Protest against Rwanda in DRCongo capital draws hundreds

A recent upswing in violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo by rebel group M23 brought out hundreds on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital, on Monday. The protesters blame Rwanda over its alleged support for the rebels, calling for the Rwandan ambassador to be expelled.

"Congo is our country... not a single centimetre will go to Rwanda," read one of the protest signs at the march.

Tumultuous past

An exodus en masse to the eastern DRCongo by Hutus accused of killing Tutsi during the 1994 Rwandan genocide exacerbated problems between the two countries.

By 1996, the First Congolese War broke out as Rwanda and Uganda invaded the area where alleged Hutu killers were living to root them out.

Tensions between the two countries, neighbouring on part of the Congolese eastern border, had quelled somewhat after current Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019.

But recent violent clashes between the M23, made up primarily of Congolese Tutsis, and Congolese forces and the arrest of two Rwandan soldiers by Congolese troops on Saturday has heightened tensions.

“We support the FARDC (the Congolese army), our youths are ready to do military service to defend the country," Pasi Nkoy from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, UDPS, said at the demonstration.

The Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) said that the two soldiers had been kidnapped while patrolling by a Congolese rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Rwanda’s national air carrier RwandAir announced it was cancelling flights to the DRC, after Congolese authorities suspended the airline and summoned the Rwandan ambassador.

However, on Monday Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said Kinshasa was not closing the door to negotiations.

Civilians massacred, burnt alive

A night attack on Sunday evening in Bulongo, North Kivu province resulted in 16 people killed and seven wounded, according to the Red Cross and locals on Monday. Bulongo Red Cross secretary Albert Ndungo said one of their workers was shot dead as he was trying to flee.

“They torched five vehicles and the people inside were burned to a crisp," said Andika Miheko, village youth president, who blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group.

Islamic State (IS) calls ADF its local affiliate. The ADF also killed 27 people in an unrelated attack, according to the Congolese army.

Clashes in the eastern DRCongo have displaced 72,000 people, according to the United Nations on Friday, adding that those who have fled are facing violence on the road and in the bush as well.