from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – THE breaching of a ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the March 23 (M23) rebels could not have come at a worse time for the Democratic Republic (DRC).
This setback comes as the vast Central African country synonymous with conflict prepares for polls in December, when incumbent, Felix Tshisekedi, will seek a second term.
Polls set for December 20 and already a source of tensions with accusations they would be rigged and apparent plans to bar some of Tshisekedi’s challengers from participating. More than 20 have since been confirmed to participate.
Last week, the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) announced that the ceasefire between FARDC and M23 had been breached.
The ceasefire has been fragile since it was first agreed in March.
Armed clashes involving the M23 rebels, militia groups supported by the FARDC, and international forces have been reported in recent days, notably around Kibumba, located about 20km north of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.
There have also been such clashes in the Bishusha and Bombo regions further north.
Tragically, fighting near Kibumba has left at least one Kenyan soldier dead, who was part of the EACRF.
According to the United Nations at least 200 000 people have been forced to flee the region since clashes resumed in early October.
This aggravates one of the worst displacement crises in the world. The International Office for Migration (IOM) reports that as of August 2023, over 590 000 persons remain displaced by the M23 crisis.
Following the significant increase in the number of people in need, as well as funding gaps in the humanitarian response, IOM’s flash appeal for the DRC has been revised to target 200 000 people (from 150 000), requiring US$35 million (from $17 million).
Further violence involving M23 rebels, FARDC, regional forces and other armed groups in the eastern region has not been ruled out in the short-term.
Security experts forecast heightened security was likely to persist in the North Kivu through at least late December following the resumption of violence in Masisi, Nyiragongo, and Rutshuru territories surrounding Goma.
China has issued a safety reminder, quoting media that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) launched an armed attack in the Beni area of North Kivu Province, killing at least 26 civilians, including 12 minors.
Amid the security situation it denounced as complex and severe, the Asian nation reminded all its citizens in the DRC to strengthen safety precautions and not to go to Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Haut-Uélé and other high-risk areas.
“Evacuate or move to a safe area as soon as possible,” the embassy advised citizens.
Chinese enterprises are advised to take effective measures to strengthen security, reduce outings and minimise non-essential Chinese personnel.
– CAJ News