The head of the African Union is calling on Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to lower tensions. The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the rebel group M23, which continues to battle the Congolese army in eastern Congo. But analysts are doubtful the tensions or the situation in eastern Congo as a whole will soon improve.
Calm has returned in some parts of the eastern DRC, which saw heavy fighting last week between the Congolese army and the rebel group M23.
Jean-Mobert Senga, Amnesty International’s DRC researcher, told VOA there is a lull in the fighting.
“When it comes to M23, there has been some calm in the last few days,” he said. “There have been no clashes reported and in some parts, civilians have started to return but that doesn’t mean that the conflict is over in North Kivu and Ituri. Civilians are still being killed by other armed groups, so it’s not only M23 which is the problem. There are also other groups who have been killing people and are continuing to kill civilians with impunity.”
Reports say the Congolese army, with the help of the U.N. peacekeeping force MONUSCO, recently repelled a rebel advance on the city of Goma. The reports say M23 fighters have now returned to their hideouts near the border with Uganda.
But residents of North Kivu and Ituri remain fearful of M23 and other armed groups in the region, which have competed for years for control of the area’s rich mines. Some of the groups have ties to Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi.
The DRC government accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 in an effort to destabilize the country.
In a statement Monday, Rwandan Foreign Minister Vicent Biruta encouraged its neighbor to de-escalate its rhetoric. He said collaboration could restore security and bring lasting stability to the region.
The minister also said the rebel group M23 was Congo’s internal problem and should be resolved among Congolese themselves.
On his Twitter account, African Union chairperson Senegalese President Macky Sall said he is concerned about the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. Sall said he spoke to DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a quest to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Researcher and political analyst Ntanyoma Rukumbuzi said the tension between the countries and the unrest in the DRC are likely to continue.
“I don’t see any future escalation between the two countries, Rwanda and the DRC,” he said. “I think both countries have an interest in dialogue and settling many of these issues in a pacific way through dialogue but would this be enough if Rwanda and DRC agree to solve the tension in a pacific way? Will this lead to the stability of the DRC? I am not sure.”
M23 insists it is fighting ethnic Hutu groups to protect the minority Tutsi living along the border between Congo and Rwanda.
But, Human Rights Watch DRC senior researcher Thomas Fessy notes M23 was expelled from peace talks between Congo and various armed groups that took place in Kenya at the end of April.
“All of this has created a context of tension which is sparking fears of new military confrontation on Congolese territory and civilians are always the ones always to pay the biggest price,” he said. “In a few days of heavy fighting near Goma, over 70,000 people were displaced. According to the humanitarian organizations, many of them will now need assistance.”
Congo is home to some 5.6 million internally displaced people, more than any other country in Africa.