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Anti-Western demonstrations in DR Congo as fighting escalates in east

Thousands of people fleeing the conflict between government forces and the M23   -  
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Moses Sawasawa/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Anti-Western demonstrations rocked the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, with protesters denouncing what they said was silence in the international community over deaths caused by fighting between M23 rebels and the Congolese army.

Demonstrators burnt tyres and the flags of the United States and Belgium near Western embassies and the headquarters of MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC.

They said Western countries are supporting Rwanda which is accused of backing the Tutsi-led M23 rebellion in the North Kivu province.

"What the Congolese reproach the international community for is its silence and indifference in the face of the massacres suffered by their compatriots in the east,” said analyst and security expert, Amani Kombi.

He added that while demonstrations of this kind were not new, Monday’s protests were on a different level.

The Congolese government sent police to protect the embassies and UN headquarters but did not denounce the violence against its Western partners.

“The government is in an impasse because it has difficulty differentiating between action and condemnation. I would have liked the two to be combined, but today we realise the government is in a form of impasse, which is why it’s following in the footsteps of the people," said Kombi.

Fighting between government forces and the M23 in the eastern North Kivu province has escalated recently and is drawing closer to its capital, Goma.

The group launched the offensive in late 2021, capturing swathes of the province and driving over one million people from their homes.

“It's now up to the government to take things in hand and adopt a serious approach to this war,” said Kombi.

"I think that in the past, the government hasn't really negotiated with a credible interlocutor, which in my opinion is still Rwanda, because the M23 are nothing more than auxiliaries," he said.

Kigali has denied that it supports the M23, but Western governments, including the United States and Belgium, and the United Nations say the rebel group benefits from Rwandan support.

The eastern part of the DRC has been plagued by violence from local and foreign armed groups for nearly 30 years.

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