Far away from the much-talked about Russian-Ukrainian war, there is another part of the world where things are getting chaotic diplomatically and tensions at the border are simmering day in and day out.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are engaged in a dispute yet again after almost 25 years of the 1st Congo war. Relations between the two Central African nations have soured in recent times.
The conflict between the two nations is based on counter-accusations by each country, that the other is supporting a violent rebel group within their domestic territory.
- Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group. This group has been waging violent attacks on Congolese territory since 2012-13.
- Rwanda accuses DRC of assisting the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FLDR), an armed group responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
About these Groups:
The March 23 Movement, or the self-proclaimed Congolese Revolutionary Army, aka M23, is an armed militia which was formed with an initial strength of 300 soldiers on 4 April 2012. The majority of soldiers were former members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) who were part of the mutiny against the DRC government. Most of them belong to an ethnic group called the Tutsi. The group was formed with the sole aim of fighting against a militia FLDR, formed by Hutus, another ethnic group in the region. The FLDR had to flee Rwanda after they were accused of having involvement in human rights atrocities against the Tutsis.
The Turn of Events
On 13 June, 2022, the M23 rebels seized the strategic town of Bunagana after a violent attack. Later, in a statement, the Congolese Army blamed Rwanda for being directly involved in the attack.
The town of Bunagana was an M23 fortress during a 2012 rebellion that momentarily overran Goma City before Congolese and U.N. forces chased the group into adjoining Rwanda and Uganda a year later. The siege of Bunagana can be described as a major setback for the Congolese security forces.
Prior to this, the tension at the border between DRC and Rwanda had been flaring up since March 2022. Cross-border artillery fire has become the new normal, with Rwanda accusing the DRC of being the perpetrator.
The fall of Bunagana town at the hands of M23 triggered anger among the Congolese. Violent clashes and protests were witnessed in the DRC.
On 15 June, demonstrations against the M23 group’s incursions were held by hundreds of Congolese in Goma city. The protesters were demanding arms and ammunition to fight the Rwandan Army.
Two days later, a Congolese soldier crossed the border into Rubavu District in Rwanda and began shooting indiscriminately at Rwandan security forces and civilians. In retaliation, the attacker was shot dead inside Rwandan territory.
The public reaction has further pushed the DRC government to take a strong stance on Rwanda. A few weeks ago, RwandAir flights to the DRC were suspended. Additionally, in a recent statement, the Congolese Army announced its readiness for war.
Things have been flaring up very quickly, and avoiding war or a limited war seems to be becoming extremely challenging every passing day unless there is a timely intervention by the international/regional community. Amid issues like poverty, drought, hunger, climate change and countless others, a military conflict would be detrimental to the civilians. Currently, it seems like peace will come at a cost.
Many countries have declared the region a no-go zone. Travellers are advised against all travel to the eastern part of the DRC, which borders Rwanda. Sporadic cross-border mortar shelling and the modus operandi of M23 rebels in the region make it a high-risk region. RwandAir flights, the flag carrier of Rwanda, have already been suspended by the DRC government.
For businesses that require a more detailed report on the situation, please refer to our in-depth country analysis which is available from our support representatives.