The DRC saw its first peaceful transition of power since independence after the December 2018 general elections, despite widespread reports of vote rigging. Since 2020, President Félix Tshisekedi has taken steps to consolidate his authority and to diminish the influence of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who has commanded loyalty throughout the security services and continued to control state institutions and revenue streams since stepping down. But even as he promises change, Tshisekedi has inherited a system of violent kleptocracy and risks repeating his predecessors’ errors. There are already signs he may be taking a more repressive turn. Meanwhile, the country experiences instability in the east and continued threats by armed groups. Crisis Group aims to alert policymakers to the risk of a return to violence if domestic rivals fail to compromise in their disputes, especially since politicians are already gearing up for the 2023 elections.
Already high tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa have risen sharply after Rwanda’s defence forces shot at a Congolese warplane they accuse of violating Rwandan airspace. In this Q&A, Crisis Group examines why the situation has deteriorated and outlines pathways toward de-escalation.
Political tensions escalated ahead of December general elections, and M23-related violence resumed, jeopardising fragile ceasefire observed on the ground since April.
Political climate sharply deteriorated. Military intelligence 5 June accused opposition leader Moïse Katumbi’s right-hand man, Salomon Kalonda – detained in May – of collusion with Rwanda and M23 rebels, and 8 June searched Kalonda and Katumbi’s homes in capital Kinshasa and Lubumbashi city. Moves fuelled concern among opposition parties that President Tshisekedi may use M23 crisis to repress rivals ahead of December general elections. Opposition and civil society continued to strongly criticise electoral process. Former President Kabila 16 June denounced those “organising chaotic elections that will set the country ablaze”, while opposition heavyweight Martin Fayulu 19 June threatened election boycott if voter list is not redone. After National Episcopal Conference 22 June condemned democratic backsliding, Tshisekedi 25 June accused Catholic Church of intimidation.
Clashes resumed between M23 rebellion and local armed groups allied to army. Following lull in M23-related violence in North Kivu province since April, M23 rebels 8, 26 June clashed with ethnic Hutu militia in Bwito chiefdom, Rutshuru territory, and 15 June captured Kasura, Butale and Lwama villages in Bashali chiefdom, Masisi territory, after clashes with ethnic Hutu and Hunde militias; renewed fighting reported in Masisi 17-21 June. Meanwhile, Angola 3 and 27 June hosted regional summits to help resolve conflict (see Rwanda).
Deadly attacks by ethnic and Islamist militias continued. Association of various ethnic Lendu militias, Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, 11-12 June rampaged through Lala displacement camp in Djugu territory of Ituri province, killing 46 civilians, mostly ethnic Hema. Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 2-9 June killed at least 24 people in Beni territory, North Kivu. ADF 16 June also launched deadly cross-border attack into Uganda (see Uganda), and 25 June killed several people in Manya locality, Mambasa territory, Ituri.
Conflict between Yaka and Teke communities continued in west. Ethnic Yaka “Mobondo” militiamen 6 June beheaded ethnic Teke village chief in Maluku commune, Kinshasa, and 26 June killed at least 20 people, mostly from Teke ethnic group, in ambush in Kwamouth territory, Mai-Ndombe province.
If we can't negotiate a humanitarian corridor for the city [of Goma in eastern DR Congo], it will be a catastrophe.
Armed groups [in the Central African Republic] have been disbanded, but [they] still extort and harass the local population.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood speaks with Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s interim Great Lakes project director, about an incident in which Rwanda's army shot at a Congolese fighter jet, raising fears that tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali could boil over.
This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by Crisis Group consultant Richard Moncrieff to discuss recent developments in the conflict in the eastern DR Congo, tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali as well as regional and international efforts to address the crisis.
Fighting has intensified in North Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with M23 rebels now partially encircling the major city Goma. Regional leaders, particularly Kenya, should press hard for a halt to the insurgent advances and urge Kinshasa and Kigali to reduce tensions.
Rising violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has the Great Lakes region on edge. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU and its member states can do to help bring stability to the area.
East African leaders have agreed to assemble troops to combat armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese authorities have announced the first troop deployment, but obstacles remain. Crisis Group expert Nelleke van de Walle explains the plan and its risks.
In a three-part special episode of The Horn, Alan speaks to three Crisis Group experts across the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes regions. He talks with William Davison about the prospects for peace talks in Ethiopia, to Nelleke van de Walle about Kenya’s new diplomatic efforts in the eastern DR Congo, and to Nazanine Moshiri about the drought devastating the Horn region.
Cyclic violence has raged in the eastern DRC for almost 30 years. Crisis Group experts Onesphore Sematumba and Nicolas Delaunay visited Beni, in North Kivu, shortly after Uganda launched a military operation against the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist insurgency based in the region.
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