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PRAY FOR DRC: Tension Rising As Elections Looms; Congo & Rwanda Diplomats Trade Barbs At UN

Tensions between Congo and Rwanda have escalated, heightening the risk of a military confrontation that could draw in Burundi, the top U.N. official in Congo warned the Security Council on Monday.

Special representative Bintou Keita’s warning came shortly before the ambassadors from Congo and Rwanda traded accusations in the council, and nine days ahead of Congo’s Dec. 20 presidential election, in which President Felix Tshisekedi is seeking a second term against two dozen candidates.

As voting nears, Congo’s government is also doubling down on a push to have regional and international peacekeeping forces withdraw, including the U.N.’s more than 17,700-member force. A regional force of officers from East African countries began leaving eastern Congo’s largest city, Goma, last week.

Tshisekedi has long accused Rwanda and its president, Paul Kagame, of providing military support to M23 rebels, the latest iteration of Congolese Tutsi fighters to seize towns in parts of mineral-rich North Kivu. The U.N. and human rights groups accuse M23 of atrocities including rape and mass killings and say it receives backing from Rwanda — but Rwanda denies any ties with the rebels.

Keita told the council that the eastern provinces are facing escalating insecurity, “especially related to the renewed M23 crisis.” But she said new pockets of insecurity also have emerged in other parts of the country, notably the Greater Katanga region and Mai-Ndombe and Tshopo provinces.

She stressed that insecurity “has compounded the ongoing humanitarian crisis.”

According to the U.N. humanitarian office, over 6.5 million people are displaced in Congo, 5.5 million of them in the three eastern provinces. “According to preliminary figures, over 500,000 people have fled their homes following renewed hostilities between the M23 and the Congolese armed forces since early October,” Keita said.

Congolese Ambassador Zenon Mukongo accused Rwandan soldiers of supporting the M23 rebels, citing events starting in November 2022.

He reiterated his country’s call for “an end to the Rwandan aggression,” withdrawal of its troops and “the eradication of armed interest groups in Congo including M23,” and urged the Security Council to take action to achieve this.

More than 120 armed groups are fighting over land and control of valuable minerals in Congo’s eastern regions.

CREDIT: ABC

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