Eastern DRC hopes for peace during Tshisekedi's second term

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, with first lady Denise Nyakero at his side, greets supporters after the announcement of election results at QG Fatshi 20, the headquarters of his reelection campaign, in Gombe, Dec 31, 2023. [AFP]

Felix Tshisekedi is set to be inaugurated for a new term as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, after the constitutional court confirmed his victory in last month’s election. In the eastern part of the country, residents hope he will focus his attention on bringing peace and security to the volatile region.

Bashinge Esperance is a war-displaced woman who fled a month ago from Masisi territory, where the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo are fighting the rebel group M23.

Esperance is a widow, her husband having been killed by the rebels while working in his field. She says she hopes that Tshisekedi, in his second term, will focus on bringing peace to the region.

She says that the president, who will soon be sworn in, should be stronger to bring peace, because in the camp where she lives, she says she is suffering and would like to return to her village.

Esperance sews to support herself and her 4-year-old child. She is pregnant and expecting a baby in about a month.

She says doesn't want to give birth in the displaced persons' camp because life is so difficult; she'd like to give birth in her village. She says that if peace were to return, the DRC could be even better and the people would live better.

The same hope was expressed by Sadiki Willy, a displaced person who has been living in the Kanyaruchinya camp, north of the city of Goma, for over 10 months. He hopes the president will show concern for the difficult living conditions of the displaced in the camps.

He says that the first thing the president should focus on in his second term is peace, and that he should care about the war-displaced and do his best to get them back home. He says they used to live better at home, in their houses, but here they live in dilapidated shacks with no security.

The DRC already has a record number of internally displaced people. In October 2023, the number was estimated at 5.6 million, with most living in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika.

Rebel groups have fought the government and each other in eastern Congo for decades, battling for political dominance and control of the region’s rich mines.

Congolese law professor Tresor Makunya has some ideas about how these armed conflicts could be resolved.

"The Congolese government has mainly relied on the U.N. and a few regional organizations such as the East African Community to resolve conflicts and security problems in eastern DRC ... instead of strengthening its own armed forces,” he said. “The government has also relied on bilateral military agreements with, for example, Burundi Rwanda and Uganda. I believe that the national army needs to be enhanced, and that it can be enhanced in a number of ways. Firstly, we need to increase [the] military budget and ensure that it is used wisely and appropriately. Finally, we need to ensure that military personnel and soldiers involved in wrongdoing are held to account."

Tshisekedi’s swearing-in ceremony will take place January 20 in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.