Catholic Peace Entity Warns of Infighting Within Peace-Keeping Groups in DR Congo

Credit: DHPI

The war in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could transition to infighting within armed groups that have pitched camp in the Eastern part of the country, Catholic charity Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) has said.

In a report shared with ACI Africa, the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) warns of “a powder keg waiting to go off”, especially with what the entity describes as a growing animosity among the armed groups.

Some of the groups that have pitched camp in Eastern DRC include the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC), as well as the March 23 Movement (M23) and many other different rebel groups and mercenaries.

“There is an overpopulation of armed groupings in the east… This is a powder keg waiting to go off, more especially since all the different groupings do not share information, even those who claim to be allied to each other,” DHPI says in the Wednesday, February 1 report.

The peace entity reports that M23 rebels, who according to the Congolese government, are being supported by Rwanda, are increasing their area of influence further inland into the Central African country. The rebels are said to have started in Nyiragongo, a territory in DRC’s North Kivu province.


“They started with Nyiragongo, and have moved towards Masisi and Kitshanga. They have managed, just after conquering the border city of Bunagana, to also take over Rutshuru, Kiwanja, Tongo, Rugari, Kishishe, and other areas falling under the traditional Bwisha Chiefdom of Rusthuru,” DHPI says. 

Locals in the embattled territories have also witnessed an increase in armed groupings, DHPI reports, adding, “These groupings are now being accused of participating in kidnappings of civilians, rape and looting in villages, and forced labor conditions on IDPs.”  

The locals have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the intervention of EACRF in the Congolese crisis, accusing them of meting out atrocities against innocent civilians.

DHPI partners in DRC have told the peace entity that although there has been an effort to lower the tensions in North Kivu through the deployment of regional forces from East Africa, the local population “seems to not trust them”.

Locals, according to the DHPI sources, prefer combative forces rather than peacekeeping ones.

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Even then, EACRF has been accused of annexing lands belonging to private citizens, and violently dispersing protesting crowds, according to the DHPI report.

The peace entity of SACBC has been informed that even though the EACRF has set up buffer zones to stop the spread of the M23, the rebels are always stationed very close to these zones, leading to local uncertainty as to whether the rebels are effectively being thwarted.  

Locals have also expressed concern that rebel activity may interfere with the Congolese elections slated for December 20 this year.

The locals have decried the increased instances of targeted assassinations, kidnappings, and armed robberies in various parts of eastern DRC, due to the lawlessness of the rebel infestations. Many of these incidents are often not reported, “much less investigated or prosecuted,” according to the DHPI sources. 

Grassroots organizations have come together under the banner of the Patriotic Resistance, in order to have a local response to the rebels, and the PDDRCS program (Programme for Disarmament, Demobilization, Community and Social Reintegration) has also been started by locals who are desperate to end the fighting.


Additionally, according to the DHPI report, communities in DRC are suffering from a resurfacing of inter-ethnic and xenophobic tensions.

“Some road checkpoints are ethnically based, and other ethnicities accuse them of being biased towards any ethnicity except the one manning any particular checkpoint,” locals have told the peace entity of the Catholic Bishops in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa.  

The rebels have also invaded farms, DHPI reports, adding, “Locals are not able to harvest their crops, which are routinely vandalized and looted by rebels. Livestock is also at risk of being stolen and destroyed, leading to heightened economic pressure on an already tight economy.”

 Additionally, people living under the M23 rule have not been able to access humanitarian assistance, DHPI reports, adding that these people are forced to pay taxes and penalties for miscellaneous things, making them even poorer than they are.  

Violence in Eastern DRC has created a severe humanitarian crisis with more than 5.5 million people displaced from their homes, reportedly the third-highest number of internally displaced people in the world.

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On the second day of Pope Francis’ visit to DRC, the Holy Father encouraged the Congolese people to unite their suffering with Jesus.

 “In a world disheartened by violence and war, Christians must be like Jesus,” Pope Francis said in his homily at Mass at the N’Dolo Airport in Kinshasa.

He added, “As if to insist on the point, Jesus told the disciples once more: Peace be with you! We are called to make our own this inspired and prophetic message of peace and proclaim it before the world.”

Jesus, Francis added, “knows your wounds; he knows the wounds of your country, he knows the wounds of your people, your land! They are wounds that ache, continually infected by hatred and violence, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seem to arrive.”

“My brother, my sister, Jesus suffers with you. He sees the wounds you carry within, and he desires to console and heal you; he offers you his wounded heart. To your heart, God repeats the words he spoke today through the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort,’” the Holy Father said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.