DR Congo: Thousands Flee as M23 Rebels Advance Near Goma
ighting has intensified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the M23 armed group steps up its military offensive, reportedly surrounding the strategically important eastern town of Sake on Wednesday and forcing thousands of civilians to flee.
Fighting has intensified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the M23 armed group steps up its military offensive, reportedly surrounding the strategically important eastern town of Sake on Wednesday and forcing thousands of civilians to flee.1
The capture of the heavily defended town, located at a key junction to North Kivu's Goma, would deal a logistical blow to the Congolese army and the UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO), which began building defense systems to prevent Sake and Goma from falling to the M23 in November.2
While Kinshasa vowed to not let the rebels seize Goma, which is located close to the border with Rwanda, a top UN official warned on Wednesday that the latest clashes risk a "regional explosion" while urging the rebels to immediately stop their offensive and all regional actors to resume diplomatic efforts.3
On Wednesday, the M23 denied any intention of taking Goma, describing their moves as "defensive manoeuvres" in response to alleged artillery and airstrikes carried out against civilians by Kinshasa, the Burundi National Defense Forces, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).4
The regional advances of the M23 rebels, who Kinshasa claims are backed by neighboring Rwanda, triggered one of the world's largest humanitarian crises. As of October, nearly 7M had been displaced, with further some 42K people fleeing the Masisi territory alone since Feb. 2.5
Meanwhile, the US on Tuesday called for increased diplomatic efforts under the so-called Nairobi process to resolve the conflict in eastern DRC. According to the US Dept. of State, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with former Kenyan Pres. Uhuru Kenyatta about working out a path to reconciliation between Kinshasa and the numerous armed groups.6
Narrative A, as provided by The New Times. It isn't the M23 rebels who are responsible for the recent escalation of fighting, but the Kinshasa regime, as the Congolese army and its allied SADC forces, European mercenaries, and groups such as the illegal FDLR — whose leaders took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda — who are indiscriminately killing innocent civilians. The M23 is ready to cease its offensive if a monitored cease-fire and a credible verification mechanism are in place. However, should Kinshasa continue to undermine diplomatic efforts, the M23 is prepared to continue its offensive.
Narrative B, as provided by Chimp Reports. The Rwandan government is primarily responsible for one of the world's largest internal displacement and humanitarian crises. Kigali is orchestrating the M23 terrorists to destabilize resource-rich eastern Congo, and there will be no negotiations until Rwanda gets the M23 to lay down its arms. Kinshasa will do everything in its power to preserve its territorial integrity and protect its population. However, the international community must also finally impose sanctions on Rwandan and M23 officials who threaten the country's sovereignty.
Cynical narrative, as provided by Al Jazeera. Despite its wealth in natural resources, the DRC ironically remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Forces driving this paradox make it unlikely that the Congolese government and its allies will ever succeed in stabilizing the country's east. The West, especially the US, should increase diplomatic pressure on Kinshasa and Rwanda to resolve the crisis. However, the conflict in Congo has many faces and it's the local population that is paying the price for economic and political interests.