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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a problem with M23 rebels in its eastern provinces. Formed in 2012 by Congolese army deserters, these rebels used to make up another armed group called the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), which Rwanda had supported. After the CNDP seized Kiwanja in 2008, it executed dozens of civilians. The M23 resurged in late 2021 after years of dormancy, accusing the DRC of falling back on promises it made in a peace agreement, including integrating the group’s fighters into the Congolese army. The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing various rebel groups over the past decade.
On Saturday, the M23 seized the town of Kiwanja in eastern Congo. Then, on Sunday, the DRC’s government told Rwanda’s ambassador, Vincent Karega, to get out within 48 hours. Congolese say Rwanda is backing M23, but Rwanda denies this. In response, Rwanda accused the DRC of escalating tensions between them both. And now, anti-Rwandan protests have attracted thousands in the DRC’s city of Goma.
“It is regrettable the Government of the DRC continues to scapegoat Rwanda to cover up and distract from their own governance and security failures,” the Rwandan government said in a statement.
“The current Chair of the African Union and President of Senegal, president Macky Sall, and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat … urge all stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue within the existing mechanism of the African Union’s Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region, and the East African Community’s Inter-Congolese peace dialogue,” the African Union said in a statement.
“We denounce the hypocrisy of the international community in the face of Rwanda’s aggression,” Mambo Kawaya, a civil society representative attending a demonstration in Goma, told AFP.