Give Peace a Chance

Congolese soldiers outside Goma:
Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Rwanda has accused the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) of firing bombs and rockets into its territory, warning that "provocation can no longer be tolerated" and raising the prospect of all-out war. Such an outcome could result in the UN's first offensive force – whose arrival has inadvertently triggered the crisis – being dragged into a regional conflict or forced into a humiliating retreat.

The UN intervention brigade has been backing the Congolese army against the M23 rebel movement – alleged to be receiving support from Rwanda – in some of the most intense fighting of the past year near Goma in eastern Congo. There was hope of a respite on Friday when the M23 declared a ceasefire and said it had pulled back three miles from the frontline.

The M23 president, Bertrand Bisimwa, told the Associated Press: 

"We have decided to decree a unilateral ceasefire and we have started pulling our forces out of Kanyaruchinya in order to allow the investigation into the shelling. This announcement, which was made unilaterally, is meant to allow the Congolese to return to the negotiating table … and to give peace a chance."

But there were signs that the ceasefire alone would not resolve underlying tensions between Congo and Rwanda. A Congolese government spokesman, Lambert Mende, said: 

"It's our opinion that the only interesting proposition would be to see M23 demobilised, and to see them dissolve and cease all military action. Any other proposal is unacceptable."

Rwanda alleges that the Congolese army, or FARDC, has launched 34 attacks on its territory in the past week. A bomb fired on Thursday morning killed a woman and seriously injured her two-month-old baby in a market in the town of Rubavu, it claimed.

Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's foreign affairs minister, said

"The persistent shelling of Rwandan territory is unacceptable, as it would be to any sovereign nation. Rwandan civilians are being targeted by DRC forces. We have remained restrained for as long as we can but this provocation can no longer be tolerated. We have the capacity to determine who fired at us and will not hesitate to defend our territory. Rwanda has a responsibility to protect its population."

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