Several thousand angry people demonstrated Monday in Goma against Rwanda, accused by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo of supporting the rebels of the M23 who have gained ground in recent days in the east of the country, found a team from AFP.
The demonstrators, including hundreds of bikers, some armed with sticks and stones, took to the streets of the city of more than a million inhabitants, capital of the province of North Kivu.
Economic activity was paralyzed, with shops, banks, businesses and schools closed.
The demonstrators then headed for the “great barrier”, a border post between the DRC and Rwanda, before being dispersed by the Congolese police with tear gas.
“FARDC (Forces armees de la RDC), give us arms”, chanted these demonstrators, in addition to slogans hostile to Rwanda and Uganda.
“We denounce the hypocrisy of the international community in the face of Rwanda’s aggression. We are suffering because of Rwanda, that’s enough. We want to send a message to (Rwandan President Paul) Kagame”, declared in the middle of the crowd. Mambo Kawaya, a representative of civil society.
The demonstrators burned flags bearing the emblem of the CIRGL (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region – an organization bringing together countries in the region) on one of the main avenues of the city, in front of impassive police officers.
Some carried crosses with portraits of Rwandan Presidents Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, as well as coffins, carried on their heads, chanting that they were going to “bury the Rwandan President”.
Others displayed the Russian flag and portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling for his country’s military intervention in opposition to “hypocritical allies” in the West.
Already on Sunday, dozens of young people demonstrated and burned a Rwandan flag in Goma.
– Reminder of the business manager –
The M23 (“Movement of March 23”) is a former Tutsi rebellion which took up arms again at the end of 2021, accusing Kinshasa of not having respected agreements on the reintegration of its fighters.
The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting this rebellion, which Kigali systematically denies.
After months of tension between the two neighbours, the Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega was expelled by the DRC, which also announced on Monday the “recall for consultation” of its charge d’affaires in Kigali.
In a press release, the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs specifies that he also “reiterated the instruction given in his time to the new ambassador” of the DRC to Rwanda to “suspend the presentation of his credentials”.
Kinshasa had announced Saturday the expulsion of the Rwandan ambassador after the capture by the rebels of the M23 of the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru-center, located on the national road 2, strategic axis serving Goma. In June, the rebel movement seized the town of Bunagana, on the Ugandan border.
Rwanda said on Sunday it had “noted with regret” Kinshasa’s decision to expel Mr Karega, adding that Rwandan security forces on the border with the DRC had been placed on high alert.
On Twitter, Paul Kagame said on Monday that he had “a good discussion” with the UN Secretary General in order to “solve the problem peacefully”.
In November-December 2012, the M23 had occupied Goma for ten days, before being defeated the following year by the Congolese armed forces and peacekeepers, after 18 months of guerrilla warfare.