poopun of Mauritius and a leader from Lesotho.

Others were Botswana’s Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Angola’s Foreign Minister Tete Antonio who represented their heads of state.

Tanzania and DR Congo are also members of the EAC.

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UN’s Congo peacekeeping mission pulls out of major eastern city

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has pulled out of one of the largest cities in the country’s east after deadly protests against its failure to protect civilians, Congolese and U.N. officials said Thursday.

Butembo, a trading hub of almost a million people, has been one of the epicentres of violent demonstrations since last month that have killed dozens, including civilians, peacekeepers and Congolese police.

Read: Death toll from anti-UN protests in DRC rises to 19

The mission’s hundreds of troops and civilian personnel in Butembo have left and discussions are planned over how to evacuate their equipment, General Constant Ndima, the military governor of North Kivu province, told reporters.

Ndeye Khady Lo, the spokesperson for the mission, which is known by its French acronym MONUSCO, said the departure was temporary. “MONUSCO is not leaving Butembo. After consultations with local and national authorities, the mission has proceeded to a temporary redeployment of its personnel outside Butembo,” she told Reuters, without saying when they might return.

Also read: DRC kicks out UN peacekeepers spokesman, to speed up troops withdrawal

The protests, which also hit the cities of Goma and Uvira, have laid bare public frustration with the U.N. peacekeepers, who have been deployed to Congo for more than two decades. MONUSCO has around 12,400 troops and costs more than $1 billion per year.

Congolese demonstrators gesture during a protest against the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in Goma on July 26, 2022. UN peacekeepers and Congolese forces have been unable to stamp out persistent violence by dozens of rebel groups in the eastern areas. PHOTO | MICHEL LUNANGA | AFP

Even after a peace deal in 2003 drew a line under a five-year regional conflict in which millions died, U.N. peacekeepers and Congolese forces have been unable to stamp out persistent violence by dozens of rebel groups in the eastern areas bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Local residents often accuse the peacekeepers of being too passive. The protests that broke out last month were called for by a faction of the ruling party’s youth wing.

Read: Protesters storm UN base in eastern DR Congo city

In a plan drawn up last year, the United Nations laid out a set of minimum conditions that would be necessary for MONUSCO’s withdrawal, which it aimed to achieve by the end of 2024.

The conditions include a reduction in the militant threat, the re-establishment of state authority in conflict zones and progress toward disarming and demobilizing former rebels.

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Congo auctions 30 oil blocks amid environmentalists warning

Licensing rights for 30 oil and gas blocks in the Democratic Republic of Congo went up for auction on Thursday, opening parts of the world’s second-biggest rainforest to drilling that could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

President Felix Tshisekedi presided over the launch of bidding at a ceremony in the capital Kinshasa. Attendees included representatives from France’s TotalEnergies and several domestic companies, although spokeswoman from the French oil giant said the company would not participate in bidding.

“The launch of the tendering process… speaks to our desire to put our resource potential at the service of our country,” President Tshisekedi said, arguing that fossil fuel production would boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is in a context where fossil fuels including crude oil and gas are at the centre of global issues of peace and stability because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.”

The President said modern drilling methods and tight regulation would minimise the ecological impact and denied that Congo was going back on commitments to protect its forests.

But environmental activists said drilling in the designated areas would inevitably have steep consequences. Several of the proposed oil blocks overlap with peatlands, swampy areas that hold billions of tones of carbon.

Simon Lewis, a leading researcher on Congo’s peatlands, estimated this month that drilling in the blocks proposed by the government could release up to 5.8 billion of tonnes of carbon, more than 14 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.

“In a zone where there are peatlands, any industrial exploitation means the explosion of a carbon bomb,” said Irène Wabiwa Betoko, who leads Greenpeace’s Congo Basin project.

Read: Greenpeace opposes DRC oil and gas project

Two of the other oil blocks overlap with Virunga National Park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas on the borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

Hydrocarbons Minister Didier Budimbu said bids to participate in production-sharing contracts with the government would be accepted over the next six months for oil blocks and three months for gas blocks.

Asked on Tuesday whether Congo might forego drilling in exchange for compensation from richer countries, presidential adviser Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu was skeptical.

He cited the example of Ecuador, which requested $3.6 billion in 2007 to offset revenue lost by not drilling in its Yasuni National Park. The initiative was scrapped in 2013 after it brought in less than four percent of the requested amount. Drilling began three years later.

In addition to 27 oil blocks, the rights to extract methane gas from three blocks in Lake Kivu are up for auction.

Vincent Rouget, the Africa director at Control Risks, a London-based consultancy, said Congo’s government was hoping to take advantage of high oil prices and fresh Western interest in alternatives to Russian fuel.

“But the combination of environmental risks, regulatory uncertainty in the sector, the huge logistical challenges of highly remote exploration, and on top of it all Congo’s higher political risk premium, will likely make many majors unwilling to commit,” Rouget said.

Previous efforts by Congolese governments to boost output beyond the roughly 25,000 barrels per day it has long produced along its Atlantic coast have run into these same challenges.

Tshisekedi’s government says Congo has 22 billion barrels of crude reserves and it is targeting production of 200,000 barrels per day.

But even if investment does pour in, critics say there is no guarantee it will benefit the Congolese people.

Congo is already a mining powerhouse, producing large amounts of copper, cobalt, gold, and diamonds, yet it remains deeply impoverished, due largely to corruption and misgovernance.

Two of the blocks on auction near Lake Albert in the east were stripped from Israeli investor Dan Gertler last year. Gertler is under US sanctions for alleged corruption in Congo’s mining sector. He denies any wrongdoing.

Gertler was in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony, a Reuters reporter said.

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Death toll from anti-Monusco protests in DR Congo rises to 19

Four more people have died, raising the death toll from the violent protests against the UN stabilisation mission in Congo (Monusco) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to 19.

Officials said Thursday that the four died in Uvira, South Kivu, as they protested against the peacekeepers.

Hundreds of people have been protesting in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces since Monday against the “ineffectiveness” of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Congo, which they blame for not taming violence from armed groups.

According to Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman and Minister for Communication, the four protesters died of electrocution.

“The peacekeepers fired in the air, and the shots hit an electricity pole. A cable tore, and unfortunately, the people were electrocuted. That’s what caused four deaths,” said Mr Muyaya, calling on the Congolese not to make the wrong enemies.

“We must not make the wrong enemy. Our enemy is not Monusco. Our enemy is the M23,” he added, referring to a militia group that has recently resurfaced, launching deadly attacks on the Congolese army, including on peacekeepers’ camps.

Read: The M23 problem, Kigali’s headache and some hard truths

Following two days of deadly violence in North Kivu, the governor, Constant Ndima, has banned gatherings and political marches.

Congolese officials have also been making repeated calls for calm. The Catholic Church, which is very influential in the DRC, has also called for calm.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks on UN peacekeepers and staff of the UN mission in the DRC. Khassim Diagne, Deputy Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC, said, “even Congolese Monusco staff have been attacked at their homes.”

Mr Guterres warns that “any attack on UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.” He called on the Congolese authorities to investigate these incidents and quickly bring those responsible to justice.

By Wednesday, 12 civilians had died, including three Monusco staff — a peacekeeper and two police officers.

“Monusco is heartbroken by the death of three colleagues killed in action. We salute their courage and sacrifice. We are also saddened by the deaths of protesters. I reiterate the mission is in the DRC at the government’s invitation to help protect civilians and promote stability,” Mr Diagne said after a meeting with Congolese officials led by Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde on Wednesday.

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Four more people have died, raising the death toll from the violent protests against the UN stabilisation mission in Congo (Monusco) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to 19. […]

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Burundi secretly sent troops to DR Congo – rights group

Burundi has secretly sent hundreds of troops and members of a youth militia into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo since the end of 2021 to fight an armed rebel group, a Burundian human rights group said Wednesday.

The main target of the operation is the RED-Tabara, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative said, referring to the most active of the rebel groups which is deemed a terrorist organization by the Burundian government.

Burundi has always denied carrying out any secret operations, insisting it has acted only within the framework of joint operations by the East African Community (EAC), African Union or United Nations.

Burundi is part of a regional force agreed by the EAC in June to fight the myriad rebel groups involved in an upsurge of violence in the eastern DRC that has ensnared neighbouring countries.

Read: Why EAC force is yet to deploy to DR Congo

“Several hundred Burundian soldiers and Imbonerakure — more than 1,000 — are believed to have gone to the DRC in successive waves since late 2021,” the BHRI said in a report.

The Imbonerakure are members of the youth league of the ruling CNDD-FDD party of President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

“For more than 10 years, Burundian soldiers and Imbonerakure have periodically sought to hunt down Burundian armed opposition groups in the DRC,” the BHRI said.

“But the current operation is different in scale and duration,” it said, adding that about 700 were estimated to be on DRC soil in the early phase of the deployment in December.

The rights group, which is based abroad, said it collected testimonies from soldiers, relatives and members of the ruling and opposition parties.

It said it was not able to confirm the exact numbers of troops or incursions, although it reported that the UN Group of Experts collected information on 17 incursions in the Uvira region between September last year and this March.

“Some soldiers are ordered to swap their military uniforms for civilian clothes and leave behind possessions that could identify them,” said the BHRI.

The report said those returning have been warned not to talk about their mission, and little or no explanation is given to the families of those who die on the battlefield.

It said some Imbonerakure have become angry about their treatment during the military operation, with some saying they felt they had been deceived or abandoned.

In May, Ndayishimiye said he was ready “to dialogue” with Burundian rebels in DRC, in particular RED-Tabara and the National Forces of Liberation (FNL).

Founded in 2011, RED-Tabara has been accused of a string of attacks in Burundi since 2015. 

In September it claimed responsibility for an attack on the international airport in Bujumbura, the country’s economic capital.

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US senator questions aid to Rwanda over human rights, role in Congo

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he would place a hold on US security assistance to Rwanda in Congress over concerns about the Rwandan government’s human rights record and role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senator Robert Menendez called for a comprehensive review of US policy towards Rwanda.

Menendez said he would begin by placing a hold on several million dollars in support for Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions, according to the letter, which was leaked to the media and which his office confirmed was authentic. A hold is a Senate procedure that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote.

Menendez said he feared that US support for the Rwandan military, while it is deployed to Congo and backing rebels, would send “a troubling signal that the US tacitly approves of such actions.”

Read: The M23 demon: Could Rwanda ultimately invade DRC?

The M23 rebel group began a major offensive in Congo’s eastern borderlands with Rwanda at the end of March. Congo has accused Rwanda of backing M23, which Kigali denies.

Read: The M23 problem, Kigali’s headache and some hard truths

The United States allocated more than $147 million in foreign assistance to Rwanda in 2021, making it Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor.

Menendez also cited what he said were credible accusations that the Rwandan government was muzzling critics at home and targeting dissidents living outside the country.

The US State Department reviews its policies in response to events on the ground and would consult closely with Congress on the question of aid to Rwanda, department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

“We’ve said before that we’re concerned about the rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda,” Price told a regular press briefing, urging both sides to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue.

A Rwandan government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Protesters storm UN base in eastern DR Congo city

Protesters stormed a United Nations base in the eastern Congolese city of Goma on Monday, an AFP journalist said, demanding the departure of peacekeepers from the region.

Hundreds of people blocked roads and chanted anti-UN slogans before storming the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Goma, as well as a logistical base on the outskirts of the city.

The protesters smashed windows and looted computers, furniture and other valuables from the headquarters, an AFP journalist witnessed, while UN police officers fired tear gas in a bid to push them back.

At the logistics base, a student was shot in the leg, the AFP journalist added.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as Monusco, has come under regular local criticism for its perceived inability to stop fighting in the conflict-torn east.

Over 120 armed groups roam the volatile region, where conflict has displaced millions of people and civilian massacres are common.

Ahead of Monday’s protest, the Goma youth branch of the ruling UDPS party released a statement demanding Monusco “withdraw from Congolese soil without conditions because it has already proved its incapacity to provide us with protection”. 

Khassim Diagne, the deputy special representative of the UN secretary-general to Monusco, told AFP that the UN is not opposed to protests but that violence is unacceptable. 

“These are looters,” he said. “We condemn them in the strongest terms”.

The latest protest comes after the president of the Congolese senate, Modeste Bahati, told supporters in Goma on July 15 that Monusco should “pack its bags”.

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Protesters stormed a United Nations base in the eastern Congolese city of Goma on Monday, an AFP journalist said, demanding the departure of peacekeepers from the region. Hundreds of people […]

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The M23 problem, Kigali’s headache and some truths few want to hear

Soon after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was elected President of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – the predecessor to the African Union — the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed of Rwandan exiles and refugees, mostly Tutsis, decided to attack Rwanda on October 1, 1990 using his country as a launch pad.

Four years earlier, the Rwandans had helped Museveni rise to power in Kampala and had held key positions in the new Ugandan army. Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, was a senior officer in the Ugandan military intelligence, while his comrade in arms Fred Rwigema, killed at the frontline in the early days of the campaign, had been minister of State for Defence.

Museveni was upset, his election at the helm of the continental body meant the elevation of the former rebel leader, brought to power by the force of arms, as an equal among world peers. And now these “boys,” as Museveni used to call them, risked ruining his moment. The situation seemed all the more upsetting as he had trouble convincing anyone that he was not behind this “aggression” on a neighbouring and brotherly country.

Museveni recounted how it happened while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York: “The news reached me at night, I tried to wake President [Juvenal] Habyarimana in vain. The man was a heavy sleeper.”

Thirty years later, Rwanda was likely in the position Museveni was, following the recent attacks of the Congolese rebel movement of March 23rd, as M23 – in reference to an unfulfilled peace treaty signed on March 23, 2009, between its leaders and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It came as Kigali was getting ready to host, in less than a month, 50 heads of state, members of the Commonwealth. While relations between Rwanda and the DRC had finally warmed up with the advent of Félix Tshisekedi to power in Kinshasa, Kigali would have done without another M23 attack, which put it in a delicate geopolitical situation, provoking fresh anti-Rwandan rhetoric in DRC.

Congo problem, Rwandan exhibits

rebels
A rebel group in Ituri Province, the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on September 19, 2020. PHOTO | AFP

The DRC public often conflates the M23 with the Rwandan army, and for good reason. Some commanders of the rebel group had joined the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in its own armed struggle of the 1990s which put an end to the genocide against the Tutsi.

Once the war was over, the Congolese Tutsi returned home to their highlands of Kivu, eastern DRC, where in the meantime, anti-Tutsi hatred had been shifted by the genocide perpetrators, who had been defeated back home. Supported by then Zairean strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, the “genocidaires” were targeting the Tutsi in Zaire.

This is how, with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, they took up arms again to defend their community in a struggle that galvanised other Mobutu opponents with their own national grievances, leading them to march on Kinshasa, ousting Mobutu, and replacing him with Laurent Désiré Kabila in September 1997.

Once installed, Kabila would fall out with his hitherto allies who had brought him to power, even going as far as collaborating with the same genocidaires. His replacement by his son Joseph Kabila would not change much.

In Rwanda, there was hope with the advent, at last, of a new first name in the Congolese political spectrum since its independence in 1960: in the absence of Antoine, the patriarch; his heir Felix!

Read: Kagame stars in DR Congo Tshisekedi ceremonies

All seemed well at first, with the coming to power of Felix Tshisekedi, relations between the DRC and Rwanda were almost repaired. It was mostly the Congolese diaspora, aggrieved by “the aggression of little Rwanda on great Zaire,” who disliked the new rapprochement.

Short-lived honeymoon

To understand the “M23 problem” one needs to appreciate that there are three types of rebels in the DRC. The first, small militias with no national political agenda, that attack civilians, rarely fight each other, coexist with the regular army (FARDC) and UN peacekeepers (Monusco). These constitute the majority, their interests do not go beyond their communities. There are more than 100.

Then there are foreign groups that exploit the weakness – some read it as an absence – of the state and national army, to use the vast DRC territory as a breeding ground for attacks against their countries of origin. It is in this category that we find the Rwandan genocidaires, known as FDLR, and the Ugandan terrorists known as ADF-NALU. In the past, there were other Sudanese and Ugandan groups – including the infamous Lord Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony, Congo-Brazzaville groups and even Angolans. The dense forests of the DRC are a festering ground for all manner of armed groups from the region.

Then there is the M23. Congolese citizens, with national grievances linked to lack of security, discrimination of their community and poor governance at large.

The first and second categories of militias are rarely bothered because they do everyone’s business: smuggling, illicit trafficking of minerals, enriching FARDC commanders and multinationals, sponsor political careers in Kinshasa and justify the presence of both UN forces in the DRC for more than 20 years and that of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) for 10 years.

The M23 pose a (geo)political problem, because they seize territory, threaten power in the capital Kinshasa, which in turn exposes the weaknesses of the national army, of national politics, and of the UN. To make themselves heard, the M23 are fighting against everyone, including the two other categories of rebel groups, the FARDC, and even Monusco – sometimes all three in a coalition.

Read: DR Congo’s M23: A rebel group re-emerges

According to an “incident monitoring think tank” manned by international researchers in eastern DRC, the Congolese army FARDC is one of the most violent against civilians, at times their killings surpass those of Ugandan Islamists ADF-Nalu, and Rwandan FDLR genocidaires.

Ten years ago, M23 was defeated by a UN-backed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) made of South African, Tanzanian and Malawian armies. FIB’s mission was to defeat “all the negative forces” in eastern DRC. At the time, M23 posed little resistance and with some political assurances, withdrew into Rwanda and Uganda.

The FIB seems to have since “acclimatised” to Congolese “Rumba” like everyone else, read: doing nothing, and allegedly engaging in illicit trade.

Rock and hard place

map showing conflict-prone DRC provinces

Upon accession to power, President Tshisekedi wanted to be seen as tackling the protracted armed conflict in eastern DRC. So he declared a “State of Siege” in North Kivu and Ituri. State of emergency means the region is run by the army and most civil rights are suspended. State of emergency also means a hefty budget sent to eastern DRC and managed by the army.

Read: Military replaces civilian authorities in eastern DRC

However, a recent parliament audit revealed that of the $74 million allocated to “State of siege” to be sent to Kivu and Ituri, 68 percent was “eaten” in Kinshasa, 12 percent went to unknown expenditure of the army, and only the remaining 20 percent was sent to eastern Congo.

Following the recent attack by the M23 two months ago, the occupation of the towns of Bunagana and the province of Ruchuru on the border with Uganda, Tshisekedi accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel movement, a charge Kigali vehemently denies.

But what alternative did Tshisekedi have? Should he have explained to the Congolese that they have no army? That they never had one? That Mobutu appealed to mercenaries (Jean Schramme, Bob Denard) or to foreign countries (Morocco, Senegal, Chad, Togo) to help keep security and power? There are more than 58 countries contributing troops to Monusco for over 20 years, with dismal results.

Read: DR Congo wants UN mission to leave

monusco
Monusco soldiers fire at Codeco militia during the extraction of a Red Cross team which had been ambushed in Dhedja on December 19, 2021 in Ituri, DR Congo. PHOTO | AFP

The FARDC spend their time playing “Sobels” (Soldier by day, Rebel by night) – a sobriquet borrowed from Sierra Leone and Liberia civil war of the 90s. They change clothes to loot the populations they are supposed to protect, collaborate with the FDLR, and sell weapons and ammunition on the black market from Uvira to Beni.

Read: How M23 and Congolese army commanders benefited from $57m illegal trade in Kivu

Are the Congolese ready to listen to these truths? The first politician to venture there would immediately sign his political death, a year before the elections, and Tshisekedi is not suicidal. Using Rwanda as a scapegoat seems like the only political card in his hand.

Read: DR Congo, Rwanda agree to ease tension

Hate speech revived

While no proof of these accusations has been brought forth, the streets, from Kinshasa to Brussels, need no further convincing. Unfortunately, accusing Rwanda brings with it the old demons of “Tutsiphobia”. Anti-Tutsi hate speech across DRC has risen to troubling proportions. Congolese social media is awash with anti-Rwanda hate speech, lists of Tutsi members of the FARDC are being published online with rewards promised to anyone who would “cleanse our army”.

Tutsi of Banyamulenge community in South Kivu’s high plateau have left their homesteads after their cattle were looted by various militia, and now live in UN-protected IDP camps.

Images of young militias affiliated to Tshisekedi’s ruling party (UDPS) were seen in the streets of Kinshasa, armed with machetes, stopping cars looking for Tutsis. Several people have been killed by Congolese mobs, for allegedly “looking” Tutsi, including one Lt-Col Joseph Kaminzobe, member of the Banyamulenge community and officer of the regular army, burnt alive by young people in Lweba, South Kivu. Many Congolese Tutsi civilians are reported to have been burnt alive, and at least in one case, Mr Semutobo, a Munyamulenge, was lynched by a mob of young people in Kalima district who posted it online.

Read: Rising hate speech in Congo conflict alarms UN

M23’s beef with Kinshasa

peace agreement signed in Nairobi in December 2013, between the Congolese government and the M23 consisted of:

  • Amnesty to all M23 fighters who did not commit war crimes and crimes against humanity;
  • Register M23 as a legitimate political party.
  • Repatriation of “Rwandophone” of Congolese nationality, sheltered in refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda.

The agreement has never been implemented for ten years hence, causing the recent attack by the M23.

Ironically, M23 claims it doesn’t want to fight. While they are occupying important towns of Bunagana and Ruchuru in Noth Kivu, they claim to do so to compel the DRC government to implement the Nairobi accords and are ready to relinquish them.

bunagana
Bunagana in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the border with Uganda. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG

Amid the accusations against Rwanda and its denials, there is one fact: Kigali is not going to fight the M23.

Indeed options of possible support to the DRC army in fighting M23 were being studied in Rwandan quarters until Congolese politicians started accusing Kigali and FARDC shelled Rwandan territories of Rubavu and Kinigi, heightening tensions between the two neighbours.

As a reminder, the M23 political wing, which has been sheltered in Rwanda for the last ten years, has not left their camps, while those of Uganda, led by Commander Sultani Makenga quietly left Uganda five years ago, and have since been based in DRC forests near the Ugandan border.

Following routs on the battlefield during the war that opposed it to the RPF in the 90s, then Habyarimana’s government accused “Ibyitso Tutsi” internal spies of the loss. My mother, who had run a hairdressing salon in Kigali for 10 years, and who had never been involved in politics, was arrested and detained for a year with thousands of other civilians, for the simple reason that they were Tutsi. Today, it is the turn of any Congolese with “Tutsi facial expressions” to “prove their citizenship”.

I am not worried about the repeated calls by Congolese populists to attack and annex Rwanda, after all, as Wole Soyinka would say, “A tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces”. What worries me is the resurgence of hate speech and violent killings targeting Congolese Tutsi, and anyone with “doubtful” features; the Luba, Ngbandi, Bashi… all Congolese citizens.

source

Soon after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was elected President of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – the predecessor to the African Union — the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed […]

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DRC, Rwanda agree to ease tension and normalize diplomatic relations

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda on Wednesday agreed to immediately cease hostilities between the two countries, Angolan President João Lourenço has announced.

Following the Wednesday meeting in Luanda, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame also agreed to create an ad-hoc observation mechanism to help ease tensions, he added.

Luanda will next Tuesday host the Rwanda-DRC bilateral joint commission meeting, President Lourenço, who is also the chairman of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), said in his capacity as mediator.  He was appointed by the African Union to mediate in the Kinshasa-Kigali crisis.

“I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures that are contained in the roadmap that has just been presented,” President Lourenço added.

Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), João Lourenço (ANgola) and Felix Tshisekedi (DR Congo) speak following a mediation meeting in Luanda on July 6, 2022. PHOTO | COURTESY | DR CONGO PRESIDENCY

Rwanda and DR Congo have been at loggerheads following counter accusations of each country supporting different rebel groups in eastern DRC hostile to the other nation.

DR Congo and Rwanda relations deteriorated after Kinshasa accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, who have been involved in a series of clashes with the army since the end of May. Kigali denied the allegations, but in turn accused DRC of supporting FDLR rebels who are hostile to Rwanda.

On Sunday, President Tshisekedi said that there was no doubt that Rwanda was backing a rebellion in his country after the resurgence of the M23 rebels active in the east of the country, near the border between both countries.

Kinshasa had earlier also suspended Rwandan carrier RwandAir from flying into the country, and summoned Rwanda’s ambassador to warn him of the country’s position.

The medication process was meant to help restore confidence between Rwanda and the DRC.

“This objective will be achieved gradually via a so-called Luanda roadmap based on the re-launch of the DRC-Rwanda joint commission, which has not met for several years,” Tshisekedi’s communication office said. This commission will hold its first meeting on July 12, 2022 in Luanda.

The roadmap stipulates a willingness to normalise diplomatic relations between Kinshasa and Kigali.

“Angola has amassed vast experience in solving conflicts thus I think this conflict between DRC and Rwanda will come to an end with President Lourenço’s mediation,” Macolino Tavares, a political analyst, told The EastAfrican.

“This conflict between brothers has no deep reason to keep on. With Angola mediation it will come soon to an end,” Matias Pires, another analyst, told Angolan state-owned Rádio Nacional de Angola.

SOURCE

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda on Wednesday agreed to immediately cease hostilities between the two countries, Angolan President João Lourenço has announced. Following the Wednesday meeting in […]

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It’s over: DRC health officials declare Ebola tamed

The Democratic Republic of Congo has declared the latest cycle of Ebola outbreak over.  

Congolese Minister of Public Health Dr Jean-Jacques Mbungani on Monday said the outbreak in Equateur Province in northwest  DRC had been tamed.

This latest outbreak announced on April 23, 2022 in Mbandaka, the  largest city of Equateur, was the 14th in the history of Congo.

“After 42 days of reinforced surveillance without any new confirmed case, from July 3, 2022, and in accordance with the WHO protocol, I declare the end of the 14th Ebola  epidemic in the province of Equateur,” Dr Mbungani said. 

According to the World Health Organisation, it takes 42 days without a new infection for an Ebola epidemic to be considered over.

See: New Ebola outbreak declared in DRC

For Equateur Province, this was the third outbreak since 2018. Five people were infected and died from the haemorrhagic fever virus, officials said.

“We regret the deaths of all confirmed cases at a time when the country has not only the technical expertise but also the vaccines and medicines against Ebola,” the Health Minister said.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of WHO Africa, praised Congolese health personnel for containing the virus.

“Thanks to the robust response by Ministry of Health DRC, this outbreak has been brought to an end swiftly with limited transmission of the virus. Crucial lessons have been learnt from past outbreaks and they have been applied to devise and deploy an even more effective Ebola response,” said Dr Matshidiso. “The response to this outbreak shows that by strengthening preparedness, surveillance and early case detection, we can stay ahead of the game.”  

Dr Mbungani said only two of the three health zones in the town of Mbandaka, out of the 18 in the province, were affected.  

The Ministry of Health and WHO put in place  rapid response measures,  including  screening, follow-up of people who had been in contact with those infected, prevention, infection control, vaccination and extensive community sensitisation. This prevented the disease from spreading widely. 

In the previous outbreak in Equateur Province, which lasted from June to November 2020, 55 of 130 confirmed patients died. 

See: DRC starts Ebola vaccinations

Unlike previous outbreaks, where people fiercely resisted vaccination, the 14th Ebola outbreak did not see much opposition, as 2,104 people were vaccinated, including 302 contacts and 1,307 health workers and other frontline workers.

The first Ebola virus in Congo was discovered in 1976 in the northwest, and there have been 14 outbreaks, including six since 2018. The deadliest one broke out in North Kivu between 2018 and 2020, with over 2,200 deaths. 

The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with blood and body fluids (urine, stool, saliva, vomit, breast milk, sweat,) and objects infected by a person with Ebola. The virus is also transmitted through contact with sick or dead wildlife.

The symptoms vary, but sudden onset of fever, severe weakness, muscle pain, headache and throat irritation are common at the beginning of the infection. Vomiting, diarrhoea, skin rash, kidney and liver dysfunction and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding are experienced.

SOURCE

The Democratic Republic of Congo has declared the latest cycle of Ebola outbreak over.   Congolese Minister of Public Health Dr Jean-Jacques Mbungani on Monday said the outbreak in Equateur […]

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