Kivu at the heart of unrest in DRC

2013-11-11 19:28
The village of Lukweti, north Kivu, where the Mai Mai, the collective term for several disparate paramilitary groups, have their headquarters. (Michele Sibiloni, AFP)

The village of Lukweti, north Kivu, where the Mai Mai, the collective term for several disparate paramilitary groups, have their headquarters. (Michele Sibiloni, AFP)

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Goma - The area of North and South Kivu, in the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been the main centre of conflict in the country and of tensions in Africa's wider Great Lakes region.

The DRC authorities and defeated M23 rebels were set to sign a peace deal on Monday in what the UN hopes will be a key step in efforts to end decades of war.

Having borders with Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, Kivu has found itself at the heart of the region's tragedies, marked by inter-community rivalries and deadly clashes over land.

The provinces of North and South Kivu are rich in natural resources, especially gold, coltan and tin, which are sought by the telecommunications and agricultural sectors.

Since the 18th century Kivu has progressively seen large influxes of Tutsis and Hutus from Rwanda, and in the early 1980s, the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko in what was then Zaire brandished the issue of nationality to sideline those who came from Rwanda.

Kivu experienced a flood of nearly one million Rwandan Hutu refugees in 1994 after the genocide of Tutsis, along with rebels from Burundi and Uganda and tribal militias.

The wars of 1996-1997 and 1998-2003, which involved up to seven African countries on DRC soil, started in Kivu.

During these two regional wars, and later in the framework of joint operations with Kinshasa in the late 2000s, Rwanda sent troops into the east of DRC, officially to assure the security of its own regime, driving out Rwandan Hutu rebels grouped within the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

In 2007 and 2008, North Kivu was the scene of clashes between the army and insurgent soldiers fighting on the side of former Congolese general Laurent Nkunda in the ethnic Tutsi National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

The insurgents were integrated into the Congolese armed forces under a pact signed with Kinshasa in March 2009.

Fighters still operating

The M23 movement emerged in April 2012 with a mutiny by the mainly ethnic Tutsi former rebels taken into the army under the 2009 deal, prompting fierce clashes with loyalist forces in North Kivu.

UN experts have regularly accused Rwanda and Uganda, despite their denials, of backing the M23.

In November 2012, the M23 took the eastern city Goma before withdrawing 11 days later following a demand from states in the region and in return for a promise of dialogue with Kinshasa, which has been broken off on several occasions.

Last week, the M23 announced the end of their 18-month insurgency after a resounding rout at the hands of the national army, who are backed by a 3 000-strong special United Nations intervention brigade.

The rebels and the Congolese government are expected to sign a new peace agreement in Kampala on Monday to settle the fate of about 1 500 M23 fighters who have crossed into Uganda.

Other armed groups continue to operate in the Kivu area.

Read more on:    un  |  drc  |  central africa

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