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.
There are many risks looming over the next electoral cycle in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To mitigate these risks, the government should ensure that all parties can campaign freely, and African and Western powers should encourage the parties to find compromises and prepare for mediation in case it is needed.
Large-scale fighting between M23 rebels and govt forces resumed in North Kivu after six months of precarious calm, fuelling tensions with Rwanda; political climate remained heated ahead of December elections.
Ceasefire between M23 and govt collapsed in North Kivu province. Wazalendo coalition of pro-govt armed groups 9 Oct seized strategic town of Kitshanga in Masisi territory from M23 rebel group after intense fighting, and around 11 Oct drove M23 from their stronghold of Bwiza (Bwito chiefdom) in neighbouring Rutshuru territory. Violence 15 Oct flared in Bwito’s Tongo and Bishusha groupements, and M23 overnight 22-23 Oct reportedly killed over 50 civilians in several villages of Tongo. Fighting also reported around 21 Oct in Masisi, with M23 regaining control of Kitshanga. Direct clashes between M23 and govt forces 24 Oct resumed at Kibumba town in Nyiragongo territory, about 20km north of provincial capital Goma. M23 rebels 25-26 Oct opened new front, seizing Bambo town in Rutshuru territory, 60km from Goma. Kinshasa 23-24 Oct released drone footage purportedly showing Rwandan army incursion into DR Congo in support of M23. Meanwhile, UN regional envoy 17 Oct said risk of “direct confrontation” between Kigali and Kinshasa is “very real” (see Rwanda).
Presidential election candidates engaged in heated rhetoric. Electoral commission 19 Oct published list 24 candidates registered for 20 Dec presidential election, pending Constitutional Court confirmation expected 18 Nov. Harsh rhetoric continued between candidates. Notably, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege 2 Oct called current leadership “inconsistent, irresponsible and incompetent”, while incumbent President Tshisekedi 7 Oct warned against “candidates from abroad” in thinly veiled reference to Mukwege. Opposition seemed unable to build electoral alliance to rally behind single candidate against Tshisekedi. Fuelling divisions, prominent candidate Martin Fayulu 10 Oct said he was only candidate fit for the role and dismissed other candidates as “thieves”.
In other important developments. Suspected Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces 23 Oct killed at least 26 civilians in Oicha town, Beni territory in North Kivu. Tshisekedi 12 Oct announced easing of state of siege (akin to martial law) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, notably lifting curfew and allowing peaceful demonstrations, with military remaining in charge at provincial level.
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.
On 30 August, elite troops slaughtered over 50 civilians planning to protest perceived foreign interference in the eastern DR Congo, three months ahead of elections. The government has asked the UN for an “accelerated” withdrawal. Crisis Group experts Richard Moncrieff and Onesphore Sematumba explain the stakes.
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.
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.
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.
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