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.
Already high tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa have risen sharply after Rwanda’s defence forces shot at a Congolese warplane they accuse of violating Rwandan airspace. In this Q&A, Crisis Group examines why the situation has deteriorated and outlines pathways toward de-escalation.
M23 offensive moved closer to North Kivu’s capital Goma with rebels capturing more ground in Masisi territory as fighting fuelled regional tensions despite efforts to resolve crisis; voter registration kicked off in eastern provinces.
M23 made major gains in North Kivu province’s Masisi territory. Fighting between M23 and govt forces early Feb moved to area around Sake, last major town before North Kivu’s capital Goma in Masisi territory. As clashes throughout month continued on hills around Sake, M23 captured several other localities in area, notably strategic town of Mushaki 24 Feb, and 26 Feb seized important mining town of Rubaya.
Frosty Kinshasa-Kigali relations continued to dominate regional diplomacy. Demonstrations 6 Feb erupted in Goma over frustration with UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) and East African Community (EAC) regional force’s failure to stop M23 rebels’ advance. Mob next day attacked MONUSCO convoy on its way to Goma, with eight civilians killed in skirmishes. Govt 16 Feb claimed 350 Rwandan troops had just entered North Kivu to reinforce M23 positions (see Rwanda). EAC summits 4 and 17 Feb failed to break new ground, reiterating calls for ceasefire.
Armed group violence remained widespread in North Kivu, Ituri provinces. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 8 Feb killed 12 civilians in Konge Pwendi village, Beni territory (North Kivu), and 12 Feb killed another 12 in two villages of Irumu territory (Ituri). Congolese and Ugandan joint operations nonetheless recorded modest successes against ADF, including 5 Feb killing four ADF members attacking civilian convoy in Irumu territory. Meanwhile, CODECO ethnic militia carried out several attacks in Ituri, notably killing 21 people across several villages of Djugu territory 12 Feb. Rival “Zaire” ethnic militia 5 Feb attacked Dyambu village, also Djugu, killing 11 people.
Voter registration kicked off in conflict-ridden eastern provinces. Ahead of general elections scheduled for Dec, voter registration 16 Feb began in conflict-ridden eastern provinces. Registration 19 Feb started in two large camps hosting displaced persons around Goma; electoral commission said those living in M23-controlled areas will be registered gradually, depending on army’s reconquest of these zones.
If we can't negotiate a humanitarian corridor for the city [of Goma in eastern DR Congo], it will be a catastrophe.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood speaks with Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s interim Great Lakes project director, about an incident in which Rwanda's army shot at a Congolese fighter jet, raising fears that tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali could boil over.
This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by Crisis Group consultant Richard Moncrieff to discuss recent developments in the conflict in the eastern DR Congo, tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali as well as regional and international efforts to address the crisis.
Fighting has intensified in North Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with M23 rebels now partially encircling the major city Goma. Regional leaders, particularly Kenya, should press hard for a halt to the insurgent advances and urge Kinshasa and Kigali to reduce tensions.
Rising violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has the Great Lakes region on edge. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU and its member states can do to help bring stability to the area.
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.
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.
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