Violent protests in Kinshasa as demonstrators denounce international inaction on Rwanda
Over the weekend and into Monday, acts of violence unfolded in Kinshasa as hundreds of demonstrators gathered to denounce what they see as the complacency of the international community towards Rwanda. The country has been accused of supporting the M23 armed rebellion in the ongoing conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Demonstrators primarily focused their protests outside of Western embassies, including those of the US, France, the UK and the EU delegation, perceived as allies of Rwanda by the Congolese people.
Diplomatic vehicles bore the brunt of the demonstrators' anger, and cars belonging to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) were set on fire. A crowd formed at the gates of the Memling Hotel, removing flags of the EU and Belgium and burning them.
The Congolese government "strongly condemned these acts of violence" and called for restraint.
Belgium urges end to violence
Ahead of the demonstrations, Belgium expressed concern over the surge in violence in North Kivu. "This violence adds to an already very challenging situation for the civilian populations in the east of the country as a result of abuses by numerous armed groups," the ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib said: "This violence must stop." She referred to the enormous suffering of the population, with more than 5.5 million displaced people in eastern DRC, including 2.5 million in North Kivu alone. Belgium pledged to remain a committed partner for humanitarian assistance to the Congolese population. Belgium has called for Rwanda to stop its support for the M23.
The Congolese authorities have made important announcements concerning the collaboration of the Congolese armed forces with the armed group FDLR, and Belgium has urged a cease in collaboration with armed groups on the ground.
Highlighting Belgium's commitment to finding a peaceful resolution, Lahbib said: "The solution to any conflict, whatever it may be, is never military." Diplomatic efforts, regional processes and constructive engagement with US initiatives were underscored in the press release.
Belgium affirmed its ongoing commitment during its European presidency and beyond to work towards peace and security for the populations of eastern DRC and the Great Lakes Region.
Last week, DRC football players raised awareness of the crisis in their country before their Afcon semi-final match against Côte d'Ivoire by making the fingers of one hand into a gun and holding it to their heads while covering their mouths with their other hand during the national anthem.
© PHOTO JOHN WESSELS / AFP