Congo News n. 180


EDITORIAL: the urgent commitment to democracy when faced with the threat of the M23









The M23 finally shows its true colours

The March 23 Movement (M23), an armed group responsible for numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity in North Kivu, a province in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has started to reveal its true colours to those who care to notice. The group speaks of discussions and negotiations as non-violent means of seeking political and communal solutions in order to put an end to the conflict and re-establish peace in the region. At the same time, it threatens the use of violence to take back control of the city of Goma, thereby pressuring the Congolese government into “negotiating” and accepting its conditions. The M23 forces civilians to oppose the deployment of an additional force, as decided by the UN Security Council, which would combat and disarm the various armed groups in the region including the M23. It is a well-conceived strategy: at first glance, it appears that it is the people themselves who are opposed to this deployment but, in reality, it is the M23 who fears the arrival of such a force and therefore attempts to put a stop to it. Not wishing to appear complicit, people chose to flee a village rather than participate in a protest march organised by the M23. Furthermore, the M23 blocked dozens of MONUSCO vehicles transporting construction materials for four days, suspecting that they were carrying military supplies destined for the next MONUSCO supplementary brigade.

The M23 wrote letters to deputies in South Africa and Tanzania in the hope that they would put pressure on their respective governments to convince them not to make their troops available to the new MONUSCO intervention force. It has threatened to respond with force to any attack by the MONUSCO, with the inevitable risk of aggravating the humanitarian crisis.

Bosco Ntaganda, who was the military chief up until several weeks ago, was disarmed and made to turn himself in by the current military chief of the M23, Sultani Makenga. With this move, the M23 attempted to give the impression that it was cooperating with the law and that it therefore deserved a reward: to be recognised as a peaceful movement and to be legally reintegrated into the national army and the country’s political institutions. In reality, there is no difference between Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court, and Sultani Makenga, discharged from the Congolese army and subject to sanctions by the UN Security Council. The government must not agree to grant amnesties and fall into the trap of integrating criminals back into the ranks of its army.  This will only perpetuate the cycle of violence.

There is therefore no agreement possible with the M23, even more so as a recent presidential order sanctioned the discharge of more than a dozen M23 superior officers from the army. For the rest of the M23 troops, the government simply needs to enforce the law on defection. After a fair trial, the M23 soldiers will have to serve their sentence as required by law, and only then, if they so wish, will they be able to continue their military activity after a period of adequate training. The revision of the agreement of 23 March 2009 between the government and the signatory of the Accord, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), should be discussed, amended and approved in Parliament.

The causes of M23 arrogance

The reactions of the M23 reveal their arrogant, dishonest and threatening attitude. There may be two reasons for this.

Firstly, the M23 might see itself coming to an end and is hiding its fear of final defeat behind an attitude of apparent self-confidence. If this is the case, the population can breathe a sigh of relief and continue to hope for a peaceful future.

Secondly, the M23 might be feeling very sure of itself, knowing that there are still people who support it. If this is the case, those who continue to back it need to be named and shamed. These may still include some neighbouring countries (Rwanda and Uganda), who have already been mentioned in recent UN reports. If this is the case, as seems likely, they should be subjected to sanctions by the international community, the UN and the African Union. This is a very critical point.

The crucial question

The presidents of Uganda and Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame, are simply pawns in the hands of multinationals involved in mining and petroleum exploration and also of western countries, notably the United States, Canada and Great Britain, who brought them to power and who continue to support them in the name of international trade of natural resources, of competition with China and other emerging countries, and of the fight against growing Arab and Islamic influence. In this context, the international community, notably the western countries most directly involved as mentioned above, should review their foreign policy towards the Great Lakes Region and Africa in general. In particular, they should cease support for the totalitarian regimes of Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and of Paul Kagame (Rwanda), chiefly responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide committed over the last twenty-five years in the Great Lakes region. The memories of the more than 10 million victims, both direct and indirect, of the various wars carried out in the Great Lakes region, and the extreme suffering of millions of people and refugees, demand such a change.

Peace is the result of a commitment to democracy

The Congolese government and the political class as a whole have the right to demand such a change from the international community, but they also need to make it possible by eliminating everything that might prevent it from happening e.g. internal complicity, a power monopoly, a quest for personal gain to the detriment of the common good, political instability, the misappropriation of natural resources and public goods, corruption, impunity, etc.

Democratisation of political life; the courage to implement necessary reforms in security services (army, policy and secret services) and the electoral commission and justice system; respect for the Constitution and for human rights; effective management of natural resources (oil, petroleum, agricultural, forestry and aquatic), of infrastructure (roads, transport) and of social services (health, education) would make the country stronger and more resistant to interference from Rwanda and Uganda and make it more credible in the eyes of the international community.


On 26th March, Bosco Ntaganda appeared for the first time before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. At the opening of the hearing, around 11:00 (10:00 GMT), he identified himself in Kinyarwanda, with an interpreter translating into French: “My name is Bosco Ntaganda. I only have two names, the names that were given to me by my parents. I was born in Rwanda but raised in the Congo. I am Congolese. As you know, I was a soldier in the Congo”. When questioned by the judge as to which language he wished to use, he chose Kinyarwanda and not French or Swahili, two widely spoken languages in Kivu, nor Lingala, the official language of the Congolese armed forces. He then stated: “I am aware of what crimes I have been accused of, however I plead not guilty”.  It was at that moment that he was interrupted by the judge Ekaterina Trendafilova, who explained to him that the purpose of the hearing was not to find out if he was pleading guilty or not guilty, but to inform him of the charges against him. Judge Trendafilova set 23rd September 2013 as the start of the confirmation hearing, the next step in the proceedings that will determine whether the prosecution’s evidence will be solid enough to lead to a trial.[1]

On 27th March, the spokesperson for the ICC in DR Congo, Paul Madidi, declared that Bosco Ntaganda would be tried by the ICC as a Congolese citizen. “Information included in the ICC’s arrest warrants for Ntaganda suggest that Ntaganda is presumed to be Rwandan”, stated Madidi, adding that Ntaganda “declared that he is Congolese”.[2]

In eastern DR Congo, people feel that “the problem will not be solved by Ntaganda’s arrest”. A Radio Okapi listener expressed concerns over Rwanda’s attitude during this affair: “They will make it clear to everybody that they are capable of cooperating. However, Rwanda is capable of producing another Ntaganda”. Certain non-governmental organisations have bemoaned the fact that only acts committed in 2002 and 2003 in Ituri will be heard by the ICC, despite the fact that Ntaganda was, up until recently, the leader of a rebellion in North Kivu.  These organisations also regret that it is only the military chiefs who are being brought to court while those who gave them orders to leave have been forgotten.[3]

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor should consider opening a new phase in its investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in DR Congo. According to this organisation, “The ICC prosecutor should take her work to a higher level and open a new chapter for justice. If the ICC is going to help break the repetitive cycle of abuse in the Congo, it needs to move beyond local warlords and prosecute the senior officials standing behind them”.[4]

On 1st April, Media Minister and spokesperson for the government, Lambert Mende, paid tribute to the Rwandan authorities and the United States Embassy in Kigali for cooperating in the transfer of Bosco Ntaganda to the seat of the ICC in The Hague. He also highlighted the fact that “the DR Congo government is working together with the ICC so that Bosco Ntaganda will also be prosecuted for the other crimes of which he is guilty in Kivu, during his capacity as military chief of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP)”.  

Lambert Mende also hoped that “Rwanda would do even more, by handing over the many other criminals who have sought asylum on its soil to the Congolese or the international authorities, particularly Baudouin Ngaruye, Zimulinda and Runiga who are subject to UN sanctions”.[5]

On 2nd April, the Rwandan Minister of Refugee Affairs, Séraphine Mukantabana, confirmed that Rwanda had moved the 682 rebels of the M23 (March 23 Movement) who had taken refuge in the country from the border with DR Congo and had sent them about 100 kilometres to the east of the capital of Kigali. These men from the M23 had sought refuge in Rwanda in mid-March after being defeated by a rival faction, that of Sultani Makenga. Until Monday, they had been in a camp located about fifteen kilometres from the border with DR Congo. “The decision to move them comes from the implementation of international conventions (…) that dictate that refugees must be at least 50 kilometres from the border with their home country”, confirmed Minister Mukantabana. According to her, the members of the M23 are now at an “internment camp” in the Ngoma district. The fact that hundreds of these men have been welcomed has fuelled suspicions among analysts that Rwanda supports the rebellion. However, Mukantabana insists that Rwanda is simply applying humanitarian principles. She assured that, upon their arrival, the soldiers were disarmed and were “interned”. “They are not prisoners, they are people who have come to this country looking for asylum (…) their movements are restricted but they are free to move around inside the internment camps. They can receive visitors and obtain counselling”, confirmed Mukantabana.

The Minister also stated that the soldiers are currently being asked if they wish to renounce their military status “definitively and on a voluntary basis”. If they renounce it, a process will begin to eventually allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to grant them refugee status.

On the contrary, if they refuse, they will not have “any right to asylum in our country”, assured the Minister. “In this case, they will continue to be interned” and Rwanda will decide what will happen next. When asked about those members of the M23 who are subject to UN sanctions, like the former political leader of the movement, Jean-Marie Runiga, and one of its military chiefs, Baudouin Ngaruye, the Minister stated that it would be “premature” to comment while the refugee status of these individuals had still not been decided. Knowing Rwanda’s past and through a combination of circumstances, there is a risk that the country will become a refuge for outlaws and other criminals who are wanted by the international community. The cases of Laurent Nkunda and Jules Mutebutsi can already be seen as examples of this. The fact that Rwanda wants to use these soldiers to raise the stakes against Kinshasa cannot be forgotten. In effect, whenever Kinshasa will not compromise over an issue, Paul Kagame uses the threat of arming these outlaws in order to redeploy them in DR Congo. Kinshasa should have no illusions: M23 prisoners of war transferred to Kinshasa included some demobilized former combatants who had been recruited and sent to war in the eastern DR Congo.[6]


On 28th March, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution creating a special intervention brigade responsible for combatting armed groups operating in the eastern DR Congo. Rwanda also voted in favour of the resolution. The brigade should include more than 2,500 troops, however the resolution does not give the exact number of troops that will eventually make it up. The special intervention brigade will be composed of three infantry battalions, supported by one artillery and one reconnaissance and special force company. The brigade will be in force for an initial period of one year. It will be based in Goma and remain under the authority of MONUSCO’s commander-in-chief. According to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, it will be comprised of 3,069 troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi, and it will be operational until July. This resolution reinforces the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). It will henceforth have the extra task of leading offensive and targeted operations, alone or alongside the Congolese army, with the aim of putting a stop to the development of all armed groups by neutralising and disarming them.

The resolution underlines the fact that the brigade has been created “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent”. However, UN officials believe that it marks a turning point: it is the first time that UN Peacekeepers have been used in an offensive capacity, especially as it is coupled with the use, also for the first time, of drones to patrol the DR Congo’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. According to diplomats, the review of the resolution was brought forward so that it could be adopted before Rwanda takes over the rotating presidency of the Council on April 1st. The United Nations resolution strongly condemns the continued presence of the M23 in the immediate vicinity of the city of Goma and calls for all armed groups to dispose of their arms. It is based on the results of the regional agreement of Addis Ababa on 24th February, which forbids adjacent countries from supporting active armed groups in the eastern DR Congo.  Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, hopes that reinforcing the mandate of the MONUSCO will help restore state authority and bring back stability to the eastern DR Congo.[7]

On 29th March, the North Kivu Civil Society welcomed the creation of the intervention brigade. For the organisation’s vice-president, Omar Kavota, this resolution addresses the need to bring peace to Kivu, an area that has seen years of armed conflicts that have forced thousands of families to flee their homes. He stressed that this resolution must furthermore put an end to negotiations with the M23, who are an integral part of the problem. “From our point of view, we would consider that this United Nations resolution officially puts an end to negotiations between the government and the M23. We believe that it is time to bring about peace and to dismantle the M23 as they are part of the problem along with other armed groups”, he added.[8]

On 5th April, in Goma, the special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in DR Congo, Roger Meece, declared that deployment preparations for the intervention brigade in North Kivu were off to a head start. Given an offensive mandate, this brigade will have to neutralise armed groups in the eastern DR Congo. Meece, who is also the head of MONUSCO, pointed out that the political component has not been neglected, which is necessary to resolve the conflict in the east of the country in the long-term. He reiterated: “This can even be found in the text of the resolution: the intervention brigade’s soldiers are capable of launching offensive operations depending on the tactical situation on the ground. But of course, always in collaboration with the FARDC, political institutions and MONUSCO”.  The UN diplomat indicated that the Secretary-General of the UN and the Security Council have put “a strong emphasis on this political component” to resolve armed conflicts in the eastern DR Congo. “Of course there are the talks in Kampala, but there is also the agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa by all the countries of the region as well as other leading figures from the international community”, he clarified.[9]

Millions of Congolese breathed a sigh of relief on the evening of Thursday, 28th March 2013, with the announcement that the United Nations Security Council had adopted the resolution to deploy an “international intervention brigade” responsible for neutralising negative forces in the east of the country.  However, the Congolese should not think that they can now relax and wait patiently while the international intervention brigade work alone in tracking down domestic and foreign armed groups until 31st March 2014. Congolese policymakers should, in principle, make the most of these twelve months to create a “national rapid reaction force” with the aim of replacing the UN troops when the time comes. Clearly, this means that the DR Congo will have to, now more than ever, focus on reorganising its defence system while stepping it up a gear in the reformation of its army, police force and intelligence services. The Congolese authorities should move forward with the recruitment process or retrain soldiers, police and security services agents who fit the profile of professionals and patriots genuinely committed to the defence cause. Now would also be the time to get rid of the thousands of infiltrators from the army, police and intelligence services who have weakened them for more than a decade.[10]


On 1st April, the March 23 Movement (M23) voiced its disapproval of the deployment of the intervention brigade as decided by the United Nations Security Council. “The United Nations has just raised the possibility of war”, stated the political leader of the M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, in a press release on 1st April. “Instead of encouraging a political solution and showing substantial support for the political talks in Kampala between the M23 and Kinshasa, the UN chose to declare war against one of the partners for peace”, he deplored. For Bertrand Bisimwa, “the United Nations is going to war with a group of citizens, including those who are in talks with their government, calling for good governance of the country”.[11]

On 7th April, dozens of MONUSCO vehicles transporting construction materials were blocked by M23 rebels in the cities of Kiwanja and Kibumba, situated around 70 kilometres and 30 kilometres respectively to the north of Goma in the North Kivu province. The rebels believed that the contents of these MONUSCO containers were suspect. The M23 demanded that the containers be opened before they could cross the area under its control. According to some drivers of the vehicles, the rebels seized all the freight notes and keys for the vehicles. The MONUSCO spokesperson, Madnodje Mounoubai, confirmed that this was the case. “We have around ten vehicles transporting construction materials for the Beni engineering sector in the direction of Goma. These vehicles have been illegally blocked by the M23 near Bunagana”, declared Mounoubai. The MONUSCO spokesperson demanded that the M23 respect the Security Council’s orders. “It is this type of attitude that the Security Council condemns. Here we have seen the M23 put an illegal administration and illegal barriers in place. Incidentally, the Security Council had asked them to put an end to these illegal barriers and these attempts to put in place a parallel administration”, continued Mounoubai.[12]

On 9th April, the North Kivu Civil Society condemned a smear campaign led by the rebels of the M23 Movement against the deployment of the MONUSCO intervention brigade. According to the spokesperson, Omar Kavota, the rebels organised a series of major meetings last week in the occupied zones of Kiwanja, Rutshuru, Borumba, and Kibaki, calling on the local population to oppose the deployment of the brigade. According to Kavota, this move by the rebellion “is unacceptable”, as he feels that it would hinder the restoration of security and peace in the North Kivu province that is in the grip of both domestic and foreign armed groups.[13]

According to definite sources, the M23 rebellion sent a letter to South African members of parliament in order to persuade them not to let their troops join the United Nations intervention brigade in the eastern DR Congo. The M23 asked the South African parliament and its people to change their government’s mind in order to avoid a blood bath. In another letter addressed to the National Coordinator of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the rebel movement invited UN humanitarian agencies to prevent the catastrophic consequences of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2098 to create a special intervention brigade within MONUSCO.[14]

On 10th April, a number of people, most of them young, left the territory of Nyiragongo (North Kivu) that morning to seek refuge in the Kabagana and Kabuhanga regions, at the border between DR Congo and Rwanda. Sources from the Civil Society indicate that these people refused to take part in a march from Kibumba to Goma against the deployment of the MONUSCO intervention brigade that the M23 had planned on organising. A public figure from Nyiragongo contacted by phone revealed that after these people had left, the M23 cancelled the march but then rescheduled it for the following Sunday. Omar Kavota, spokesperson for the North Kivu civil society, stated that, “The people of the territory of Nyiragongo did not want to take part in this march and feared for their safety. That is why most of the inhabitants fled towards the border areas to escape the anger of Makenga and his men. The others locked themselves in their houses”. He invited the international community to intervene in coping with “the threats of the M23 against the people, as it wants to convince them to oppose the deployment of this brigade”. According to some observers, the M23’s strategy is to give the impression that it is not the rebels who oppose the deployment of this brigade, but the people themselves. However, in reality, it is the M23 who fear the deployment of a brigade responsible for fighting them in the same way as the FDLR and other armed groups. As for the people, they are counting on the deployment of this MONUSCO intervention brigade to escape the control of the M23.[15]

On 10th April, the MONUSCO military spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Prosper Félix Basse, gave his reaction during a press conference to the smear campaign led by the M23 over the last few days against the deployment of the MONUSCO intervention brigade. He assured that the propaganda activities led by the M23 would neither change nor alter the arrangements made by the UN concerning the deployment of the intervention brigade.

MONUSCO spokesperson, Madnodje Mounoubai, stated that the UN found the message that was contained in the letter from the M23 addressed to the National Coordinator of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the DRC to be a little strange.  “I find the message contained in this letter to be a little strange as we know that it is the M23 who are at the root of the crisis occurring in the areas where they have taken control”, stated Mounoubai, adding that “they are the ones putting people at risk and causing displacement. They must not shirk their responsibilities”.[16]

On 11th April, the M23 freed the eleven MONUSCO vehicles transporting construction materials destined for a UN mission that had been blocked for four days with the intervention of a MONUSCO reinforcement team. The drivers of the vehicles confirmed that this was the case. According to the political leader of the M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, the vehicles were allowed to continue their route towards Goma “after inspection”. Sources on the ground confirmed that the M23 forced one of the containers to be opened, demanding that the containers be opened before they would allow them to pass through the area under its control, alleging that they contained military equipment destined for the MONUSCO intervention brigade.[17]


On 4th April, during a press conference held in Goma, the North Kivu provincial assembly president confirmed that several dozen soldiers from Rwanda had crossed the border over the last three days to reinforce troops of the North Kivu March 23 Movement. According to him, these reinforcements would plan a new attack on the city of Goma to force the Congolese government to sign an agreement with the M23, thus giving into their demands and making the deployment of the international intervention brigade as decided by the UN Security Council very difficult. “The same soldiers who went to Rwanda are in the process of being brought back quietly to support those who are in Rutshuru. Corroborating information points to a concentration of men and arms along the Rumangabo-Kibumba route, with the sole aim of making an attack on the city of Goma”, stated Jules Hakizimwami, without specifying whether they were Congolese or Rwandan soldiers. According to him, the attempt by M23 rebels to reoccupy Goma was orchestrated by DR Congo’s neighbouring countries. “We believe that enough is enough and we are currently raising our voices in dissent precisely against this occupation attempt and against the enemy, especially since it is always with the help of neighbouring countries”, he stated. Hakizimwami demanded that DR Congo’s armed forces and MONUSCO take the necessary precautions to avoid the M23 retaking the city of Goma.[18]

According to the president of the North Kivu Civil Society, Thomas d’Aquin Muiti, Rwandan troops had crossed the border by the locality of Kibumba. At the same time, Ugandan troops entered Congolese soil through Bunagana, in particular by the village of Kisavo. François Nzekuye, a Rutshuru councillor (presidential majority) confirmed that this was the case: “There are reinforcements of men and munitions coming from Rwanda and Uganda”. Lieutenant Colonel Prosper Basse, the MONUSCO military spokesperson, put this piece of news into context and spoke rather of “frequent movement of M23 troops”. According to him, “In MONUSCO, we haven’t noticed anything in particular up to now”. The government had the same attitude, with the spokesperson Lambert Mende saying that they were aware of the North Kivu Civil Society’s report and that an enquiry would be opened to investigate these allegations.

If the information about these new infiltrations from Rwandan and Ugandan troops is confirmed, Rwanda and Uganda will have violated the Addis Ababa agreement that they signed. In effect, within the terms of the agreement, signatories cannot provide any support to armed groups in the region.[19]


On 1st April, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raymond Tshibanda, asked the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) to “cease to exist as a political-military movement”. During a press conference organised on 1st April in Kinshasa, Tshibanda highlighted that, “if this movement continues, the MONUSCO intervention brigade will focus on putting an end to its existence”. “The M23 can make a fuss all it wants. We were prepared to come to a political agreement with them. There is no longer any question of retraining the experts of the rebellion in the ranks of the armed forces. The only future for the M23 is to cease to exist as a political-military movement. If this is not the case, the MONUSCO intervention brigade will focus on putting an end to its existence”, stated Tshibanda, adding that “Makenga is not an ally of the government. We don’t have a positive ally/positive negative force.  There is no good negative force; there is no bad negative force”.[20]

On 2nd April, the M23 Secretary of Foreign Affairs, René Abandi, indicated that the Kampala talks were the only way of resolving armed conflicts in the Eastern DRC: “We believe that Kampala is the only way to resolve the armed conflict in the eastern DR Congo and bring long-lasting peace. And we are still committed to these talks. Alternative solutions that bring innumerable collateral damage should not be favoured”. Abandi, who leads the M23 delegation in Kampala, believes that his movement must bring its proposal to the draft agreement submitted by the government, so that a consensus may emerge from two texts.[21]

On 5th April, the M23 delegation left Bunagana for Kampala, the Ugandan capital. This was confirmed by the president of the rebel movement, Bertrand Bisimwa, follower of Sultani Makenga. According to one of the participants from Kinshasa, Senator Mulaila, experts from the Congolese government were also due to arrive in Uganda on the same day, barring any last minute changes. The two parties were due to start examining the two draft agreements on Saturday in order to arrive at a consensus. According to René Abandi, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and head of the M23 delegation in Kampala, the draft agreement that the Congolese government submitted to them did not meet their expectations. He had hoped that the text would match theirs.

Last March, the government had drafted a text of 12 articles that would sanction the talks in Kampala. In particular, certain proposals in this document provided for an amnesty for M23 members who were not the subject of national and international criminal proceedings, the acceleration of the implementation of agreements on the return of refugees living in neighbouring countries and the creation of a secretary-general in charge of reconciliation within the Ministry of the Interior.

René Abandi indicated that the text contained points of divergence, but he refused to reveal them, “so as not to break the rules of procedure of the Kampala talks”.  A plenary assembly was convened for Thursday, 11th April to decide on the signature of the talk’s final agreement.

However, certain observers wondered if the dismissal of certain soldiers by President Joseph Kabila would not prove to be an obstacle to negotiations. Through a presidential order, Joseph Kabila had dismissed dozens of senior officers from the national army, almost all of them belonging to the M23 under both Makenga and Runiga. Among those dismissed were military commander and self-proclaimed general, Colonel Sultani Makenga, General Bosco Ntaganda, Colonels Baudouin Ngaruye and Albert Kahasha, Lieutenant Colonels Vianney Kazarama and Erick Ngabo, and Commander Innocent Zimurinda. Bertrand Bisimwa, president of the M23, stated that the presidential order would have no bearing on an eventual signature of the final agreement in Kampala, seeing as, by creating the M23, these officers had already decided themselves to leave the ranks of the FARDC.[22]

Certain observers wondered what this sudden resumption of talks in Kampala could be hiding. Most likely, it was the release of information at the start of the week concerning a presumed re-entry of Rwandan and Ugandan troops on Congolese soil.

What is glaringly obvious is that governments in Kigali and Kampala have once again put pressure on Kinshasa to get the M23 out of the mess that they are in, with all this going on before the deployment of the special intervention brigade as set out in the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2098. The M23, strengthened by support from Uganda and Rwanda, is doing its best to present counterpropositions that Kinshasa could support. Should Kinshasa’s return to the negotiating table be considered as surrender faced with fresh Ugandan-Rwandan pressure? The answer to this question betrays contradictions in Kinshasa’s approach, more so due to the fact that, at the beginning of the week, the government spokesperson and minister for foreign affairs had said loud and clear that the M23 had no other option but to cease all its activities. If it resisted, the special brigade established by the United Nations was going to put a stop to it. The resumption of meetings in Kampala has shown that the aggressors doggedly hold on to offering a way out to their friends in the M23 by integrating them into institutions and the DR Congo armed forces. By stirring up the spectre of a return to war and the nightmare of a Goma takeover, the M23 and its supporters have pushed Kinshasa into a corner, forcing them to put everything into making sure that the deployment of the MONUSCO special intervention brigade is not compromised by a notable change in the field of military operations.  It is plainly obvious that Kigali and Kampala are determined to obtain sufficient guarantees in favour of the M23.[23]

At the same time that Bosco Ntaganda was being transferred to The Hague and several senior officers from the M23 were being dismissed from the FARDC, an opinion began to emerge that there was no point in returning to Kampala, even more so since the UN Security Council had decided to deploy the intervention brigade with the aim of tracking negative forces, among those being the M23. While everybody thought that the government would have made the most of the vote for the resolution creating the international intervention brigade, we have witnessed another solution.  Against all expectations, the government agreed to return to Kampala, so as to bring the talks with the M23 to a close. This was more than likely to neutralise the threat of the M23 attacking the city of Goma. With this in mind, the M23 could make the most of this governmental weakness to up the stakes and not agree to have its officers brought before local and international law. This will inevitably lead to a deadlock, especially seeing as the M23, with the support of Rwanda, has the sole aim of integrating its officers within the FARDC in order to continue the execution of its sinister plan: that of preventing DR Congo from equipping itself with a truly republican army capable of protecting the integrity of Congolese soil.[24]

The Ugandan facilitator of the talks, Crispus Kiyonga, decided to reopen negotiations between Kinshasa and the M23 in Kampala. However, the Ugandan Defence Minister’s move has all the appearance of being a trap. This move by Crispus Kiyonga has been perceived by a number of observers as a renewed attempt for M23 soldiers to infiltrate the FARDC. Prolonging the Kampala talks hides Uganda’s intention to sign a new political deal between Kinshasa and the M23, thus allowing the rebel movement to pour its soldiers, the majority of them foreign, into the ranks of loyalist troops before the onset of United Nations Special Brigade operations to track negative forces. Thus, at the moment when special UN troops will start to take action, the M23 troops, commanded by “General” Sultani Makenga, who was ejected from the FARDC in July 2010 when he was still colonel, will have had the time to put on the uniform of the regular army, to “blend in” and be reassigned to North Kivu.

The trap has been set. Once a new agreement has been finalised between Kinshasa and the M23 rebels, the latter will automatically cease to be a negative force as they are members in their own right of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo), in the same way as the ex-officers and soldiers of the RCD (Congolese Rally for Democracy), the MLC (Movement for the Liberation of the Congo), the RCD-K-ML (Congolese Rally for Democracy-Kisangani-Movement for Liberation), the RCD-N (Congolese Rally for Democracy-National), the Mai-Mai Raia Mutomboki, the Mai-Mai of Kyungu Gédéon, Cobra Matata’s soldiers, etc. If Congolese authorities make the mistake of conferring the status of regular members of the Congolese army to Sultani Makenga and his officers before the end of this month, the United Nations risks being faced with no choice. The M23 would be excluded from the next operations led by the special MONUSCO brigade; therefore it will then have to limit itself to disarming other armed foreign and domestic groups, such as the FDLR, the ADF-Nalu, the LRA and the various Mai-Mai. The Congolese people want to know what is behind the invitation-convocation of the Ugandan Defence Minister and they wonder if Crispus Kiyonga would have been able to make the move of reopening the Kampala negotiations without Kinshasa’s agreement. Now is the time to clarify the Congolese government’s position, as it gives the distinct impression of not having completely broken ties with the M23, all while publicly demanding its dissolution.[25]

Behind the reopening of talks initiated by the Ugandan mediator, Yoweri Museveni, there is clearly a hidden agenda: that is, to destroy the label of negative forces attached to the M23 and give it a commendable party status, treated as equals with the government. With this convocation, the CIRGL Mediator, Yoweri Museveni, persists in presenting the M23 to the international community as a key interlocutor of the government in the quest for peace in the eastern DR Congo.  This is Museveni’s new lie and he seems determined to keep the M23 torch burning no matter what. Nevertheless, neither the Addis Ababa agreement, nor the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2098, have removed the M23’s classification as a negative force and make it a partner of the Government in the quest for peace in the country.[26]

[1] Cf. AFP – The Hague, 26.03.13

[2] Cf. Xinhua – Kinshasa, 27.03.13

[3] Cf. Stéphanie Maupas – Le Monde – Africatime, 27.03.13; Info Congo Indépendant, 26.03.13

[4] Cf. Human Rights Watch – New York, 25.03.13

[5] Cf. Angelo Mobateli – Le Potentiel – Kinshasa, 01.04.13

[6] Cf. AFP – Kigali, 02.04.13 (via; L’Avenir Quotidien – Kinshasa, 03.04.13

[7] Cf. Radio Okapi, 28.03.13; AFP – New York, 28.03.13

[8] Cf. Radio Okapi, 29.03.13

[9] Cf. Radio Okapi, 05.04.13

[10] Cf. Kimp – Le Phare – Kinshasa, 01.04.13

[11] Cf. Radio Okapi, 01.04.13

[12] Cf. Radio Okapi, 11.04.13

[13] Cf. Radio Okapi, 09.04.13

[14] Cf. RFI, 10.04.13

[15] Cf. Radio Okapi, 10.04.13; Forum des As – Kinshasa, 11.04.13

[16] Cf. Radio Okapi, 10.04.13; Xinhuanet – Kinshasa, 11.04.13

[17] Cf. Radio Okapi, 11.04.13

[18] Cf. Radio Okapi, 05.04.13

[19] Cf. Le Potentiel – Kinshasa, 05.04.13

[20] Cf. Radio Okapi, 01.04.13

[21] Cf. Radio Okapi, 02.04.13

[22] Cf. Radio Okapi, 05.04.13

[23] Cf. Le Potentiel – Kinshasa, 06.04.13

[24] Cf. L’Avenir – Kinshasa, 08.04.13

[25] Cf. Kimp – Le Phare – Kinshasa, 08.04.13

[26] Cf. Kandolo, M. – Forum des As – Kinshasa, 11.04.13


Thanks to PerMondo and the translator Emma Dix, this English translation has been possible. PerMondo was created by Mondo Agit with the aim of helping NGOs with free translations.