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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

The M23 crisis and the history of violence in eastern Congo

By Michel Thill

The current debate over Rwanda’s support for M23––the latest rebellion in North Kivu––has refocused international attention on this crisis-ridden eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Much of the media coverage has focused on the involvement of neighbouring countries. The final report of the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, leaked to Reuters on 16 October, has strengthened its initial findings of Rwandan support to M23. Furthermore, the report has also found evidence that Uganda is backing the Congolese rebels. But it appears the leak has not affected Rwanda’s bid for membership in the UN Security Council.

The focus of this debate risks being reduced to a question of whom to blame for this new rebellion: Kinshasa’s defunct state and army, or the Rwandan proxy’s greed and lust for power? Although it is crucial to analyse the immediate causes responsible for the rise of M23, and while a solution to this crisis is urgently needed, current debates tend to leave out the vastly complex historical background to past and current conflicts. By providing an account of some of the region’s long-term developments over the past 150 years, this article aims to infuse this debate with bits of Rwandan and Kivutian history.

Michel Thill is the Great Lakes Project Officer with the Rift Valley Institute (RVI). As ever on openDemocracy, all opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the ones of his organisation.

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