The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing one of those situations of almost chronic violence on the African continent. The area around the towns of Goma and Buyumbura, on the border with Rwanda and Burundi respectively, are the epicentre of the activity of the armed groups present in this region, where there is a mixture of ethnic and political violence by militias which, in some cases, come from neighbouring countries in the Great Lakes region.
On this occasion, the attack on a UN convoy on its way to visit a World Food Programme feeding programme in Rutshuru resulted in the death of three people, one of them the Italian ambassador to the country, Luca Attasiano. The other two killed were an Italian carabiniere from the ambassador's escort and the driver of the vehicle in which they were travelling.
According to Italian government and DRC sources, the attack took place in the vicinity of the city of Goma, specifically in the Virunga National Park, north of the border town. The Italian ambassador was taken to Goma hospital with gunshot wounds to the abdomen, where he eventually died.
The death of the Italian ambassador only adds notoriety to a situation that has become the norm in this region, sometimes transcending the usual numbers because of the notoriety or provenance of the deaths. In 2018, several British tourists were kidnapped in the same area, suggesting that, on this occasion, the target was the same.
There are multiple armed groups operating in this area of the DRC, specifically in three of the provinces: North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, which border Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where some of the armed groups have their origins, although their activity has focused on Congolese territory in recent years. Several of the militias even have political links in neighbouring countries, where certain political movements have had armed wings until relatively recently. The rest come from previous conflicts in the region and have seen robbery and assault as a means of subsistence.
This amalgam of militias and armed groups has plunged the region into a series of clashes with the security forces, Congolese forces and MONUSCO troops, the United Nations mission in the country. According to UNHCR, this violence has left more than 2,000 civilians dead in 2020.
In addition to the violence in the region, there is also the violence caused by terrorism due to the growing presence of ISCA, the Daesh branch in the Central African region, and the situation with Ebola, which, although it seemed to have been eradicated at the beginning of last summer, new outbreaks have appeared.
Just a few days ago, the country's president, Felix Tshisekedi, appointed a new prime minister, Sama Lukonde, following the fall of his predecessor in a vote of no confidence earlier this year. It is therefore not a stable political situation, which makes it difficult for stability to come to fruition in an area as troubled as the east of the country.
Despite the presence of 15,000 MONUSCO troops, with a strong presence in the east of the country, Kinhasa has not been able to reduce violence. Peace agreements have been sought with some militias, as well as major military campaigns against others, but attacks continue, aggravating instability not only in the region and the country, but also in neighbouring countries, due to the links and origins of some of these militias.