The DRC saw its first peaceful transition of power since independence after the December 2018 general elections, despite widespread reports of vote rigging. Since 2020, President Félix Tshisekedi has taken steps to consolidate his authority and to diminish the influence of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who has commanded loyalty throughout the security services and continued to control state institutions and revenue streams since stepping down. But even as he promises change, Tshisekedi has inherited a system of violent kleptocracy and risks repeating his predecessors’ errors. There are already signs he may be taking a more repressive turn. Meanwhile, the country experiences instability in the east and continued threats by armed groups. Crisis Group aims to alert policymakers to the risk of a return to violence if domestic rivals fail to compromise in their disputes, especially since politicians are already gearing up for the 2023 elections.
East African leaders have agreed to assemble troops to combat armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese authorities have announced the first troop deployment, but obstacles remain. Crisis Group expert Nelleke van de Walle explains the plan and its risks.
Amid widespread armed group violence in eastern provinces, hundreds of detainees released in jailbreak, while Burundi officially deployed troops. In North Kivu province, alleged Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels supported by local militiamen 9-10 Aug stormed Butembo central prison, freeing at least 800 detainees; authorities 11 Aug reported two policemen killed during raid, and claimed to have recaptured 250 fugitives. Youths in Butembo city 12 Aug demonstrated to denounce police force’s inability to provide security; armed protesters fired at police, leaving four policemen dead. After UN mission (MONUSCO) left Butembo base following deadly anti-MONUSCO protests in July, clashes 23 Aug erupted at deserted base between army and suspected Mai-Mai militia, leaving two militiamen dead. Suspected ADF combatants 25-30 Aug reportedly attacked six villages in North Kivu’s Beni territory and neighbouring Irumu territory in Ituri province, leaving at least 54 people dead, while many others were kidnapped. In Ituri’s Djugu territory, ethnic Hema “Zaire” militiamen 5 Aug killed at least 22 people in Damas village; in retaliation, ethnic Lendu militiamen from Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 7 Aug attacked several Hema villages in Djugu, leaving seven Zaire militiamen dead and taking at least 20 people hostage. Also in Djugu, militiamen from CODECO 11 and 16 Aug attacked mining sites, leaving a least 20 people killed; 28 Aug reportedly killed at least six gold miners in Lodjo locality. Meanwhile, in confidential report leaked 4 Aug, UN experts said there was “solid evidence” that Rwandan troops have conducted military operations in eastern DR Congo in support of M23 rebels since Nov 2021 (see Rwanda); during African tour, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 11 Aug said Rwandan President Kagame and Congolese President Tshisekedi had agreed to hold direct talks. Clashes between Congolese forces and M23 rebels 16 Aug broke out in several villages of North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory; group notably targeted Rwanguba hydroelectric power plant site. After months of denial from Kinshasa and Gitega of any Burundian army presence in DR Congo, Burundian soldiers 15 Aug officially crossed into South Kivu province as part of bilateral agreement between the two countries (see Burundi).
Armed groups [in the Central African Republic] have been disbanded, but [they] still extort and harass the local population.
The tensions between these two countries [DRC and Rwanda] could destabilise a region that’s already facing political instability.
Tshisekedi has been forced to cooperate with Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition and they have been in a standoff ever since.
[The Allied Democratic Forces in DR Congo] have a very brutal way of killing the civilians and they don’t differentiate. They kill women, children, men.
[President of DR Congo] Tshisekedi's swearing-in is often sold as selling out democracy in favor of stability. But it’s pragmatic and based on developments on the ground.
The [DR Congo] regime wants to hold on to power, but does not have the legitimacy or the strength to push this through.
In a three-part special episode of The Horn, Alan speaks to three Crisis Group experts across the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes regions. He talks with William Davison about the prospects for peace talks in Ethiopia, to Nelleke van de Walle about Kenya’s new diplomatic efforts in the eastern DR Congo, and to Nazanine Moshiri about the drought devastating the Horn region.
Cyclic violence has raged in the eastern DRC for almost 30 years. Crisis Group experts Onesphore Sematumba and Nicolas Delaunay visited Beni, in North Kivu, shortly after Uganda launched a military operation against the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist insurgency based in the region.
Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is intensifying, with Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in pursuit of rebels and Congolese insurgents on the rebound. With help from its allies, Kinshasa should step up diplomacy lest the country become a regional battleground once more.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Great Lakes expert Nelleke van de Walle about the escalation of violence in the eastern DR Congo, as Uganda and Burundi deploy troops to fight rebels in the area and Rwanda threatens to do the same.
After months of political manoeuvring, President Félix Tshisekedi has unshackled himself from his predecessor Joseph Kabila. His new government majority gives him more power to act. In this Q&A, however, Crisis Group expert Onesphore Sematumba explains that Tshisekedi’s troubles are not over.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and guest co-host Comfort Ero talk with Crisis Group’s Central Africa expert Nelleke van de Walle about the legal and political challenges holding back progress in DR Congo.
The U.S. has designated two armed groups in the DRC and in Mozambique as terrorist organisations, claiming they are affiliated with the Islamic State, and creating potential legal peril for peacemakers who may deal with them. Crisis Group analyses the implications.