AFRICA/DR CONGO - The M23 rebel movement takes up arms again: Congolese fear “balkanization”

Thursday, 25 April 2024 armed groups   area crisis   wars  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Balkanization". The Congolese use this term to describe the attempt by neighboring countries to divide the Democratic Republic of Congo by dividing it into numerous territories controlled by different armed groups, each of which is supported by them. This attempt is being carried out in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo primarily by the M23, an armed movement with ties to Rwanda. But more or less all East African states are interested in intervening in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, both to protect their own security by preventing rebels and uncontrolled refugee movements from entering their territory, and to advance their own economic interests support financially. East African countries are trying to take advantage of the Democratic Republic of Congo's natural resources: competition revolves around higher revenues in the export chains - in the form of taxes and value added. Each country seeks to increase the amount of the DRC's natural resources flowing through its territory by granting favorable export taxes and investing in gold refining capacity, but also in transport infrastructure projects. Several UN expert reports show how Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda benefit from trade in raw materials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten) that illegally cross the Democratic Republic of Congo border into their respective countries where they are then exported from. In addition to mining, the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo is also an important market for its neighbors, especially for agricultural products, consumer goods and services. The geopolitical competition between neighboring countries for mineral export chains as well as other economic opportunities such as trade in consumer goods in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo gives the Congolese the impression that their country is being exploited by neighboring countries that are enriching themselves behind their backs. The re-armament of the M23, which laid down its arms in 2013 after a series of agreements with the government in Kinshasa, came in 2021 after Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo announced a joint project for security and the rehabilitation of roads in the Democratic Republic of Congo which was intended to significantly increase cross-border trade between the two countries. This would have worried the Rwandan government as one of these roads would have threatened Rwanda's sphere of influence in North Kivu. The new road would have allowed the settlement of new farmers who could have changed the local ethnic balance to the detriment of the Rwandan population that had settled in the area. The Congolese have long suspected that Rwanda wants to annex part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fears have been fueled again by the resumption of M23 operations with support from Rwanda, whose president has also said the territory's borders should be reviewed because they were drawn during the colonial era. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 25/4/2027)