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Talk, Not More Military, Kinshasa: Analysts

FILE: A DRC soldier during a security patrol around the Kiwanja airfield following fights with M23 rebels in Rutshuru, 70 kilometres from the city of Goma in eastern DRC. April 3, 2022

As fighting intensifies in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, analysts say a move to deploy regional forces risk triggering more rebel violence. Instead, they propose that the DRC deepen diplomacy and dialogue with rebel groups to restore peace in a region beset by decades-old conflict.

The robust re-emergence of the rebel group M23 has infuriated the Democratic Republic of Congo, which once again points fingers at Rwanda.

Kigali denies any hand in the insurgents’ latest attack not far from the eastern DRC city of Goma, and captured the army's largest base in the area.

King’s College analyst Tore Hamming told VOA “The challenge for DRC’s political leadership is that it appears increasingly incapable of tackling the insurgency in the country’s east on its own, yet it also knows from history how sensitive foreign intervention is for the region’s political dynamics''

Echoing that sensitivity, the International Crisis Group's latest briefing on the DRC and the Great Lakes region warned that allowing foreign troops into the volatile eastern province risk ''energizing Congolese rebels''.

In Kinshasa, ICG Great Lakes Project Director Nelleke van de Walle told VOA that with Kenya stepping up to mediate talks, pursuing dialogue is the way out of the crisis rather than ''inviting countries that have an interest in exploiting the DRC and are known for sponsoring the groups active in the east.''

The ICG official said DRC President Félix Tshisekedi "should set rules for foreign intervention on Congolese soil," adding "He should also continue to focus on regional diplomacy, bringing the regional presidents together, to ensure they don't act unilaterally.'

van de Walle adds that ''[Rwanda] President Kagame has for instance threatened to send troops across the Congolese border, without asking permission'', noting that ''President Tshisekedi needs to do his utmost to address Rwanda's concerns, but also to warn [Paul] Kagame that invading the DRC will seriously stain his reputation."

The ICG analyst said that allowing foreign troops to fight insurgents on DRC soil masks one major intention for their presence.

"They have been seen to want to secure their influence and have access to the rich natural resources in Central Africa's most populous country, " she said, "Allowing these nations to deploy troops to the Congo is a 'risky policy.'

van de Walle says that if there are to be foreign troops in the DRC, she says they should be brought under a single, unified command to prevent situations "which could lead to them competing with one another.''

London-based Hamming concurs that further military operations in the DRC could likely destabilize the country in light of recent disturbances, particularly by M23 rebels.

''The immediate risk is that the insurgency in the country’s east, which is currently driven by various militias, will once again turn into a regional proxy war - and, more generally, that relations between the countries in the region will turn increasingly hostile'', he says.