More than 100,000 people have fled their homes and dozens been killed after fighting reignited between Congolese soldiers and the M23 rebel group in one of the world’s longest and deadliest conflicts.
Now, Kenyan forces are joining the battle to support the Congolese military in a bid to bring peace to the mineral-rich country, which is being fought over by numerous different armed groups.
Conflict in the Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo erupted three decades ago and has left more than six million dead and forced 4.5 million from their homes.
In the past year, violence has increased once more as security forces battle against more than 100 armed groups in the east of the country, despite the presence of a large United Nations peacekeeping operation.
Both the M23 and the Congolese army have accused each other of starting the clashes leading to the current crisis.
The intensity of the escalation has been such that President Félix Tshisekedi issued a call to arms on Thursday.
He urged the country’s youth to “organise themselves into vigilance groups” to support the army.
The effects of the conflict are not restricted to DR Congo, but are also souring diplomatic relations between Rwanda and DR Congo, which accuses its neighbour of backing the M23 rebels and even expelled the Rwandan ambassador last week. Rwanda denies the claims
The M23, which was formed a decade ago, claims to defend the interests of ethnic Tutsis living in DR Congo against Hutu militias.
Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, came to power as the head of a rebel Tutsi army fighting Hutu extremists who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Many of those responsible then fled to DR Congo after Mr Kagame’s forces took over in Rwanda, taking the conflict across the border with them.
In an attempt to ease the latest crisis, leaders of the East African Community (EAC) agreed to send a force to quell the fighting in eastern DR Congo, just months after the country joined the regional grouping. There is no specific figure on the number of troops that will be deployed. -BBC