Congo: Feared Rebel Militia Finally Broken


November 21, 2013: The UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) remains in the eastern Congo. Though the Congolese Army is taking credit for M23’s defeat, the IBDE’s presence gave the army the confidence to attack M23.  M23 knew the IBDE is a high quality unit. When the IBDE tangled with M23 in late August, it showed that M23 could be beaten. Several senior diplomats, including France’s UN ambassador, have repeatedly said that the FDLR (Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) militia could be the brigade’s next target. Senior FDLR commanders participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The UN Security Council gave the brigade an offensive mission, what UN peacekeepers call a robust peacekeeping mandate. Its mission is to neutralize armed groups. During its August battles with M23, the IBDE artillery pounded rebel positions with accurate fire. Congolese Army artillery, when it is present on the battlefield, is notoriously inaccurate. M23’s mortar crews were apparently superior to the Congolese Army but they were not superior to the IBDE’s mortar and artillery elements. Still, based on the experience in late August, the UN peacekeeping office has asked that peacekeepers in the Congo be equipped with mortar-fire and artillery-fire tracking radar.

November 20, 2013: The government is trying 39 Congolese Army soldiers for war crimes committed in the eastern Congo in November 2012. The charges the soldiers face include the rape of 130 women and girls in and around the town of Minova (North Kivu province). The government made the charges after the UN announced that it would end funding for Congolese military if the government refused to arrest and try the soldiers. Investigators working with the victims had identified the soldiers. A lawyer for the victims claimed that over 1,000 people (men and women) living in and around Minova were attacked or brutalized by the soldiers.

November 18, 2013: Several foreign companies are seeking oil exploration rights in the eastern Congo. One area of interest is in Congo’s Virunga National Park. The park is famous for its mountain gorillas. There are good reasons to believe the region has a sizeable oil field. Uganda is now producing oil from fields located not far from the Congo border. Environmental groups are concerned that oil production will harm the park and disturb the wild life. However, the government wants the income and promises to use it for education and building infrastructure. Many political opponents doubt that. The government is relentlessly corrupt. Opposition groups and international aid groups are concerned that corrupt government officials will steal oil revenues. One international group is pressing the government to adopt contracting and royalty payment procedures (transparency measures) to insure oil and mineral royalty revenue is not stolen. That was tried in Chad recently and only worked for a while. Greed tends to be persistent.

November 14, 2013: Around 20 illegal armed groups remain in the Congo’s South Kivu and North Kivu provinces. However, several of these forces have lost personnel over the last two years. However even a few fighters armed with automatic weapons are still dangerous because they can attack unarmed villages. Defeated insurgent organizations frequently turn into bandit gangs and it is difficult to completely eliminate them.

November 13, 2013: The Ugandan military is now detaining 1,365 former M23 militiamen. The fighters fled into Uganda after their force collapsed in the face of the Congolese Army offensive in the last month. The Ugandan Army has disarmed the militiamen and has begun what it is calling a “demobilization process.” Many of the militiamen held defensive positions around the Congolese town of Bunagana, which is on the Congo-Uganda border.

November 12, 2013: The government announced that it will not sign the peace deal with the M23 rebels. A Ugandan mediator handled the negotiations. The government said that the contents of the document the mediator presented is fine, but calling an agreement with M23 a peace accord gives M23 too much credibility. The government said that M23 has been defeated. The government argued that M23 is really a criminal organization and should be treated as a criminal organization. Meanwhile, the Ugandan government said that M23 and Congolese government representative had agreed to 11 major points.

November 8, 2013: M23 senior commander Sultani Makenga has surrendered. He is reportedly in a camp in Uganda. The other may be in Rwanda. The UN estimated that 1,700 M23 fighters have fled into Uganda.



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