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May 1, 2024, 7:35am EDT
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Semafor Signals

UN peacekeepers close eastern DRC base as they move to end mission

Insights from The Associated Press, Bloomberg, and the Center on International Cooperation

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FILE PHOTO: Congolese riot policeman walks near a jail in Kinshasa October 26, 2006. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
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The News

United Nations peacekeepers closed a base in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as they prepare to end their mission in the country following a request from the government to wind down operations.

The mission, which has operated for more than two decades in the DRC, has become unpopular amongst residents and the government has said it is not doing enough to protect citizens from ongoing fighting between government troops, M23 rebels — which the DRC says are Rwanda-backed — and dozens of other armed groups.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Millions displaced by conflict

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The Associated Press

As many as 7 million people have been displaced by conflict in the DRC, as more than 120 armed groups in the country’s east vie for control of the region’s extensive gold and other natural resources. The result is an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” the UN said in March. One group, the M23 rebels, has attacked villages in eastern DRC and forced residents to flee to nearby Goma, the Associated Press reported. Goma is the region’s largest city, but its resources are stretched thin by incoming refugees. “We fled insecurity, but here too, we live in constant fear,” Chance Wabiwa told AP. “Finding a peaceful place has become a utopia for us.”

Rwanda accused of worsening crisis

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Bloomberg

Multiple powers, including the US and the European Union, have accused Rwanda of meddling in the DRC’s conflict and worsening the crisis. Rwanda is believed to be backing M23, and one former recruit of the militia described being trained by people wearing uniforms adorned with the Rwandan flag, Bloomberg reported. Conflict and ethnic tensions in the DRC spiraled in the wake of the Rwandan genocide in the mid-1990s, and fighting intensified in 2021. Kigali’s alleged funding of M23 has the potential to jumpstart an even larger regional conflict: “We’ve probably never really been as close to the potential for real war between Rwanda and the DRC as we are now,” Stephanie Wolters, an analyst with the South African Institute of International Affairs, told Bloomberg. “All of the elements are at their peak, which is incredibly bad for eastern Congo and for the region as a whole.”

UN mission’s absence won’t solve conflict

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Center on International Cooperation

The UN’s MONUSCO mission in the DRC saw its legitimacy fade in recent years, and a Center on International Cooperation survey in January 2023 found that as many as 67% of Congolese people wanted the organization to withdraw their peacekeeping efforts. “However, its phasing out will solve little,” Joshua Walker and Jason Stearns, experts in the region, wrote for CIC. “This absence of a coherent peace and stabilization process … is what should focus the attention of diplomats and government officials in the region,” they wrote. Meanwhile, even if M23 withdraws from eastern DRC, at least 100 other militias will remain in the region, some of which could be more devastating, they said.

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