Kenya is set to deploy a battalion of soldiers to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a regional military response to advancing M23 rebels. Kenya will command the new East African force, which will include troops from Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda. A notable absentee from this intervention will be Rwanda: Congo accuses Kigali of supporting M23, and tensions are soaring. In the past weeks, M23 has dramatically expanded the territory it controls, forcing UN peacekeepers to abandon a strategic base at Rumangabo, and closing in on the key city of Goma. In a region with a history of foreign meddling—in which more than 120 rebel groups operate—the East African deployment is distrusted. Both Burundi and Uganda already have troops inside Congo pursuing their own interests. It remains unclear how the new East African force will be funded; how it will coordinate with UN peacekeepers (in which Kenya also has a contingent); and what its exit strategy will be. Some are urgently calling for regional dialogue as the solution to Congo's instability, fearing the military option will only make matters worse.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a trial Sept. 26 against Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a leader of the Séléka rebel group, for crimes humanity and war crimes in violation of the Rome Statute. Said allegedly committed these crimes in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), in 2013. Said pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Two people were killed and several others injured when UN peacekeepers opened fire during an incident in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 31. The incident, in Kasindi, North Kivu province, appears to have started in a confrontation between soldiers of the peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, and Congolese troops. It followed several days of anti-MONUSCO protests, in which some 20 people were killed, including three peacekeepers. Demonstrators attacked MONUSCO bases in Goma and other eastern cities, calling on the mission to leave the country, as it has failed to protect civilians amid a resurgence of fighting between security forces and the M23 rebels. (UN News, TNH, VOA)
After three years of conflict, a tentative peace process is underway between the Cameroon government and scessionist rebels demanding independence for the country's two western anglophone regions. Cameroon is a majority francophone country, and its Northwest and Southwest regions complain that they have been deliberately marginalized by the central government in Yaounde. What began as a protest movement in 2016, calling for federalism, degenerated into fighting and a demand for full independence after the government clamped down on the movement.
Burundi's President Évariste Ndayishimiye announced May 11 that he is prepared to negotiate with the country's two main rebel groups, should they reach out to his government. But it's unclear if the rebels will do that, especially given ongoing operations against them. The National Liberation Forces (FNL) and the Resistance Movement for Rule of Law in Burundi (RED-Tabara) both have bases in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latter, the stronger of the two, has conducted a string of attacks in Burundi since 2015—the year then-president Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed third term, triggering waves of political violence. Reports suggest significant numbers of Burundian troops have crossed into the DRC in recent months to track down RED-Tabara fighters. The group is one of a number of foreign rebel movements in DRC, where nearly three million people were displaced last year. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians, meanwhile, are still living in refugee camps, afraid to return to a country where the killing and torture of ruling party opponents is rife.
At least 35 people were killed May 10 when armed men raided an artisanal gold mining camp in Ituri province, in the conflicted northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local authorities at the rural commune of Mungwalu in Ituri's Djugu territory blamed the attack on the CODECO rebel militia. A four-month-old baby was among the dead. The militiamen also looted and torched homes at Camp Blanquette, and seized quantities of extracted gold. (AfricaNews) Informal mines in the eastern DRC provide much of the country's output of gold, cobalt and other minerals used in the global electronics industry.
Forces in the Central African Republic, identified by witnesses as Russian mercenaries, "appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019," Human Rights Watch finds in a new report. On April 15, the United Nations announced it wil investigate the circumstances in which at least 10 people were killed in the CAR's northeast, with initial reports alleging involvement by Russian forces from the paramilitary Wagner Group. In the attacks three days earlier, up to 15 civilians were killed at the villages of Gordil and Ndah, some 1,000 kilometers northeast of the capital Bangui. Local officials and aid workers told AFP the attacks were carried out by elements of the "FACA [Central African Armed Forces] and their allies"—the term used by both the authorities and the UN for Russian mercenaries. HRW documents other such claims. On July 21, 2021, apparently Russian-speaking forces killed at least 12 unarmed men near the town of Bossangoa, some 300 kilometers north of the capital. HRW is calling upon the CAR's Special Criminal Court (SCC) or the International Criminal Court to "investigate these incidents as well as other credible allegations of abuse by Russia-linked forces with a view to criminal prosecution."
The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded April 28 in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn't invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn't attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The list of participants was initially unclear and analysts seemed confused by the meeting's strategy as rebels arrived in dribs and drabs.