(Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s government and M23 rebels are to sign a peace deal on Monday in Uganda’s capital Kampala, ending a 20-month revolt that drew attention again to tangled ethnic tensions and political rivalries in east Congo.
* WHO WERE M23? The name M23 refers to a March 23, 2009, peace deal that ended a previous Tutsi-led rebellion in eastern Congo and integrated former rebels into the Congolese army. The M23 fighters who mutinied in the army in April 2012 included rebel officers and soldiers who took part in the 2004-2009 uprising led by renegade Congolese Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda. The root causes of both rebellions can be traced back to the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda where Hutu soldiers and militia killed around 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis. With significant groups of Tutsis and Hutus either living or sheltering in eastern Congo, the Rwandan genocide sowed the seeds of recurring tensions, clashes and rival insurgencies.
* WHAT WERE THEY FIGHTING FOR? The M23 rebels took up arms because they accused President Joseph Kabila’s government of violating the 2009 pact by not respecting their ranks and not ensuring the protection of Tutsi refugees and Rwandan-speaking Congolese in the border region. As the rebellion advanced, M23 also tapped into local frustration against Kabila’s weak and faraway government in Kinshasa in the west, and at one point last year its commanders threatened to “liberate” all Congo if Kabila refused to hold political talks. The peace deal to be signed in Kampala addresses issues such as amnesty – for the act of rebellion, not for serious human rights abuses – and also allows reintegration of vetted rebels into the army.
* RWANDA’S ROLE: United Nations experts had documented evidence showing Kigali was both commanding and supporting M23, in part to control eastern Congo’s rich natural resources. Rwanda and M23 repeatedly denied the allegations, although Rwanda has a long history of intervening in Congo to protect its security interests on its western border. Diplomats said intense lobbying from the United States, Britain and African leaders on Rwandan President Paul Kagame played a role in ending the M23 insurgency and opening the way for the peace deal.
MAIN EVENTS IN THE REBELLION
April 2012 – Former rebels desert from the Congolese army, launching the M23 insurgency in North Kivu province.
July 6, 2012 – After several months of fighting that displaces more than 200,000 people, M23 seizes town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda, making it a major M23 base.
Nov 20, 2012 – M23 forces take control of North Kivu provincial capital of Goma after rebel offensive brushes aside government forces and U.N. peacekeepers. Rebels withdraw from Goma on December 1 and later begin peace talks in Kampala.
Feb 24, 2013 – Eleven African nations including Rwanda and Uganda sign framework peace accord for eastern Congo, which pledges ending of support for armed groups.
March 18, 2013 – Infighting among M23 commanders leads to fugitive warlord Bosco Ntaganda surrendering at U.S. embassy in Rwanda to face war crimes charges at International Criminal Court. Rival Sultani Makenga left in charge of M23 insurgency.
March 28, 2013 – U.N. Security Council approves new U.N. Intervention Brigade for “targeted offensive operations” against armed groups in east Congo, including M23.
Nov 5, 2013 – M23 declares an end to its 20-month rebellion after government forces, backed by the more aggressive U.N. brigade, drove the rebels from their North Kivu strongholds in late October and early November. U.N.-backed army had already pushed them from positions north of Goma in August.
(Reporting by David Cutler and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Alistair Lyon) allAfrica