In the DRC, the rebel advance towards Goma suspended

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Demonstration against the Luanda ceasefire agreement and to call on the international community to demand the withdrawal of Rwanda from the province of North Kivu, on November 24, 2022 in Goma (DRC).

It was not certain that the main countries of Central and East Africa concerned by the conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) speak with one voice. Meeting on Wednesday, November 23 in Luanda, Angola, they nevertheless announced a “cessation of the attacks and the withdrawal of the Congolese localities occupied by the [groupe armé rebelle] M23 » supported by Rwanda. The cessation of fighting – set for Friday at 6 p.m. – would loosen the grip that threatens to suffocate the great city of Goma. It remains to be implemented.

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The Luanda regional mini-summit was organized at the invitation of the Angolan President, Joao Lourenço, charged by the African Union with the role of mediator between the Congolese and Rwandan neighbors, with the support of the Head of State. Burundian, Evariste Ndayishimiye, current president of the East African Community (EAC), and former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.

Paul Kagame, at the head of Rwanda for three decades, had not made the trip. His relations with his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, have deteriorated considerably in recent months, leading to the expulsion of the Rwandan ambassador from Kinshasa at the end of October. It was its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, who endorsed a text in which Rwandan responsibility for the latest destabilization of eastern Congo, brought to light in July by a report by the United Nations group of experts, n never appears explicitly.

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Kigali denials

Yet it is indeed Rwanda that is in question in the final communiqué, when the signatories call for the “cessation of all politico-military support for the M23”. It is also Kigali which is implicitly singled out when the signatories are concerned about “the acquisition by the M23 of increasingly sophisticated weapons and other means to carry out attacks against the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC)”.

Rwanda is implicitly targeted by the ceasefire agreement, which calls for the “cessation of all support” to the M23 group

Rwanda continues to deny any link with this rebel group “formed in 2012 by deserters from the Congolese army, themselves former rebels of an armed group called the National Congress for the Defense of the People, also supported by Rwanda”recalls Thomas Fessy, researcher specializing in the DRC within the human rights group Human Rights Watch.

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Rwandan denials are struggling to convince, including its most loyal allies. On Wednesday in Washington, the Bureau of African Affairs of the State Department thus “welcomed the efforts of Angola and Great Lakes leaders to end the violence and suffering in eastern DRC”. While specifying, much more clearly than a short time ago, that ” that is possible (…) if Rwanda ends its support for the M23”. « Et, states the press release, if all parties reject hate speech and respect commitments to peace and reconciliation. » This last point is aimed at Congolese officials who are blowing on the community embers. The M23 thus denounces the anti-Tutsi Congolese campaigns in the east of the country and calls for dialogue to ease the tension.

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“The M23 advances”

So far Congolese officials have only agreed to discuss with some of the armed groups (there are around a hundred of them) in eastern DRC and refuse to sit down at the same table as the M23, described as “terrorist” by Kinshasa. This risks complicating the implementation of the disarmament and quartering of these rebels as well as their “fall back on [leurs] initial positions ». “What positions are we talking about? Is it a buffer zone? Managed by whom? Under Congolese sovereignty? », asks Juvenal Munubo Mubi, MP for Walikale, a town in North Kivu, the epicenter of the crisis. The text specifies that, if the “M23 refuses to disengage and liberate all territories it currently occupies, EAC Heads of State will instruct the regional force to use force to induce them to submit”.

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The ceasefire is due to come into effect on Friday evening. The deployment of several thousand men of the regional force, decided in the spring at a regional summit in Nairobi and comprising contingents from Kenya, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda, has barely begun. As for the FARDC, they have continued to retreat, sometimes in disorder, since the resumption of the rebel offensive in October. Thursday evening, Lawrence Kanyuka, a political spokesman for the rebellion, said he had “read the document [de Luanda] on social media ». “But that doesn’t really concern us”he added.

The M23 threatens Goma from the north and has opened a new front west of the city, in Masisi. “The M23 is advancing and consolidating its positionsobserves Thomas Fessy, back from this region. He can continue to progress and cut the road leading to Saké, which would suffocate Goma”specifies the researcher, who is also worried about the fate of civilian populations in areas controlled by the rebels.

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