September 15, 2013

Concerns Rising Over Another Rwanda-Congo War

Southern African nations say concerns are growing that another war between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is coming.
A trailer carrying a tank leaves the Rwandan capital of Kigali en route to the border town of Gisenyi, August 30, 2013.
A trailer carrying a tank leaves the Rwandan capital of Kigali en route to the border town of Gisenyi, August 30, 2013.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is concerned “at the deployment of Rwandan troops along the common border” and “expressed the hope that Rwanda is not contemplating to invade” neighboring Congo, the 15-nation body said in a statement on Saturday.

The SADC also called on Congo’s neighbors to “contribute to peace, security and stability of the DRC.”

Congolese troops and UN peacekeepers have been fighting for over a year to crush a rebellion by March 23 movement (M23) fighters who defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army.

Last month, fighting between M23 insurgents and the Congolese army, backed by UN peacekeepers, broke out again.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (R)   and DRC President Joseph Kabila
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (R) and DRC President Joseph Kabila

The SADC praised Congolese troops and a new UN intervention brigade, which has a stronger mandate than past UN peacekeeping missions, for “continuing to exert military pressure on M23 and other negative forces in eastern DRC”.

The UN and Kinshasa have repeatedly accused Rwanda of helping the rebels in Congo. Rwanda has always denied the charges that it is backing the M23, but Kigali has never publicly condemned the militia, which occupied the city of Goma in eastern Congo for 10 days last November.

Reports say Congo’s adventurous neighbor is planning to launch another military offensive against a country with which it fought two wars in the past two decades.

The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources.

Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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