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Violence re-emerging in Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has, for years, been embroiled in scandals of brutal conflict rooted in genocide, ethnic identity issues and has a history of mass violence

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has, for years, been embroiled in scandals of brutal conflict rooted in genocide, ethnic identity issues and has a history of mass violence.

But the country was yet again on the brink of chaos when rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23), militia group launched a military campaign, capturing Goma, capital of the eastern province of North Kivu. Sultani Makenga, M23 military commander, has since agreed to withdraw troops from Goma and other recently captured towns.

However, whether this promise will be kept remains uncertain, as the M23 fighters continue to hold a firm grip on their positions within the province. Fear remains that DR Congo's political and ethnic instability, catalysed by the M23, will ignite a regional war.

This instability has ensured persistent conflict since the Second Congo War, which ended in 2003 after 5 years of fighting with a death toll of 5 million. Particularly volatile provinces in DR Congo are North and South Kivu, which border Rwanda and Uganda.

The causes of conflict in DR Congo are complex, dense and ingrained in the historical ethnic hostility between Hutus and Tutsis, a tension that sparked the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Much of the fighting is attributed to sizeable militia groups continuously in combat over control of DR Congo's rich natural reserves. Operations by both by militia and the National Congolese Army (FARDC) have been criticised by the Human Rights Watch, which involve acts of mass rape, torture, looting, recruitment of child soldiers and arbitrary executions.

The group responsible for the current crisis is M23, a group largely made up of minority Tutsi ethnicity.

The M23 was formed in April out of criticisms towards the Congolese government for not implementing the 23 March 2009 peace deal with the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another militia group from which many M23 rebels were former members of.

Reasons for rebellion include mistreatment of officers by FARDC, as well as the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, CNDP general and war criminal. The current intentions of the M23 are unclear, but the major concerns of the M23's future actions are perhaps aligned with allegations of Rwanda and Uganda supporting the militia group.

While being vehemently denied by both countries and the M23, the possibility of this support could turn the ongoing conflict into a proxy battle for a foothold into DR Congo's natural resources, once again dragging surrounding countries back into war.

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