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.
Amid mounting discontent with East African force, President Tshisekedi secured deployment of Southern African troops to help quell M23 rebellion in North Kivu; intercommunal conflict spread further in western provinces.
Southern Africa’s regional bloc pledged troops for eastern DR Congo. As Tshisekedi stepped up criticism of East African Community (EAC) force’s approach to tackling M23 rebellion, Southern African Development Community 8 May approved troop deployment to eastern provinces. Tshisekedi next day threatened to expel EAC force, accusing it of taking weak stance vis-à-vis M23 and even colluding with rebels in some instances. EAC 11 May denounced Tshisekedi’s criticism as “not fair”, and 31 May approved extension of force’s mandate until Sept. Kinshasa late May reported movements of Rwandan army and M23 rebels in North Kivu province, warned of imminent offensive on Goma city.
Amid fragile M23 calm, other armed group attacks continued unabated in east. Local CMC-Nyatura militia 3-4 May killed 13 people in attack on Kizimba site for internally displaced persons in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces in May launched repeated raids in North Kivu’s Beni territory, killing at least 34 people, and 18 May killed another 13 in Irumu territory, Ituri province. Unidentified assailants, possibly CODECO or Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri local militias, 12 May killed at least 47 people in several villages of Djugu territory, Ituri. Local Maï Maï Kabido militia 18 and 28 May killed at least five eco-guards in and near Virunga national park in Lubero and Rutshuru territories (both North Kivu).
Intercommunal violence spread further in west. Conflict between Yaka and Teke communities, triggered by land dispute, continued to spread beyond Mai-Ndombe province’s Kwamouth territory. Notably, local militias 11-13 May clashed with security forces and other militias, leaving at least 16 people dead in Nguma and Mongata villages (Kinshasa province), as well as Batshongo village (Kwango province).
Police cracked down on protesters in Kinshasa. Ahead of general elections expected in Dec, opposition demonstrators 20 May took to streets in Kinshasa to denounce alleged voter registration irregularities, prolonged insecurity and cost-of-living crisis. Security forces responded forcefully, with opposition claiming dozens injured. UN 23 May said police used “disproportionate” force.
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.
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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