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Africa

Rebels and DR Congo army resume fighting

Fighting between the army and the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo resumed on Thursday ending a two-month ceasefire. This came a day after the UN and the US ordered sanctions against the rebels' leader.

Congolese army spokesperson, Colonel Olivier Hamuli, said on Thursday fighting between the army and the M23 rebels had begun again, with both sides blaming each other for the resumption in the fighting. This came just one day after the United Nations and United States ordered sanctions against the head of M23, Sultani Makenga. M23 has been accused of carring out atrocities while it seized territories in the Democratic of Republic of Congo.

DW: Were these new clashes in reaction to US sanctions imposed on the M23 leader?

Thierry Vircoulon: I don't think so. I believe initially there was a clash between a patrol of the M23 and the Congolese forces that actually may have triggered the fighting that happened today (Thursday). But at the end of the day the fighting didn't last very long and we are still having the same situation we had before. There is some sort of a stand off between the Congolese army and the M23 in North Kivu.

How strong is the case for sanctions against Makenga?

Sultan Makenga has been included on the sanctions list of the United Nations. But he is not the only one, they are already a lot of people who are on that list. Unfortunately from what we can see, it  often happens that sanctions are not enforced by the member states.

Could these sanctions undermine the efforts by the International Conference on the Great Lakes region (ICGLR)  to find lasting peace in DR Congo?

That could be because the ICGLR has not been very effective in this issue. The biggest blow is that the ICGLR is trying to mediate between the rebels and the Congolese government, but the Congolese government is not ready at this stage to have talks with the M23. In addition to this, a major blow to the ICGLR was when the report of the UN group of experts confirmed the support of Kigali for M23 and to some extent confirming the involvement of Kampala as well. ICGLR has also been accused of being both party and a judge to the conflict.

Makenga himself told AFP News agency that he is innocent and that the US and the UN were acting on false information. Should his call be taken seriously?

I assume that the United Nations and the United states have evidence and that's why Sultani Makenga is now included on the UN sanctions list. This is a procedure and I am very sure that the procedure has been followed.

Thierry Vircoulon is an expert on Congo and  Central Africa Project Director at the International Crisis Group based in Nairobi.

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