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Rwanda’s incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sparked violence, massive displacement and concerns about the possibility of a new war in one of the poorest, most unstable regions in the world.

Irredentist Rwandan leaders claim that colonial mapmakers cleaved off sections of their country and mistakenly gave these territories to the DRC, wrote African Arguments. These claims are partly responsible for the First Congo War of 1996-1998 that kicked off years of suffering and more alterations to the region.

Also responsible was the DRC’s bloody history of colonialism and dictatorship, as University of Johannesburg visual art lecturer Ruth Sacks described in the Conversation.

Now Rwanda is supporting M23 rebels whom Western leaders claim would grant Rwanda access to the DRC’s vast mineral resources in the lawless eastern regions of the country, reported Agence France-Presse. The DRC possesses an estimated $24 trillion of raw minerals like cobalt and lithium, which are crucial for electric batteries and other green energy technologies, added Crux. Rwanda has a history of economic-based disputes with another neighbor, Burundi, noted World Politics Review.

A coalition of forces from the DRC, as well as Burundi, Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania, has been fighting the M23 rebels in the eastern DRC, Xinhua explained. The DRC has also allegedly hired American, Romanian, and other mercenaries to fight its battles against the M23 rebels and other threats, according to the New Times, a Rwandan news outlet.

The rebels most recently have been vying for control of Goma, a provincial capital, near the Rwandan border. Thousands have fled the region as the fighting has grown more intense and the number of casualties has risen in what the Red Cross called an “extremely worrying” and “unprecedented” situation.

“We’re scared of dying of hunger,” Sandrine, a 32-year-old mother of eight, told the Norwegian Refugee Council after she fled her village near Sake, a town around 15 miles from Goma. “We also hear gunfire every day. We don’t have anything to eat and the food in the markets is too expensive to buy. We have nowhere to sleep – we had to leave everything behind, including our mattresses.”

The suffering has also angered many Congolese who feel as if their country is under attack. In the capital of Kinshasa, demonstrators have taken to the streets, burning flags and protesting outside embassies, to criticize the West for not deterring Rwanda from stirring up a rebellion, the BBC wrote. They say that Rwanda has been the West’s darling, allowing the US and Europe to ignore its actions.

Meanwhile, Western critics have also blasted major American and European governments and corporations for not ensuring that high-tech and other supply chains respect the human rights of workers in the DRC and elsewhere, said Vogue magazine.

But, it added, everyone – the Russians, the Chinese, Europe and the US – is happy to look away from the misery, as long as the mining goes on.

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