The head of the African Union is calling on Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to de-escalate tensions. The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the rebel group M23, which continues to fight Congolese forces in eastern Congo. But analysts are skeptical that tensions or the situation in eastern Congo will improve soon.
Peace has returned to parts of eastern DRC, where last week saw heavy fighting between the Congolese army and the rebel group M23.
Amnesty International’s DRC researcher Jean-Mobert Senga told VOA that there is a lull in the fight.
“When it comes to the M23, there has been some calm in the last few days,” he said. “There have been no clashes and civilians have started returning in some parts, but this does not mean that the conflict in North Kivu and Ituri is over. Civilians are still being killed by other armed groups, so it’s not just the M23 that is the problem. There are other groups that are killing people and continue to kill civilians without any punishment.”
Reports said the Congolese army, with the help of UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO, recently repelled a rebel advance on the city of Goma. Reports say that the M23 fighters have now returned to their bases near the border with Uganda.
But residents of North Kivu and Ituri fear the M23 and other armed groups in the region, which have competed for years for control of the region’s rich mines. Some groups have ties to Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi.
The DRC government accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 in an attempt to destabilize the country.
In a statement on Monday, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vicente Biruta encouraged his neighbor to tone down his rhetoric. He said cooperation can restore security and bring lasting stability to the region.
The minister also said that the insurgent group M23 is an internal problem of the Congolese and should be resolved among the Congolese people.
On his Twitter account, the President of the African Union, Senegalese President Mackie Saal, said he was concerned about tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. Sal said he spoke to DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Researcher and political analyst Nathanoma Rukumbuzi said tensions between the countries and unrest in the DRC are likely to continue.
“I don’t see any future escalation between the two countries, Rwanda and the DRC,” he said. “I think both countries have an interest in dialogue and many of these issues are to be resolved peacefully through dialogue, but will it be enough if Rwanda and the DRC agree to resolve the tensions peacefully? What Will this bring stability to the DRC? I’m not sure.”
M23 insists it is fighting ethnic Hutu groups to protect Tutsi, a minority living on the border between Congo and Rwanda.
But, Thomas Facy, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch DRC, noted that the M23 was expelled from peace talks between Congo and various armed groups that took place in Kenya in late April.
“All of this has created a context of tensions that threaten new military confrontations in Congolese territory and civilians always pay the biggest price,” he said. “In a few days of heavy fighting near Goma, more than 70,000 people were displaced. According to humanitarian organisations, many of them will now need assistance.”
Congo is home to approximately 5.6 million internally displaced people, more than any other country in Africa.