In December 2023, President Félix Tshisekedi won a second term, while his Union Sacrée coalition swept up the most seats in parliament. With all candidates allowed to stand, the presidential election avoided some of the controversies of 2018. But despite Tshisekedi’s wide margin of victory, the polls were marked by chaos and reports of rigging. The political landscape remains deeply divided, and in the east, both Ituri and North Kivu provinces are rocked by instability. In the former, the Allied Democratic Forces continues its murderous campaign against civilians, attacking targets in Uganda, too, despite a Ugandan military campaign in Ituri since late 2021. In North Kivu, the 23 March Movement, widely seen as backed by Rwanda, continues to fight the Congolese army, which is backed by informal auxiliaries as well as allies from the Southern African Development Community. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled their homes as fighting spreads. Crisis Group aims to provide detailed recommendations on how to calm national tensions and de-escalate the situation in the east.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard is joined by Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s Great Lakes director, to discuss M23 rebels’ advances in eastern DR Congo, Rwanda’s involvement and whether diplomacy and a southern African force can curb violence.
President Tshisekedi inaugurated for new term as his coalition swept legislative and provincial elections; eastern provinces saw fierce M23 conflict and attacks on civilians by other groups.
Tshisekedi sworn in as his coalition scored big in elections. Constitutional Court 9 Jan confirmed Tshisekedi’s victory in presidential election with 73% of vote, rejecting two legal challenges to provisional results. Tshisekedi sworn in 20 Jan after Moïse Katumbi and Martin Fayulu, second and third respectively in presidential contest, 18 Jan condemned decision but declined to call protests on inauguration day, citing security risks. Fayulu 20 Jan turned down Tshisekedi’s offer of official opposition spokesman position. Electoral commission (CENI) 14, 22 Jan published legislative and provincial election results, giving Tshisekedi’s coalition comfortable majorities. Earlier in month, CENI 5 Jan cancelled legislative and provincial elections results in two constituencies citing irregularities and disqualified 82 candidates for legislative, provincial and municipal elections over suspected fraud.
M23 conflict persisted in North Kivu province. Pro-govt Wazalendo militia around 16 Jan clashed with M23 rebels on Karuba-Mushaki road in bid to capture Mushaki town (Masisi territory). After Wazalendo and army around 22 Jan launched offensive to take Mweso town (Masisi) from M23, bombing of civilian homes 25 Jan left at least nineteen dead. Fighting also reported in and around Sake town (Masisi), where bomb 27 Jan killed one civilian. Army drone strike 16 Jan killed two M23 commanders in Kitshanga town, which straddles Rutshuru and Masisi territories. Meanwhile, army 17 Jan claimed three Congolese soldiers killed or captured by Rwandan army previous day had crossed border “inadvertently” (see Rwanda).
Other armed groups continued to wreak havoc in eastern provinces. In Ituri province, Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 8 and 12 Jan killed seven people in Irumu territory; 14 Jan killed eight in Mambasa territory. Group 23-30 Jan killed 26 in attacks across Beni territory (North Kivu). CODECO association of ethnic Lendu militias attacked Djugu territory settlements (Ituri), with eight people killed 1-2 Jan and three others 4 Jan.
In another important development. Adam Chalwe, former leader of ex-president Joseph Kabila’s party, 6 Jan joined Alliance du Fleuve Congo, newly created politico-military group allied with M23.
If the regional escalation [in the DRC] continues, we could find ourselves in a scenario like during the other Congo wars … More bombing means more displacement.
The credibility of the elections [in the DRC] has been severely damaged and the opposition may contest not only the outcome but the entire process.
The Congolese state is still riven with corruption and [president Felix Tshisekedi] hasn’t done anything visible or immediately obvious to tackle it.
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.
Having won a second term in December’s divisive, chaotic polls, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi faces the tasks of reuniting the country and addressing raging violence in the east. It is a tall order, but diplomacy – with domestic opponents and regional leaders – can help.
Dans cet épisode d’Afrique 360°, Enrica Picco reçoit Fred Bauma, directeur exécutif de l’institut de recherche Ebuteli, et Onesphore Sematumba, analyste pour la RDC et le Burundi à Crisis Group, pour parler des nombreux défis liés aux élections imminentes en République Démocratique du Congo et aux risques d’un nouvel échec démocratique.
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.
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.
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