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Updated February 29th, 2024 at 14:19 IST

Tensions flare in Eastern Congo as US warns of regional war, urges diplomacy

The UNSC held an emergency session on the deteriorating security situation in Eastern Congo, focusing on the conflict between government forces and M-23 rebels.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
M23 rebels in Congo
M23 rebels in a pickup truck in Kibumba. | Image:AP
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Kinshasa: On February 20th, the United Nations Security Council convened an emergency session to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The meeting's agenda centred on the intensifying conflict between government forces and the M23 rebels, as violence continues to escalate in the region.  

During the meeting, the United States issued a stern warning to both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, urging them to step back from the brink of war. The US, along with the United Nations and several Western nations, has accused Kigali of supporting the rebels in an attempt to control the region's vast mineral resources. However, Rwanda has vehemently denied these allegations, further complicating the situation.  

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Complex dynamics in Eastern Congo  

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, despite being rich in valuable mineral resources, remains one of the world's poorest nations. The region's ongoing insurgency, spanning decades, exacerbates the nation's economic and humanitarian challenges. With over 120 rebel groups vying for power, land, and resources, the situation in eastern Congo remains volatile.

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M23 rebels stand guard with their weapons. | Credit- AP

Recent months have seen a resurgence of intense fighting, particularly around the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. The clashes have resulted in the loss of at least 35 lives, with hundreds more wounded. Thousands of civilians have been displaced, fleeing their homes in search of safety in Goma, while many others remain caught in the crossfire, in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.  

In response to the escalating crisis, UN humanitarian agencies have issued a plea for financial aid to address the dire food insecurity situation in the region. With an appeal for $2.6 billion to provide assistance to 8.7 million people, the focus is primarily on food security, given the alarming levels of hunger in conflict zones such as eastern Congo.  

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UN peacekeeping withdrawal raises concerns  

In a separate development, the United Nations is set to begin the withdrawal of MONUSCO peacekeeping forces from the DRC. Despite concerns about ongoing violence in the east, Kinshasa has demanded withdrawal, citing the force's ineffectiveness in protecting civilians. The phased withdrawal plan, to be executed in three phases, raises concerns about the security vacuum it may create in the region. Amid mounting tensions, the United States has called on both Rwanda and the DRC to prioritize regional diplomatic efforts over military conflict.

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UN peacekeepers from Uruguay deployed in DRC. | Credit- AP

Emphasizing the need for a negotiated solution and sustainable peace, the US warns of the dire consequences of further escalation. As tensions escalate and the humanitarian crisis deepens, the international community remains on high alert, closely monitoring developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The path to peace and stability in the region hinges on diplomatic efforts, cooperation among regional actors, and urgent humanitarian intervention to alleviate the suffering of millions caught in the crossfire. 

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 14:19 IST

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