Kivu: mineral-rich region caught up in brutal struggle

GOMA: The resource-rich provinces of North and South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have long been a zone of intense conflict.Tiny compared to the vast size of the country — North Kivu covers 59,500 square kilometres (23,000 square miles) and South Kivu 65,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles) — the two provinces suffer not only because of fighting over their mineral resources but because of their proximity to an unstable border.To their east lie Rwanda and Burundi, two other former Belgian possessions which have seen catastrophic violence between majority and minority ethnic groups that are also to be found in Kivu.The genocidal killings that shattered Rwanda in 1994 sent members of the Tutsi ethnic group, the main victims of the massacres, across into Kivu, followed by members of the Hutu group, which was later ousted from power in Rwanda by a Tutsi-led force backed by nearby Uganda. The Kivus, which had seen waves of both Tutsi and Hutu immigration since the 18th century, became home to militias from both groups, along with large numbers of refugees.Neighbouring states, including not only Rwanda and Burundi but also Uganda, have regularly been accused of meddling in the region, with the illegal extraction of its valuable minerals as one of their motivations.Mobuto Sese Seko, who ruled DR Congo under the name of Zaire from 1966 to 1997, played the nationalist card in the 1980s to turn residents of Kivu against Rwandan immigrants. Two wars that shook the whole of DR Congo between 1996 and 1997 and then again from 1998 to 2002 both began in the Kivu region.During both periods the Rwandan government sent troops across the border, citing the presence in Kivu of Rwandan Hutu rebels, the main instigators of the 1994 genocide.More recently there have been attempts to integrate ethnic Tutsi rebels into the national armed forces, but these have resulted in a series of mutinies such as that by the M23 which kicked off in April 2012.The M23 rebel group is mainly made up of Tutsis, many of whom participated in a Rwandan-backed rebellion that routed the DR Congo army in 2008.M23 briefly seized and occupied Goma — the capital of North Kivu — in November 2012. They laid down arms a year later after a crushing assault by the UN-backed army. Kinshasa and the United Nations accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the group, a charge both countries deny.Dozens of armed groups continue to roam the Kivus, taking advantage of the weak central government. After their stunning defeat of the M23, the Congolese army and a UN intervention brigade have set their sights on the ADF-Nalu, a Ugandan Islamist group, and the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu militia that includes some of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide. 

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Aaj Kal