The M23, known for its stable management and strength, demonstrated its military prowess by swiftly capturing parts of the North Kivu province. The United Nations acknowledges the group’s capabilities, likening them to a developed country’s military. Despite President Félix Tshisekedi’s warnings, the M23 remains defiant and ready to confront any provocation.
In response to the threat posed by the M23, the armed forces of the DRC, Burundi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi (SADC members excluding Burundi) are joining forces in a war reminiscent of the Second Congo War that occurred from 1998 to 2003. SADC, represented by 7,000 troops under the command of Major General Monwabisi Dyakopu from South Africa, plans to stay in the DRC for 12 months, with the possibility of an extension if the organization’s objectives are not achieved.
Reflecting on the origins of the Second Congo War, it emerged a year after Laurent Désiré Kabila came to power, triggered by his expulsion of soldiers and politicians from Rwanda and Uganda who had aided in overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko. Kabila’s decision to expel these individuals was fueled by fears that they sought control over the resource-rich eastern part of the country.
The conflict escalated as the armed group DRC-Goma, led by Dr. Emile Ilunga Kalambo, opposed Kabila’s government, supported by Interahamwe, which had mistreated Congolese Tutsis. Rwanda and Uganda joined the fight to protect their security interests, leading to a complex and protracted conflict.
In the subsequent war, various strategic locations, such as the Kitona Military Base and the Matadi port, were lost by the DRC forces. External forces, including Zimbabwe and Angola, intervened to support Kabila’s regime against the RCD, MLC, Rwanda, and Uganda. Despite temporary successes, the war persisted, and hostilities continued until 1999.
The conflict officially ceased in 2002 when Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe signed a ceasefire agreement, withdrawing their troops from the DRC. However, the International Rescue Committee reported that, despite the formal end of the war, internal armed conflicts persisted, resulting in significant human casualties.
Fast forward to the present, and the international community faces renewed challenges as the M23 resurfaces in the eastern DRC. SADC’s decision to deploy troops was met with criticism, with concerns raised about potential involvement of regional countries like Rwanda and Burundi. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed apprehensions about a military confrontation involving these nations.
Amid these tensions, the East African Community (EAC) emphasized the importance of dialogue to end the conflict, leading to strained relations with the DRC government. The United Nations warned of increased hostility between the DRC and Rwanda, heightening the risk of military intervention and potential involvement of Burundi.
As the situation unfolds, there is uncertainty about the involvement of regional players and the effectiveness of the peacekeeping mission. The imminent withdrawal of MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the DRC, further complicates the landscape, marking the potential end of a 23-year-long mission.