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Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, President

Kivu: the ongoing proxy war

Source: New Wave Media
Source: New Wave Media
In the DRC’s eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu intense combat is continuing between the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), together with allied local Wazalendo militiamen and with the support of foreign security contractors and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) contingents.
The M23 emerged in 2012, primarily composed of ethnic Tutsi fighters who defected from the Congolese army. The group was named after the March 23, 2009, peace agreement between the DRC government and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), which was a Tutsi-dominated rebel group led by Laurent Nkunda.
Source: UNSC. In red the zone occupied by the M23 irregulars. VOA. Position of the DRC in Africa and the two Kivu provinces.
The recent resurgence of M23 rebel attacks and the consequent escalating military tension between Congo and Rwanda are due to the exploitation of illegal mines in the east of Congo (cobalt, coltan, wolfram, gold, cassiterite, diamonds, etc.). Kinshasa has repeatedly accused Kigali of supporting and using M23 to destabilise Congo and exploit covertly its mines. Interestingly, since October 2023 the USA has sanctioned a Rwandan general, Brig. Gen. Andrew Nyamvumba (3rd Division commander), who was accused of launching attacks on Congolese troops in conjunction with M23 fighters. Moreover, military assistance has been suspended by president Biden, a direct warning to Rwandan president Paul Kagame.
At the same time the cobalt mining sector during the Obama and Trump presidency was largely sold to Chinese companies, including also copper mines in the historic province of Katanga (in the ’60 it was a secessionist government propped by Western mining interest against a Congolese nationalisation). The FARDC protect now these Chinese companies against M23 and other irregular forces.
Needless to say, irregular militias have used child labour and soldiers, while oppressing local populations. In February, the M23 rebel group surrounded Sake, a town near Goma, displacing around 135.000 people and raising the total number of displaced individuals in the vicinity to around half a million. The regional capital of North Kivu, Goma, is a crucial city for the control of the area.
Meanwhile, the UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo), is set to gradually withdraw from South Kivu amid widespread criticism within the DRC and following deadly protests. On the other hand, members of the UN Security Council fear that there will be a significant weakening of regular forces because both capacity building and direct support will lack. There is discussion in the UN on how to better fund DRC regular forces, while Kinshasa tries, for the time being to now avail, to negotiate with Kigali a retreat of M23.

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