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The United Nations (UN) has issued a warning about the escalating humanitarian crisis in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly highlighting the alarming increase in violence against women. Bruno Lemarquis, the Humanitarian Coordinator at the UN Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) to DRC, delivered this urgent message on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

Lemarquis emphasized the severity of the situation during a briefing at the UN, stating, “The crisis in the DRC is one of the most severe, complex, prolonged, protracted, and neglected in the world.” He expressed deep concern over the resurgence of hostilities in eastern DRC, specifically in North Kivu, where violent clashes between the M23 group and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) have intensified. These clashes have resulted in grave humanitarian consequences, including widespread displacement.

A few days ago, the DRC levied accusations against Rwanda, alleging their involvement in a drone attack that caused damage to a civilian aircraft at Goma airport, a crucial hub in the eastern region of the country, specifically in North Kivu province.

According to Al Jazeera, tensions have escalated recently, particularly around a town called Sake, located approximately 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma. This escalation has seen clashes between M23 rebels, whom Kinshasa claims are receiving support from Kigali, and the Congolese government forces. The situation underscores the complex web of political, economic, and regional dynamics at play in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The conflict is heightened by claims from the DRC and assertions from the UN and Western nations, suggesting Rwanda’s backing of the rebels is motivated by a desire to exert control over the region’s abundant mineral resources. Rwanda vehemently denies these allegations. As tensions continue to simmer, there is a pressing need for diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the conflict and foster stability in the region.

Historical facts about the Rwanda-DRC hostility

Rwanda once had three major ethnic groups – the Hutus, the Tutsis and the Twas. While the Hutus make up about 85% of Rwanda’s population, the Tutsis are 14%, and the Twas make up around 1% of its population. The Tutsis, despite being a minority group, ruled Rwanda for centuries. Colonialism further entrenched that position as their Belgian colonial masters propagated the myth that Tutsis were the superior ethnicity, increasing already existing tensions between the group. 

Thus, between April to July 1994, the Rwandan genocide was staged. The war was a bloody battle against the Tutsi, Twa, and moderate Hutus, claiming between 500,000 to 1,000,000 lives. Millions of Rwandan refugees flooded into the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the wake of the genocide. 

The main perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide were the Interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary organization currently active in DRC and Uganda. In July of 1994, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) gained victory in the Rwandan Civil War and drove the insurgents out to DRC. When a new Tutsi government was established in Rwanda after the genocide, more than two million Hutus sought refuge in eastern DR Congo. Against this historical backdrop, both countries have lived in a suffocating and pernicious relationship.

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