The first group of Burundian soldiers who were supposed to go to the dangerous east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now arrived in Goma. In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been struggling with the rise of militias, including the rebel March 23 Movement (M23), the East African Community of seven nations started deploying soldiers toward the end of last year.
Fighting in North Kivu province has forced a lot of people to move, which has made things worse in the region. The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has said that Rwanda is helping the M23. Kigali has denied this, but the United States and a few other Western countries back up this claim. The militia woke up in the second half of 2021 and took over large parts of North Kivu, including a large part of the area north of the country’s capital, Goma.
The East African Community (EAC) set up a regional group to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) become more stable. The EAC has held multiple meetings to try to end the crisis and has asked the M23 to leave areas it has taken over. But last month, thousands of people in Goma took part in protests where they said the EAC force was not doing enough to stop armed groups.
Under the condition of anonymity, it was said that the soldiers would be stationed in Kitshanga and Kilorirwe, which are both in North Kivu and are currently controlled by the M23. In a press release sent out by the EAC on Friday, they said that Burundian forces would be sent to the DRC on Saturday, but they didn’t say anything else about how many soldiers would be going there.
Following a three-step process that was supposed to start on February 28, “all armed groups,” including the M23, are supposed to leave the area by March 30. This is according to a new schedule that East African leaders approved the month before.
The relations between the two capital cities, Kigali and Kinshasa, have become much worse because of the conflict. According to Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense, a member of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) “crossed over from the DRC” on Friday evening and shot at Rwandan soldiers who were stationed in the area. This happened along the tense border between the two countries.
“The RDF soldiers fired back, killing the FARDC soldier who was stationed on the Rwandan side of the border,” the statement said. Also, it was said that “several other FARDC soldiers fired at the RDF position,” which led to a short exchange of fire.
The report came after similar events happened along the border in June and November of the previous year. The Congolese government did not respond right away to the report. It is expected that military people from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda will be part of the regional group. However, it is unclear what its intended overall size will be.
The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by rebel militias for decades, many of which are a legacy of regional conflicts that broke out in the 1990s and early 2000s. According to the UN organization, as of November of last year, there were approximately 5.5 million people who had been displaced within the country. Also, more than a million people had fled to a neighboring country. Uganda, for example, was home to more than half a million refugees.
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