Congo-Kinshasa: Nationwide Rallies in Congo Protest Rebel Violence in East

Church-led marches across the Democratic Republic of Congo saw protesters decry fighting in the country’s restive east and condemn neighboring Rwanda for allegedly backing rebels.

Peace marches organized by the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo attracted thousands of people angry at the violence in the country’s troubled east.

Protesters in the capital, Kinshasa, carried banners reading, “No to the hypocrisy of the international community. Congo is not for sale.”

Rallies were planned across the country, but a march in the key eastern city of Goma was called off to prevent “possible infiltration,” organizers said.

The marches came days after the Congolese government said the death toll from an alleged “massacre” of civilians in the east left more than 100 dead.

The government accused the rebel group M23 of the killings at Kishishe, a village around 70 kilometers (40 miles) north of Goma.

A cease-fire was recently agreed upon with the M23, though it is reportedly not being fully observed. The M23 rebel group has since denied breaking the truce.

Rwanda accused of involvement in the conflict

Many of the rallies saw criticism of neighboring Rwanda, which Kinshasa has long accused of backing rebels in Congo’s restive east. Protesters also expressed anti-Western sentiment.

“It is the small country that is fighting us,” said Father Theophile Landu in reference to Rwanda. “Behind it are the United States and the European Union. We tell them that they must stop the hypocrisy.”

Congo has accused the West of failing to hold Rwanda accountable. However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in August that UN reports of Rwanda’s support of the M23 group were “credible.”

Rwanda has disputed the UN’s findings.

The European Parliament recently called on Rwanda to stop supporting the M23 rebels. Still, Congo has criticized the European Commission for a €20-million ($21-million) fund to support Rwandan forces helping fight Islamist insurgents in Mozambique.

An uncertain cease-fire

Talks between Congo and Rwanda concluded with a cease-fire that was due to take effect on November 25.

The truce also entailed a pullout by the M23 rebels from Congolese territory they had seized. This reportedly has not yet occurred.

The rebel group, which had been dormant for years, took up arms late last year as they accused Congo’s government of failing to honor a disarmament deal.

(AFP, Reuters)


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