Hundreds of people descended on the streets of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s city of Goma on Monday, chanting for weapons to fight Rwanda, as M23 rebels continued their advance on the North Kivu province. The protesters accuse its smaller neighbour of actively backing the militia, and on the weekend, the government asked the Rwandan ambassador to leave. FRANCE 24’s Aurélie Bazzara-Kibangula and Justin Kabumba report.
“We, the young people, are ready to fight the Rwandan enemy and the international community,” Alexis Kambale, a young demonstrator, said as he and hundreds of other men protested what they say is Rwanda’s – and also Uganda’s – involvement in the increasing unrest fomented by the rebels.
The M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, after accusing the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government of failing to honour an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.
In late October, fresh fighting broke out between the Congolese military and the M23, as the rebels forced yet another advance in DR Congo. They seized the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru along the strategic highway that leads to the provincial capital Goma, near the Rwandan border.
Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished August report from the United Nations has pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23.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.
In Kinshasa, civil society groups feel it is too late to resolve the increasingly strained relations with Rwanda diplomatically.
“We cannot have diplomatic relations with a country that attacks us, that does not want to live in peace, a country that takes advantage of our resources and who wants to jeopardise our territorial integrity,” Joseph Bope, a spokesperson for the human rights group Lucha in Kinshasa, said.