Thousands protest Rwanda in eastern DR Congo city
Thousands of anti-Rwanda protesters marched through the eastern DR Congo city of Goma on Monday, AFP journalists saw, as M23 rebels tightened their grip on the surrounding countryside.
A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government of failing to honour an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.
The group’s resurgence has destabilised regional relations in central Africa, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the militia.
The frontline between the Congolese military and the M23 had been calm for several weeks, but fresh clashes from October 20 saw the militia make advances across North Kivu province.
Rebels in recent days seized the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru, along a strategic highway leading to the provincial capital Goma, which lies on the Rwandan border.
The DRC’s government decided to expel Rwanda’s ambassador on Saturday. Rwanda stated that it had noted the decision “with regret”.
The ambassador, Vincent Karega, left the DRC on Monday.
Thousands of people demonstrated against Rwanda in Goma the same day, according to AFP journalists, where police officers used tear gas to disperse them from the border post with the country.
“We denounce the hypocrisy of the international community in the face of Rwanda’s aggression,” said Mambo Kawaya, a civil society representative attending the demonstration.
Protesters chanted for weapons to fight Rwanda, as well as slogans hostile to Uganda, which some also accuse of backing the M23.
The rebel group first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before a joint Congolese-UN offensive drove it out.
It is one of scores of armed groups that roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that flared late last century.
Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished report for the United Nations seen by AFP in August pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23.
The same report said the M23 plans to capture Goma, an important trade hub of about one million people, to extract political concessions from the Congolese government.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame tweeted on Monday that he had held a discussion with UN chief Antonio Guterres on how to de-escalate.