Congo-Kinshasa: Humanitarian Ceasefire in North Kivu - Opportunity to Provide Aid or Opportunity to Rearm?

Kinshasa — There are two important new developments in the forgotten war in North Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo: the first is the two-week humanitarian ceasefire that came into force on July 5 thanks to the mediation of the United States; the second is the report of a group of experts presented to the UN Security Council on July 8, which accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels with its own troops. The ceasefire obliges the soldiers of the Congolese army and the M23 rebels to a two-week ceasefire so that humanitarian organizations can reach the people trapped by the fighting.

This ceasefire currently seems to be holding, but there are no mechanisms to verify its compliance by the fighters, whose positions are very close to each other. A misunderstood gesture from the other side could cause fighting to flare up again at any time. Local observers also fear that the ceasefire could serve as an opportunity for the rivals to reinforce their troops and arm themselves with weapons. According to the Congolese, the M23 will benefit most from the ceasefire in order to reinforce itself. It controls a large part of the Congolese province, with the exception of the capital, Goma, which is home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and is surrounded by guerrilla fighters.

The guerrilla fighters, according to the report submitted to the UN Security Council, are armed and supported by Rwanda, which has sent at least 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers from its own army to support them. According to the report, Congolese officers have taken command of the military operations of the M23 units, which can count on the support of artillery and anti-aircraft guns from the Rwandan army. According to the UN report, Rwanda has thus "violated the integrity and sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo".

UN experts also denounce the forced recruitment of 12-year-old children from refugee camps in Rwandan territory into the ranks of the rebels. Further efforts are therefore needed to ensure that the temporary humanitarian ceasefire, the result of efforts negotiated by Washington since the visit of Avril Haines, National Director of Intelligence (who oversees the 17 American intelligence agencies) to Kigali and Kinshasa last November, leads to a permanent ceasefire.

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