Why DRC's Kivu is at the heart of unrest in Africa's Great Lakes region

The Kivu region is teeming with natural resources. MAP | BBC 

The area of North and South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, coveted for its rich mining resources, is the main centre of conflict in the country and of tensions in Africa's wider Great Lakes region.

Having borders with Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, Kivu has found itself at the heart of the region's tragedies, marked by inter-community rivalries and deadly clashes over land.

The provinces of North and South Kivu are rich in natural resources, especially gold, coltan and tin, which are sought by telecommunications and agricultural sectors.

Since the 18th century Kivu has progressively seen large influxes of Tutsis and Hutus from Rwanda, and in the early 1980s, the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko in what was then Zaire brandished the issue of nationality to sideline those who came from Rwanda.

Kivu experienced a massive influx of nearly one million Rwandan Hutu refugees in 1994 after the genocide of Tutsis, along with rebels from Burundi and Uganda and tribal militias.

The wars of 1996-1997 and 1998-2003, which involved up to seven African countries on DRC soil, started in Kivu.

During these two regional wars, and later in the framework of joint operations with Kinshasa in the late 2000s, Rwanda sent troops into the east of DRC, officially to assure the security of its own regime, driving out Rwandan Hutu rebels grouped within the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

In 2007 and 2008, North Kivu was the scene of clashes between the army and insurgent soldiers fighting on the side of former Congolese general Laurent Nkunda in the ethnic Tutsi National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

The insurgents were integrated into the armed forces under a pact signed with Kinshasa on March 23, 2009.


The M23 movement -- which is estimated by foreign military sources on the ground to now number no more than 1,000 fighters -- emerged in April 2012 with a mutiny by the former rebels taken into the army under the 2009 deal.

In April 2012, fierce clashes broke out between the M23 rebels and loyalist forces in the eastern North Kivu province.

UN experts regularly accuse Rwanda and Uganda, despite their denials, of backing the M23.

In November 2012, the M23 took Goma before withdrawing 11 days later following a demand from states in the region and in return for a promise of dialogue with Kinshasa, which has been broken off on several occasions.

In renewed fighting since Friday, the army has retaken several M23 strongholds in the east.

Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?

Read Story:Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?