Women protest fighting in east DR CongoWed, 14 Feb 2024 17:50:42 GMT

Several hundred women dressed in black demonstrated on Wednesday in Kinshasa demanding a halt to the war in eastern DR Congo where clashes have recently increased between army and rebel forces.Banners proclaimed “12 million victims since 1994”, “Pity the women and families of eastern DRC” and “The Congo will remain whole and indivisible”.The march, called by gender, family and children minister Mireille Masangu, brought together mainly politicians and civil servants.It went ahead peacefully under the watch of the police, unlike demonstrations by dozens of youths last week in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo targeting foreign embassies and UN installations accused of supporting M23 rebels in the conflict-wracked east.The march ended at the president’s office, where the minister handed over a statement condemning the “expansionist wishes of Rwanda … and the exploitation of the natural resources” of the DRC.She hit out at what she said was the “silence… the complicity of the international community represented by the United States, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Poland”.The minister went on to criticise the community’s “immoral policy of support to the aggressors (of the DRC) on the one hand, and an inappropriate humanitarian aid response on the other”.”Why does the international community not put an end to this interminable war,” asked Dada Kasele, whose father died at the front during the second Congo war from 1998-2003.”They all know that the main killer is called Paul Kagame,” Rwanda’s president, she told AFP. “We want peace, peace for our families, our parents.”Clashes have intensified in recent days around the strategic town of Sake, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma, capital of North Kivu province.The DRC, the UN and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting the rebels in a bid to control vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.The mostly-Tutsi M23 group has seized vast swathes of North Kivu since emerging from dormancy in late 2021.