Church Leads Peace Marches Against DR Congo Rebel Violence

By our Correspondent

Confirmed reports have it that peace marches organised by the Catholic Church took place across the DR Congo Sunday to protest violence in the country’s east, days after an alleged massacre of civilians.

In this wise, protesters chanted slogans such as “No to the international community’s hypocrisy” and “No to the Balkanisation of DR Congo” at rallies in the capital Kinshasa and other towns.

And clutching rosaries, crucifixes and banners and singing religious songs, demonstrators of all ages heeded the call by the Church to oppose the “aggression” in the troubled east.

Significantly, a march planned for the key eastern city of Goma, on the border with Rwanda, was called off to avoid “a possible infiltration.”

In the meantime, the government has said that the death toll from an alleged massacre of civilians in the east last week runs to “more than 100.”

Thus, the government has accused the March 23 (M23) militia — with whom it is locked in a months-long conflict — of the killings at Kishishe, a village around 70 kilometres (40 miles) north of Goma.

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Again, the M23 over the weekend denied it was responsible, after already calling the allegations “baseless”.

Irrespective of that, its leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, said in a statement that eight civilians had been killed by “stray bullets” during clashes in the village on Tuesday.

However, the M23 movement is a predominantly Congolese Tutsi rebel group that was dormant for years.

The group took up arms again in November last year and seized the town of BunaganaBunagana on the border with Uganda in June.

And after a brief period of calm, it went on the offensive again in October, greatly extending the territory under its control and advancing towards Goma.

Right now, Kinshasa is accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of providing M23 with support, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months but Kigali denies the charge.

Recently, talks between the two countries in the Angolan capital Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

Agreed ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on November 25. And it should also have been followed by a pullout by the M23 two days later from the territory it had seized, but this did not happen.

So, the DR Congo army, in its accusations on Thursday, also said the M23 had breached the ceasefire with government troops, a charge that the group also denied.

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