On October 30, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) expelled Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega over allegations of supporting rebels active in the east of the country, according to Deutsche Welle. The ambassador was given 48 hours to leave the country in an announcement made by government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya after a meeting of the DRC’s defense council, according to Al Jazeera. The allegation comes amid a violent advance on the part of the rebels, known as M23, who have captured two towns in the eastern province of North Kivu.
M23 is an ethnic Tutsi-led rebel group that was established in the DRC in 2012. It originally claimed to protect the interests of Congolese Tutsis against armed Hutu groups. In 2013, a peace deal was forged between M23 and the DRC with the help of the United Nations. The group was then declared inactive and integrated into the Congolese military. However, the group reestablished itself in late 2021 after former M23 members accused the government of failing to honor the commitments outlined in the peace deal. Fighting resumed in the eastern portion of the country on Oct. 20, killing at least 4 civilians and causing over 23,000 people to flee, reports Reuters.
The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing M23 many times, a claim Rwanda has always denied. The move is expected to heighten tensions between Rwanda and the DRC, as relations between the two have been strained since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In August, a report released by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) uncovered evidence that substantiated DRC’s claims, according to Al Jazeera.
The UNSC report indicated that Rwanda had launched military interventions in DRC territory since November 2021, providing reinforcements to M23 when the group aimed to take control of strategic towns and territories. The report also found that a joint Rwandan-M23 force staged an attack on a DRC army base in Rumangabo in eastern North Kivu on May 25. Rwanda has since responded with an official statement claiming that the dismissal of its ambassador is “regrettable” and claims that DRC is using Rwanda as a scapegoat to distract from their own security and governance failures, Al Jazeera continues.
The most recent rise in violence has led to the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, called MONUSCO (United Nation Organization Stabilization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo), to go on high alert and increase support for the army. This mission has been working with the Congolese military to resist M23 territorial gains, though it has strained tensions in the region and sparked protests by civilians. UN forces were involved in the most recent rebel takeover in North Kivu, in the town of Kiwanja. Four UN peacekeepers were wounded in the resistance fighting, warranting a warning from MONUSCO, stating that attacks against peacekeepers constitutes war crimes and imploring that M23 rebels cease their attacks or else the UN will increase their support for the DRC military.
On November 2, Kenya sent an envoy of troops to eastern DRC to help fight against the violence in the region, according to Reuters. The troops will join a dispatch from Burundi in a joint operation. Seven countries of the East African Community (EAC) have sent military support to DRC to stamp out the M23 and other militant groups active in the region, with more than 120 armed groups operating in the area. Kenyan President William Ruto said in a speech at the deployment send-off ceremony that all nations in the EAC “have a stake in a stable Democratic Republic of the Congo and its security,” but on Wednesday, Nov. 2, several thousand civilians held a demonstration in eastern DRC against the joint task force, claiming that DRC is allowing the military forces of its “enemies” into the country.
Image courtesy of Paul Kagame, Flickr