The Democratic Republic of the Congo announced on Tuesday that they had pushed rebel groups out of two Eastern villages that they had seized that Sunday. The military stated that the insurgents were members of M23, a millitant group that attempted a violent rebellion in 2013. The takeover in Tshanzu and Runyoni early this week sent 5,000 people fleeing across the border to Uganda, exacerbating an ongoing refugee crisis in the country.
M23 has denied involvement in the attack. In a statement, M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa referenced the group’s ongoing peace talks with the Congolese government saying, “it is ill-advised to believe that our movement can engage in hostilities with the [army] at this time, when the partnership with the government is improving and all hopes are still alive.”
In 2012, M23 started a violent rebellion against the Congolese government, seizing the provincial capital of Goma, and marching westward. The U.N. and other international watchdog groups of accused Rwanda and Uganda of aiding the rebellion in an attempt to destabilize the DRC. In 2013, in response to American pressure and internal divisions within M23, Rwanda cut support for the insurgency. Shortly after, the Congolese government, assisted by a U.N. peacekeeping mission, broke through key positions and declared the rebels defeated. At the end of that year, a peace treaty was officially signed between M23 and the Congolese government.
But pockets of the movement have remained, as last Sunday’s attack indicates. And the DRC remains marred by conflict. Brutal fighting between ethnic groups in the country’s northeastern regions has led to the massacres of civilians, widespread sexual violence, and disease and famine with the country. This near endless war has led to a refugee crisis within neighboring countries. Uganda currently hosts 400,000 Congolese refugees. Last Sunday’s attack has only added to this problem.
Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, who took office in January of 2019, has improved the country’s relationship with their neighbours. This is a positive step that will discourage nearby countries from financing rebellious groups, as they did during the original M23 uprising. While M23 remains in the country, without outside support, they are unlikely to make any real gains. The DRC remains unstable due to other revolutionary groups within the country. It is these threats that the U.N. peacekeeping mission within the Congo should focus on.
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