The Democratic Republic of Congo may yet be headed for another war between its armed forces – FARDC and the M23 rebel group – going by the speech of President Felix Tshisekedi at the UN General Assembly.
The two sides have been on some form of ceasefire since March 2023, but sporadic violence has often ensued between the M23, and some groups allied to the FARDC.
But Tshisekedi told the 78th General Assembly of the UN on Wednesday that the group has refused to surrender to dialogue.
“This terrorist group, Rwanda’s auxiliary, is not respecting any of the commitments entered into by the heads of state of the region as part of the Luanda and Nairobi processes. Not only have they not left the positions they conquered, but they continue to massacre civilians and refuse pre-cantonment and cantonment, demanding a dialogue that will never be granted to them,” the Congolese leader said.
This is not the first time Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of fuelling the M23 rebellion. Kigali has rejected all the accusations in the past. Earlier this month, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda told Jeune Afrique that the blame game was diversionary.
“Why not blame the right people for the situation? If there are criticisms to be made of Rwanda, we accept them. But why don’t you ask me why Rwanda is not dealing with the problem of these people? That is not my responsibility. The members of the M23 are Congolese citizens,” Kagame said in an interview on September 12.
Rwanda has often insisted that the long-term solution, including dialogue, must involve the M23.
The Nairobi Process under the East African Community had initially isolated the M23 until they respect the ceasefire.
In the DRC, however, stakeholders say there are signs of new war. A press release issued by civil society in North Kivu on September 20 notes that “for the past week, new waves of M23 rebels have burst into Masisi territory via neighbouring Rutshuru.”
Telesphore Mithondeke, the rapporteur for civil society in North Kivu, said the “M23 men are returning from accelerated training to prepare assaults on FARDC positions.” Mithondeke claims that the rebels are redeploying with the intention of attacking the armed groups known as Wazalendo that claim self-defence.
Mithondeke said that on September 19, violent fighting broke out between “self-defence elements on the Busumba axis (North Kivu), which lasted all day and caused a number of collateral damages to the population, including mass forced displacement and the looting of private property. Until now, the situation there remains uncertain.”
"Congolese authorities said the army “is ready for any eventuality”.
The authorities accuse the M23 of not implementing the recommendations of the heads of state of the EAC.
The Minister for Communication Patrick Muyaya stated that for the time being, the government would not enter into dialogue with the M23, who are described as “criminals”. The M23 accuses the Congolese president of “obstructing the return of peace”.
“We are also proud of the progress made in stabilising eastern DRC because of the EAC Regional Force, setting the DR Congo the path to sustainable peace and stability,” Kenyan President William Ruto told the UN assembly.
"We are welcoming the truce between rebels and the Congolese army as the two sides are staring each other in the face following the resistance put up by elements of the local self-defence groups”, asserted the rapporteur for civil society in North Kivu.