Escalating Violence in Eastern Congo Prompts Prime Minister’s Resignation

Amid a surge in violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde has stepped down, accompanied by several cabinet members, sparking concerns of a potential power vacuum in the conflict-ridden region.

New Violence and a Resignation

In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violence is escalating, with civilians being killed once again. Following the resignation of Prime Minister Lukonde, citizen organizations express concerns about a potential power vacuum.

Amid escalating violence in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde has submitted his resignation. According to a statement from the Presidential Palace in Kinshasa, he also submitted the resignation of several members of his cabinet, including the Defense Minister, to President Félix Tshisekedi.

The resignation is related to provisions of the Congolese constitution: eight days ago, Lukonde’s parliamentary mandate in the National Assembly in Kinshasa was confirmed following the parliamentary elections in December. According to the constitution, elected officials must decide between their functional mandate and their parliamentary mandate within eight days. Lukonde, who has been in office since 2021, now intends to assume his role as a member of parliament.

Hundreds of thousands displaced

In the eastern region of the country on the border with Rwanda, violence has recently intensified again. Dozens of civilians died in two attacks earlier this week. Local authorities attributed this to the rebel group ADF associated with the terrorist organization “Islamic State”. Christophe Munyanderu from the Convention for the Respect of Human Rights, a civil society group, stated that on Tuesday, they killed 13 people in the Mambasa area in the Ituri province. The majority of the victims were murdered in their homes. In another attack in North Kivu, ADF members armed with machetes and firearms killed at least eleven people on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing in North Kivu province. The M23 militia has advanced close to the provincial capital of Goma and is fighting against government forces and allied militias. Given the unique situation, Tshisekedi urged Lukonde and the resigned ministers to continue their duties until their successors are appointed.

Representatives of civil society expressed concerns that a power vacuum could play into the hands of the rebels. “We hope that consultations (regarding a new government) will be expedited so that the Democratic Republic of the Congo can have a new government as soon as possible,” said Marrion Ngavo, head of the Alliance of Citizen Organizations in Goma.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on six militia leaders in the country. The measures target a spokesman for the M23 rebel movement and two members of the ADF militias, among others. The sanctions were justified by human rights violations committed by these individuals. The measures imposed by the Security Council include an arms embargo, a travel ban, and asset freezes. The six militia members are accused of attacks on the civilian population and sexual violence.

The UN Special Representative for the Congo, Bintou Keita, warned the Security Council of a worsening humanitarian crisis in the region. Goma alone hosts 400,000 refugees. Due to the lack of clean drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, there has been a dramatic increase in cholera cases.

Decades-long conflicts

For decades, dozens of armed groups in the region have been fighting for power and control over resources. Several international military interventions have failed to pacify the conflict. The United Nations peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) with approximately 14,000 soldiers has decided to withdraw.