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Congolese split over Burundian forces in troubled east

#Congolese #split #Burundian #forces #troubled #east

The use of Burundian troops to suppress rebel groups in eastern DRC has divided local people, with some fiercely opposed but others cautiously welcomed.

Burundian forces arrived in South Kivu province on Monday, pushing ahead with a plan by the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) to stabilize the chronically troubled region.

Numerous armed groups roam eastern DRC, many of which are a legacy of full-blown wars that broke out in the last decade of the 20th century.

Some people are skeptical that the Burundian operation will improve safety, others hope for an improvement.

Others are furious that Burundi — like Rwanda accused of having meddled in the mineral-rich region in the past — has been invited to the DRC.

The operation is “another humiliation for our nation,” said 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, a surgeon who has treated thousands of rape victims in the region.

“Let’s end the policy of outsourcing our security to destabilizing states and work to reform our army to make it professional and operational,” he said on Twitter on Tuesday.

– Suspicion of “interference” –

A campaign group in South Kivu, the New Dynamics of Civil Society, said foreign forces are “only exacerbating the problem rather than solving it”.

“The majority” of these forces have been on DRC territory for years, it said, alluding to long-standing suspicions of interference from the country’s neighbors.

Some nations are supporting armed groups to “maintain chaos… (and) plunder our natural resources,” it said.

Thousands of people have died at the hands of rebels in the east of the country over the past decade and tens of thousands have fled their homes.

An estimated 120 armed groups, many organized along ethnic lines, operate in the region.

Among the bloodiest are the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which the self-proclaimed Islamic State calls its regional offshoot, and a Congolese Tutsi militia called the M23.

Some groups are historical opponents of regimes in neighboring countries and have holed up in the DRC – which could complicate the EAC mission.

In the case of Burundi, these include the Burundian rebel groups RED Tabara and the FNL or National Liberation Forces.

– foreign aid –

DRC forces, supported by a major UN peacekeeping mission, have been unable to stem the bloodshed.

The attacks have continued despite North Kivu and Ituri provinces being placed under emergency measures in May last year to help fight the rebels.

During this so-called “state of siege”, high-ranking civilian officials were replaced by members of the security forces.

Saint-Cadet Kibibi, head of civil society group Minembwe, said the Burundian troops were “welcome”, although he questioned whether the armed forces would be able to bring peace.

“We want to see that this force does its job correctly, respecting international humanitarian law,” he said.

Kelvin Bwija, of a group called Compatriots Civil Society/Uvira-Fizi, said he hoped the operations would be given a “precise timetable” for completion.

The EAC includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

In June, the leaders of the bloc decided to set up a regional force to work with Congolese troops.

Kenyan and Ugandan forces will be deployed to North Kivu and Ituri, while South Sudanese forces will be deployed to Haut-Uele province.

Kinshasa accuses Kigali of supporting the M23 rebel group in North Kivu and denies any involvement of Rwandan troops in the EAC force.

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