Tag Archives: M23 and Rwanda

DR Congo – how successful has the UN’s intervention brigade been?

African Arguments

DRC: Assessing the performance of MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade – By Christoph Vogel

Soldiers from DRC governmental forces on patrol during joint operations against FDLR near Tongo







Roughly 16 months ago (in March 2013), the United Nations strengthened its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) with a more robust force to “neutralise armed groups”. This came as a response to a wave of criticism MONUSCO experienced for its passive stance during the capture of Goma by M23 troops. The so-called ‘Force Intervention Brigade’ (FIB) was set up with 3,069 troops from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi – all SADC member states. In a highly robust, mobile, and versatile manner, the FIB would start tackling various armed groups operating in eastern DRC, e.g. M23, FDLR, ADF and APCLS.

As with most UN peacekeeping efforts, the heavy bureaucracy linked to such interventions meant that the FIB did not become operational before July/August 2013. In the meantime, numerous concerns were voiced as to the potential side effects of this unprecedented move towards active peace enforcement in DRC and the concomitant transformation of (parts of) MONUSCO into an active belligerent. While the establishment of the FIB remains unique in the history of UN peacekeeping, the UN has been a belligerent and actively involving in fighting before, notably in DRC (ONUC in the 1960s in Katanga, and also parts of MONUC around 2004 in Ituri).

Led by Brigadier Mwakibolwa from Tanzania (now replaced after serving his term), and MONUSCO force commander Dos Santos Cruz, the FIB’s first engagement was the fight against M23. Between July and November, the FIB engaged by various means (artillery, aerial attacks, snipers etc.) alongside FARDC units that were leading the pushback against DRC’s then strongest armed group. The offensive led to an unexpectedly quick win on the side of FARDC/FIB. The primary reason for this was the use of well-trained and disciplined FARDC units (mostly Unités de Reaction Rapide) that benefitted from functioning supply chains for equipment, logistics, and food in conjunction with massive FIB support.

M23 also decided to engage in a ‘classic war,’ positioning itself as a proper army instead of engaging in guerrilla tactics. These aspects did not only help achieve a swift military victory on the side of the government/UN coalition, but also prevented major humanitarian consequences. Senior mission staff have, however, confirmed (off-the-record) that MONUSCO, at this time, had no serious contingency plans to react to massive displacement if it had occurred. Moreover, concerns over regional escalation have luckily not materialized – given that, among others, Tanzanian and South African forces fought against M23; who allegedly benefitted from Rwandan and Ugandan support (countries that lately traded diplomatic insults with FIB contributors.)

After M23’s disappearance from the eastern Congolese conflict landscape, the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist Ugandan armed opposition force sitting in Congolese territory, came into the focus of joint FARDC/FIB operations (Jan 2014). After six months of continuous military operations – this time with less combat-linked support by FIB – official and unofficial sources seem to agree that ADF’s operating bases have largely been conquered and/or destroyed (while the group’s état major appears to remain intact). Despite a massive increase in insecurity around Beni, humanitarian catastrophes did not occur – but MONUSCO as well as other UN and humanitarian actors have been increasingly targeted by unidentified attackers, possibly ADF.

A few months later, the FIB joined FARDC offensives against APCLS, a Masisi-based militia that emerged from parts of the former PARECO – the main opponent to M23’s predecessor, the CNDP. Not necessarily triggered by clashes between APCLS, FDC, Guides, and Nyatura in southwestern Masisi in February, but temporarily pursuant to these events, FARDC units started combatting APCLS (which used to serve as a FARDC proxy in anti-M23 operations before, alongside Nyatura and certain parts of FDLR).

Reportedly not engaged in ground operations, or at least not as significantly as those against M23, FIB provided massive support through aerial attacks against APCLS positions in Nyabiondo and Lukweti. With alliances and collaborations largely being unstable and shifting in eastern DRC, it turned out the FARDC offensive was significantly assisted by parts of the Nyatura militias – another product of ex-PARECO, whose relations with APCLS have been souring over the past years (for several reasons linked to Masisi’s complex and dynamic social and political makeup.)

The indirect collaboration with one negative force aimed at neutralising another puts the FIB’s, MONUSCO’s, and more generally, the UN’s impartiality in to question. The FARDC’s continued collaboration with various armed groups used as proxy forces against others, as well as its paradigmatic lack of unity and internal cohesion, lies at the basis of many problems. However, as a national army it can be argued that FARDC is not subject to impartiality. Nevertheless the need for proper army reform in the frame of larger SSR is vital.

Meanwhile, anti-FDLR operations remain at the stage of repeated announcements. The ‘longest-serving’, most resilient armed group on DRC territory still includes culprits of the Rwandan genocide serving at their highest level of command and genocidal ideology remains part and parcel of military and political education, even if most of their current fighters (i.e. certainly anyone under 30 years as well as Congolese recruits) are not among the 1994 perpetrators.

As early as of December 2013, MONUSCO has been announcing the start of anti-FDLR operations, at that time in Northern Masisi. A little later, this turned out to be a hoax, as MONUSCO’s operations on the road axis between Mweso and Pinga largely focused on securing the area and just accidentally happened to be in the vicinity of certain residual FDLR positions.

In May 2014, a second serious announcement was given in the context of a joint operation in Western Rutshuru territory, in Tongo. This operation failed due to the persistence of certain FARDC-FDLR networks at the local level, but also reluctance within the FIB. Ever since, it remains unclear if and when anti-FDLR operations will begin and, amid a highly mediatised FDLR demobilization wave in June, and renewed threats against the group from Luanda where a joint ICGLR-SADC summit ended in early July, it is hard to predict how the situation will develop.

While not prescribed by MONUSCO’s current mandate, the mission is clear on the fact that the FIB will not start unilateral operations without consent of the DRC government. This is understandable with regards to matters of sovereignty, but prevents action – since President Kabila is yet to give green light for anti-FDLR operations. Kabila himself is not necessarily for or against such operations, but amongst DRC elites (politically and militarily) the FDLR question is highly controversial. While some favour military action, others reject it on the basis of previous relations and collaboration against common adversaries, and a third group puts forward the claim that as the DRC was drawn into negotiations with M23, Rwanda should also negotiate with the FDLR.

Kigali (for obvious reasons) refuses the latter, but it’s not only DRC politics that is preventing action. Within the FIB, similar political thinking is at play. Various stakeholders have independently confirmed that as of now Tanzanian and South African troops do not have clearance to engage in fighting with the FDLR – leaving the Malawian battalion as the only force that could engage. This coincides with afore-mentioned diplomatic tensions and the increasing role of SADC as a regional body in eastern DRC’s affairs – an area covered by the ICGLR, another regional body that has remained largely ineffective throughout.

Overall, the FIB’s performance has been a mixed bag. So far it has not lived up to earlier fears in terms of humanitarian impact, but has contributed to the perception that MONUSCO and UN are becoming increasingly belligerent. In regards to M23 and ADF operations, the military performance of the FIB, or its support to these campaigns, must be assessed positively in most aspects (there are plenty of negative side effects, suffice to think of numerous unsolved problems after the so-called M23-DRC peace agreement, but these cannot be attributed to FIB).

The on-going APCLS operations hold greater dangers than the benefits the can conceivable create. The FIB’s engagement in these operations is likely to undermine MONUSCO’s position in Masisi and appears to be a political misstep given the volatility and instability in that area. A serious backlash is to be expected if MONUSCO continues to jeopardise its impartiality in this context.

Last, the FIB will also be judged by its performance as regards the FDLR . Here though, MONUSCO itself and the FIB are not to be blamed because (as so often) the real problems are located at the level of the DRC government, regional diplomacy, and high-level politics at the UN Security Council and troop-contributing countries.

Christoph Vogel is a PhD researcher at University of Zurich. He blogs at www.christophvogel.net and tweets at www.twitter.com/ethuin.

DR Congo – peace deal with M23 due to be signed


(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.


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

DRC – M23 declares a ceasefire after defeats

DRC’s M23 rebels declare ceasefire
Rebel leader urges all fighters to immediately end hostilities as the country’s army takes over their last stronghold.
03 Nov 2013 14:06

Fighters fled to hills around Congo’s border with Uganda and Rwanda after being ousted from Bunaguna [Reuters]
Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels have declared a ceasefire after a 20-month rebellion in North Kivu province to allow peace talks with the government to advance.

Bertrand Bisimwa, leader of the M23 rebel group, urged all fighters on Sunday to “immediately end hostilities” with the government troops.

“We call on the facilitator of the Kampala peace talks to immediately put in place a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire,” Bisimwa said in statement.

There was no immediate reaction from the army.

The declaration of the truce came on the day when the government troops said it launched a new offensive against rebel fighters who fled to the hills around Congo’s border with Uganda and Rwanda after being ousted from Bunaguna, their last stronghold.

On Friday, Uganda, which has led regional attempts to end the most serious rebellion since Congo’s last war ended a decade ago, called for both sides to stop fighting.

Heavy fighting has eased, but the army said it shelled rebel positions on Saturday to encourage fighters to surrender.

Congo’s government has dispatched senior negotiators to talks in Uganda, but the army is keen to finish off the rebellion, the last in a series of uprisings led by Congolese Tutsis in the mineral-rich but unstable east.


Rwanda and Uganda tell UN envoy that they are not involved in DR Congo


Rwanda, Uganda tell U.N. envoys peace in Congo is not their problem

Tue Oct 8, 2013 1:29am BST

* Security Council envoys meet Rwandan, Ugandan presidents

* Envoys told M23 rebels a ‘symptom, not cause’ of Congo’s problems

* Rwanda not happy about U.S. blocking military aid

By Michelle Nichols

KIGALI/KAMPALA, Oct 7 (Reuters) – The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda told U.N. Security Council envoys on Monday that their countries were not responsible for bringing peace to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo’s volatile east, which has long been mired in conflict and is bristling with armed groups.

Envoys from the 15-member council met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali and then President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala after spending two days in Congo visiting the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping operation.

Millions of people have been killed by violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as rebel groups have fought for control of eastern Congo’s rich deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said both Kagame and Museveni described an 18-month rebellion by the M23 guerrilla group as just a symptom and not a cause of Congo’s problems, which were much more deep-seated in issues such as a lack of governance.

“(They said) it was really up to (Congolese President Joseph) Kabila to resolve those issues. The international community could still help, but it wasn’t the responsibility of Rwanda and it wasn’t the responsibility of Uganda,” Lyall Grant told reporters.

“They felt that Kabila had made a lot of mistakes and that he didn’t have control of his own troops and that was the fundamental issue – not anything else about cross-border interference,” he said.

U.N. experts have accused Rwanda of supporting M23, which is led by ethnic Tutus, a charge that Kigali has rejected. The roots of the rebellion in the region lie in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where Hutu troops killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Some Security Council envoys described Kagame as defensive during the meeting. He told them that Rwanda, where Tutsis and Hutus have reconciled after the genocide, should not be lectured on what was needed to bring peace to eastern Congo.

“It’s going to be the people and the countries in the region who determine whether or not there is peace,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told reporters after the meeting with Kagame.

“The armed groups need to be eliminated and every country in the region needs to use whatever leverage it has to get rid of those groups,” said Power. “That’s the only hope the people in the region have.”



During a visit by the ambassadors to the eastern Congolese city of Goma on Sunday, U.N. officials said while M23 had captured global headlines, just as great a threat was posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

M23 has accused the Congolese army of receiving military support from the FDLR, an accusation Kinshasa rejects.

Civil society leaders in North Kivu, where Goma is the capital, told the council envoys that the Congolese government controlled only about 25 percent of the province, while the rest was in the hands of dozens of armed groups.

African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated regional accord in February aimed at ending two decades of conflict in eastern Congo. Rwanda and Uganda both said they were committed to implementing the pact, U.N. diplomats said.

Museveni said he had to deploy more troops on the Ugandan border with Congo because of the threat posed by the ADF. The Ugandan government says the ADF is allied to elements of Somalia’s al Shabaab movement, an al Qaeda-linked group.

Congolese forces, with the help of a new U.N. Intervention Brigade that has a mandate to neutralize armed groups, successfully pushed M23 fighters away from Goma – a city of one million people – in August. The military defeat forced M23 to return to peace talks being brokered by the Ugandan government.

During the meeting with Museveni, Lyall Grant said envoys were told “that there was a real chance of reaching agreement in the next few days,” but diplomats were wary of that prediction because there were still outstanding issues to be resolved.

The United Nations said on Saturday that a third of child soldiers who had escaped from M23 were lured from Rwanda with promises of cash, jobs and education.

The United States, which has called on Rwanda to drop its support for the M23 rebels, stepped up pressure on Kigali last week by moving to block military aid over the recruitment of M23 child soldiers in its territory. [ID:ID:nL1N0HT24L]

“I don’t expect you to hear me say that we are happy, we are not,” said Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. “Rwanda does not tolerate children being enrolled in any way near armed groups, not in our own army, and that’s Rwanda’s position.”

“Our belief is that once this crisis (in Congo) is resolved, once we get rid of these armed groups then there will be no longer the issue of child soldiers,” she told reporters. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Christopher Wilson)  reuters

DR Congo – UN forces launch air and artillery strtikes against M23


DR Congo unrest: UN strikes against M23 near Goma

Tanzanian Forces of the UN Intervention Brigade attend a training session outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 9 August 2013
A new UN brigade has the mandate to neutralise and disarm the rebels


UN forces have launched air strikes on rebel positions near Goma, the main city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a spokesman has said.

The UN had used “attack helicopters and its artillery” to push back an offensive launched by the M23 rebel group, the spokesman added.

More than 80 people were reportedly killed in fighting last week.

The UN has deployed a new intervention brigade to mineral-rich DR Congo to tackle the rebels.

‘Heavy weapons’

The rebels seized Goma last November, but withdrew under diplomatic pressure.

The UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, Monusco, was fighting alongside government forces, said Monusco spokesman Felix Basse, Associated Press (AP) news agency reports.

“Monusco has enlisted all of its attack helicopters and its artillery… to push back the M23 offensive that is under way right now on the hills of Kibati,” he was quoted as saying.


Kibati is about 15km (nine miles) north of Goma, a city of about 200,000 people.

The M23 said the Congolese army and UN intervention brigade had attacked its forces in areas north of Goma with infantry, air strikes and heavy weapons, Reuters news agency reports.

Government and UN forces have been battling the rebels since last week.

A doctor in Goma, Isaac Warwanamiza, told AP he had seen 82 bodies, including those of 23 government soldiers, on Sunday.

The UN has an 18,000-strong force in DR Congo.

Its intervention brigade, made up of some 3,000 troops, has a mandate to disarm and neutralise rebel groups in the region.

It is the strongest mandate ever given to such a force by the UN Security Council, UN officials say.

The M23 is made up of deserters from the Congolese army.

About 800,000 people have fled their homes since it launched its rebellion in 2012.  bbc

DR Congo – UN launches offensive against M23 after Goma shelling


Tanzanian Forces of the UN Intervention Brigade attend a training session outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 9 August 2013
A new UN brigade has the mandate to neutralise and disarm the rebels


UN troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo have launched an offensive, shelling positions held by rebels near the eastern city of Goma.

The UN was responding to shelling from M23 rebels on Goma on Thursday, a UN spokesman. Congolese officials say five civilians in the city died.

A M23 spokesman told the BBC it had not attacked the city, blaming the army for provoking the fighting.

A new UN intervention brigade is deploying to the area to tackle rebels.

It has a mandate to neutralise and disarm rebel fighters. Its 3,000 soldiers are joining the regular UN peacekeeping force, Monusco, which has more than 18,000 troops on the ground with a mandate to protect civilians.


UN spokesman Lt-Col Felix-Prosper Basse said two UN helicopters were involved in the latest operation, which was being backed by the Congolese army, attacking rebel positions in Kibati about 15km (nine miles) north of Goma.

“Fighting has entered a new phase as Monusco is now engaging the rebels together with the government forces,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

The UN troops were protecting the area as the rebels had been firing indiscriminately at civilians, he said.

In November, the M23 rebels briefly captured Goma, which borders Rwanda, withdrawing in exchange for a series of demands, including negotiations with the government.

DR Congo’s Information Minister Lambert Mende told the BBC’s Great Lakes Service that some of the shells that fell on Goma on Thursday had come from the direction of Rwanda.

The five civilians who had died in the shelling included children and one woman, he said.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied UN allegations that it has been backing the M23 rebels.

Like Rwanda’s leadership, M23 fighters mostly come from the Tutsi community.

They deserted from the Congolese army in April 2012, forcing an estimated 800,000 people from their homes in the ensuing unrest in the mineral-rich region.

Peace talks taking place in Uganda this year to resolve their grievances have stalled. bbc

UN and DR Congo – talking tough but will there be action

North Kivu braces for potential UN-armed group

Photo: Zahra Moloo/IRIN
Protect and fight (file photo)
GENEVA, 2 August 2013 (IRIN) – A UN ultimatum for armed groups around Goma, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) North Kivu Province, to disarm, expired on 1 August and a security zone has been set up around the city. Goma is calm, but civilians, aid agencies and NGOs wait nervously as the UN’s first ever “offensive” peacekeeping force prepares to fully deploy.

“In North Kivu, MONUSCO [the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC] considers any individuals who are not members of the national security forces and who carry a firearm in Goma and its northern suburbs an imminent threat to civilians and will disarm them in order to enforce a security zone to protect the densely populated area of Goma and Sake,” MONUSCO said in a statement on 30 July, adding that the operation to enforce the security zone would, for the first time, involve its UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), a 3,000-strong international force mandated to “neutralize… and disarm” all armed groups in eastern DRC.

According to MONUSCO, about 75 percent of FIB’s troops – from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania – are already on the ground; the brigade “will carry out targeted offensive operations in support of the Congolese army or unilaterally”.

Speaking to the press on 25 July, the brigade’s commanding officer, Brig-Gen James Mwakibolwa of Tanzania, gave assurances that “Goma will never fall again as long as the FIB is on the ground. That’s the reason why the brigade is doing all in its powers through patrols to protect Goma and its environs.”

One of the first targets of the FIB is likely to be the rebel M23, mutineers who have been fighting the DRC’s army, FARDC, since April 2012.

“The removal of so many arms that have been used to terrorize civilians in the area should help reduce the appalling levels of human suffering but the UN must ensure that its operations do not make a bad situation much worse” Since 14 July, FARDC and M23 have been fighting around Mutaho, Kibati and Munigi, on the outskirts of Goma. Already hundreds of thousands have been displaced in North Kivu and tens of thousands more have fled across the border to Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarian agencies fear that clashes between FIB and M23 could cause further civilian suffering.

Proceed with caution

“Oxfam urges the UN Peacekeeping force to proceed with the utmost caution as it enforces their call for disarmament and to ensure that civilians are adequately protected from any ensuing violence,” Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s DRC humanitarian programme coordinator, said in a 31 July statement.

“The removal of so many arms that have been used to terrorize civilians in the area should help reduce the appalling levels of human suffering but the UN must ensure that its operations do not make a bad situation much worse.”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has expressed concern about MONUSCO’s offensive mandate and the blurring of lines between humanitarian and military action. In a letter, Bertrand Perrochet, head of mission for MSF in DRC, urged MONUSCO not to deploy troops around its health facilities lest the safety of patients and staff be impaired.

MONUSCO insists, however, that its mandate is not contradictory, and according to the media, spokesman Manodge Monoubai said the UN mission could not “fold our arms and allow armed groups to kill the population”.

The Congolese government has welcomed the establishment of the zone and the ultimatum. For its part, M23, which is not at present within the security zone, has denounced MONUSCO’s actions.

“We [will] stay within the area assigned us after retreating from Goma” M23’s president, Bertrand Bisimwa, told IRIN. M23 briefly occupied Goma in DRC, and was ordered to withdraw during negotiations in Kampala brokered by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which has been mediating in so far unsuccessful talks between the rebels and the government.

Analysts say the success of the FIB will be dependent on how it responds to threats and how it deals with the local population. “The intervention brigade can be a force for good; however, it is crucial for it to interact with local populations in a transparent and open manner,” said Rémy Kasindi, director of DRC think tank CRESA.

Others are more sceptical of MONUSCO’s ability to protect Goma and its population. “Prior to M23’s capture of Goma, we heard similar announcements and afterwards the city was taken over by the rebel movement,” Ley Uwera, a local journalist, told IRIN, expressing concern about the delay in the FIB deployment – the brigade was expected to be fully operational by the end of July.

However, “Targeted armed groups are likely to seek to avoid direct confrontation with the Intervention Brigade,” Fred Robarts a former coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on DRC, told IRIN, noting that “yet more displacement seems inevitable as a result of future offensive operations…

“Most obviously, humanitarian actors will have to continue carefully to manage the need to coordinate with the peacekeepers while guarding their neutrality and independence… Much depends on [the FIB] establishing credibility at this early stage, and it remains to be seen how firmly the new brigade will respond when first tested.”

Chantal Daniels, Great Lakes policy adviser for Christian Aid, told IRIN that within the aid community, there is “hope [that] the security zone is a first step in a wider PoC [Protection of Civilians] and security approach”.

Shaky political process

Alongside the military manoeuvres, a shaky peace process continues, with ICGLR heads of state recently meeting in Nairobi and reiterating their support for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC signed in Addis Ababa on 24 February.

on the sidelines of the ICGLR summit, diplomats privately told IRIN that many felt MONUSCO’s ultimatum had dented the chances of a peaceful resolution to the crisis, sentiments also expressed by Rwanda, which has been accused of supporting M23, a charge it strenuously denies.

CRESA’s Kasindi stressed that “the Congolese government, as well as other regional actors assume a prime responsibility for what happens in the Kivu provinces.”

“Whatever happens militarily, without strong political commitment it might lead to more tensions… especially if disarmament calls are not complemented by a new DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration] approach,” said Christian Aid’s Daniels.




DR Congo awaits UN intervention brigade

African Arguments
DRC/ North Kivu: Waiting For The Intervention Brigade – By Kris Berwouts
July 22, 2013

M23 withdrew from Goma in the first days of December 2012. In the days and weeks after their retreat, several international initiatives were launched which eventually crystallized in the signing of the Framework Agreement of Addis Abeba in February. From the very beginning, a central part of these initiatives was the deployment of an international brigade ‘to “neutralize and disarm” the notorious 23 March Movement (M23), as well as other Congolese rebels and foreign armed groups in strife-riven eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.’ After long discussions between African institutions (ICRGL, SADC, AU) on the one hand and the United Nations and the United States on the other, a final decision was taken to give it the status of a specialized “intervention brigade” within Monusco’s existing 19,815‑strong force. It will mainly consist of Tanzanians, South Africans and Malawians, all together 3,000 men.
Trench war with rumors
It was immediately very obvious clear that the presence of the brigade would fundamentally change the military power balance in the field. Even after M23 had left Goma, it remained the most coherent, best organized and most performing military actor in the Kivus. Nobody expected that this would still be the case once the intervention brigade deployed. Already in December, the brigade -still in its conceptual phase- became the focus of a trench war with rumors and disinformation as ammunition instead of bullets and grenades.
The Congolese government had been humiliated by the fall of Goma and had given evidence of its inability to control its eastern provinces, so Kinshasa expected a lot from the intervention brigade and tried to accelerate its arrival by strengthening all rumors about Ugandan and Rwandan troops on Congolese soil. Rwanda had been very actively present when M23 took Goma but it had withdrawn its troops immediately after. Since then, Uganda and Rwanda are being monitored very closely, with very little space left for direct intervention. The leaked mid-term report of the UN Group of experts recently confirmed that Rwanda is now only providing limited” support to M23 and Uganda none at all.
On the other hand, Rwanda and M23 tried to delay or even avert the arrival of the intervention brigade through a very aggressive discourse against the UN and targeted messages meant to influence and intimidate public opinion in Tanzania and South Africa. No country in the world wants to see its soldiers sent back from peacekeeping missions in a body bag. Rwanda accused the UN of cooperation with FDLR, culminating last week in the letter sent to the U.S. ambassador to the UN (and currently chairing the Security Council) in which these allegations were once more emphasized.
New confrontations
The most important military event since m23 left Goma is without any doubt the internal power struggle within M23, leading to the victory of the wing lead by Sultani Makenga over Bosco Ntaganda’s people. These events have weakened M23 considerably: the Group of experts estimates that more than two hundred M23 fighters of both sides were killed in the Makenga/ Ntaganda war, even more were injured and many others surrendered, totally discouraged, to MONUSCO and the Congolese army. At this moment, M23’s operational capacity is not much more than 1,500 men.
At this moment, there is no indication that the direct negotiations between the Congolese government and M23 that were launched in December 2012 will provide concrete results in the short run. In February a joint statement was paragraphed (not even properly signed) a technical document acknowledging that 23 of the 35 points both parties agreed on in 2009 have been implemented, while the 12 others have not been executed. But since then, no result or even progress has been materialized.
New fighting broke out on Sunday July 14th between M23 and the FARDC at 10 kilometer from Goma. It is not easy to have confirmed and double-checked information about who started the hostilities and why, but after a few days it was clear that the Congolese army is on the winning side, although the exact size and impact of their military domination remains hard to estimate.
It seems totally excluded that M23 would take Goma back in these circumstances without direct support from Rwanda. But also a quick military victory of the FARDC seems unlikely. The army found a new impetus which is probably the result of improved chains of supplies, better logistics and salaries that have effectively been paid. That might be a good start but the bulk of the work to build up a performing, disciplined and unified national army from scratch still remains to be done. But the new impetus of the army mobilises a wave of sympathy and solidarity with the army within the population, and that in itself is a new factor.
High expectations but…
The Congolese army considers that time runs in its advantage. Soon (within a few weeks?) the intervention brigade should be fully operational. The authorities in Kinshasa continue to see the brigade as Aladdin’s lamp which will solve their problems they can’t deal with themselves, but you can’t exclude neither that the brigade opens Pandora’s box: it will be a new military actor in a political and military landscape which already is extremely complex. It will probably create a new dynamic but that might turn out negatively. It will depend on the way the communities and armed groups will perceive the brigade. Pieter Vanholder, DRC country director of the Life & Peace Institute in Bukavu, said on Al Jazeera that the brigade could have a deterrent effect, but “if some things go wrong, which they are bound to, the brigade may be seen as a kind of occupation force. As a consequence it could become a push factor for some to join armed groups, adding to local resistance.” A brigade of 3,000 well trained soldiers might be enough to handle an armed group or two, but the military configuration of Kivu is far more complex than that. It will not be easy to fight armed groups and protect communities in those cases where it is difficult to draw the fine line between an armed group and the community from which it originates. There are many pitfalls on the bumpy road ahead of the intervention brigade. But once again, this is Congo. All roads are bumpy, often with pitfalls as large as the road itself…
The expectations are high. Everybody believes that the full deployment of the intervention brigade will seriously change the military power balances in Kivu, but at the same time it is hard to imagine why and how it will make a real difference in the field, being part of a UN structure which never made much difference despite its 13 years of existence. In any case, the outbreak of recent violence has put everybody in a state of alert. The UN has expressed its deep concern and observers who traveled between in the last days between Kigali and Gisenyi reported an increased concentration of Rwandan troops on the border.
Kris Berwouts has, over the last 25 years, worked for a number of different Belgian and international NGOs focused on building peace, reconciliation, security and democratic processes. Until recently, he was the Director of EurAc, the network of European NGOs working for advocacy on Central Africa. He now works as an independent expert on Central Africa.

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DR Congo – rebels sources say that factions of M23 trying to kill Ntaganda


By RODNEY MUHUMUZA | Associated Press


  • Rwandan-born warlord Bosco Ntaganda is seen during his first appearance before judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday March 26, 2013, since his surprise surrender to face charges including murder, rape pillaging and using child soldiers in eastern Congo. Ntaganda had been one of the court's longest-sought fugitives until he unexpectedly became the first suspect to voluntarily turn himself in by seeking refuge last week at the U.S. Embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. Ntaganda allegedly led rebels who terrorized eastern Congo in brutal tribal fighting from 2002 till 2003. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Associated Press/Peter Dejong – Rwandan-born warlord Bosco Ntaganda is seen during his first appearance before judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday March 26, 2013, since …more  his surprise surrender to face charges including murder, rape pillaging and using child soldiers in eastern Congo. Ntaganda had been one of the court’s longest-sought fugitives until he unexpectedly became the first suspect to voluntarily turn himself in by seeking refuge last week at the U.S. Embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. Ntaganda allegedly led rebels who terrorized eastern Congo in brutal less 

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A spokesman for a Congolese rebel group said Thursday that rebel fighters in the M23 group were trying to kill warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who fled Congo and turned himself in to a U.S. Embassy last week before being transferred to the International Criminal Court.

Rene Abandi said Ntaganda tried to “influence the chain of command” but went too far when he challenged M23 military chief Sultani Makenga.

Fierce clashes between rival factions of M23 earlier this month left Makenga with the upper hand and triggered the chain of events that forced Ntaganda to give up his freedom after nearly seven years as a fugitive warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

On March 18, days after losing a fight with an M23 faction loyal to Makenga, Ntaganda showed up the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and asked to be transferred to the ICC. This week he made his first court appearance at The Hague.

“What shocked Gen. Makenga was this fight which was the stupidity of Ntaganda,” Abandi said from the rebel stronghold of Bunagana in eastern Congo. “After that our goal was just to neutralize him because he was causing problems. He tried to influence the movement from outside.”

It remains unclear how Ntaganda ended up in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, or what motivated him to surrender. Abandi said they believe he sneaked into Rwanda through a jungle crossing that is not heavily policed by Rwandan border officials.

“He passed through an area where there is no official border, near the Virunga National Park,” Abandi said.

Ntaganda, the boss of a rebel group that was M23’s precursor, had lived a relatively free life in the eastern Congolese town of Goma, allegedly occupying a villa there and even playing tennis. An ethnic Tutsi born in Rwanda, he was first indicted in 2006 by the ICC for allegedly recruiting child soldiers during a 2002-03 conflict in Congo’s eastern Ituri province. A second arrest warrant issued last July accused him of crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery and pillaging.

For M23, according to Abandi, Ntaganda’s exit from the Congo left the group stronger even as it dimmed hopes for a peace process that had been under way in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, since December. Those talks are now on hold, with both the Congolese and M23 delegations saying they are holding consultations.

M23 had split at the end of February following a dispute among the leaders of the movement when Makenga dismissed the political head of the movement, Jean-Marie Runiga. Both men then formed their own factions, which have been fighting since.

The fight between M23 factions divided the group’s peace delegation and led to the ouster of its leader, Francois Rucogoza, who is now afraid to return home, according to Chrispus Kiyonga, the talks’ Ugandan mediator.

M23 is made up of hundreds of soldiers who deserted the Congolese army last April. The rebels accuse Congo’s government of failing to honor the terms of a 2009 peace deal that incorporated them into the national army. In turn, the government accuses M23 of violating that agreement by taking up arms instead of talking. Even as human-rights groups charge M23 with numerous human-rights violations in eastern Congo, regional leaders have urged the Congolese government to listen to the “legitimate grievances” of M23.

According to Abandi, Ntaganda’s side spread rumors that Makenga was secretly doing business with the government in Kinshasa even as a delegation from M23 negotiated peace with the Congolese government in neighboring Uganda. When those claims failed to sow discord among the fighters, he said, Ntaganda then tried to challenge Makenga militarily.

“Gen. Makenga won the fight,” he said. “The morale of the troops is now high. They are very proud of their general.”

There is no international arrest warrant out for Makenga, but he is under U.N. sanctions and rights groups say he has committed crimes similar to those attributed to Ntaganda. ap/yahoo

DR Congo – Ntaganda forces routed by rebel faction and flee into Rwanda


Congolese rebels surrender, flee after defeat by rivals

General Bosco Ntaganda addresses a news conference in Kabati, a village located in Congo's eastern North Kivu province, January 8, 2009. REUTERS/Abdul Ndemere

General Bosco Ntaganda addresses a news conference in Kabati, a village located in Congo’s eastern North Kivu province, January 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Abdul Ndemere

By Jonny Hogg

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Hundreds of Congolese rebels loyal to warlord Bosco Ntaganda have fled into neighboring Rwanda or surrendered to United Nations peacekeepers after being routed by a rival faction, rebel and U.N. sources said on Saturday.

Ntaganda’s apparent defeat comes after weeks of infighting within the M23 insurgency and could open the way for rival rebel leader Sultani Makenga to sign a peace deal with Kinshasa, bringing an end to a year-long rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rebel spokesman Vianney Kazarama said Makenga seized control of the town of Kibumba, 30 km (19 miles) north of Goma, capital of mineral-rich North Kivu province, early on Saturday.

Ntaganda and an estimated 200 fighters fled into the forest while hundreds of others crossed the border into Rwanda, Kazarama said. At least seven were killed.

“We’re sweeping the area and placing our soldiers at strategic points,” Kazarama said. “It is finished.”

Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of killing civilians during a previous rebellion. His links to M23 have been a stumbling block to peace talks with Kinshasa, which says it wants him brought to justice.

“We’re following the situation very closely. The only thing we want is for Ntaganda to be arrested,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

Ntaganda’s whereabouts could not be confirmed independently and members of his faction were not reachable by telephone.


About 300 uniformed M23 rebels loyal to Ntaganda sat in a clearing littered with empty beer bottles in a small village in Rwanda’s Rubavu District near the frontier, as locals in tattered clothes looked on.

Rwandan soldiers, who walked around nearby, had collected heaps of the rebels’ weapons – AK-47 rifles, 60 mm mortar rounds and grenades – and laid them out in the front yard of a house.

“They were fighting us on all sides so we were forced to come to Rwanda. We know we have international rights here,” said Prince Andema Makamo, who told Reuters he was a member of the M23 faction’s political unit.

Ambulances ferried the wounded to a nearby medical clinic.

A Rwandan military official said more than 700 rebel fighters arrived in several Rwandan frontier villages through the night and into the morning, and more than 150 of them were being treated for wounds sustained in the fighting.

M23’s former political head Jean-Marie Runiga, a Ntaganda loyalist ousted from the rebel hierarchy last month, was among those who fled to Rwanda.

“I came here because the situation has been getting worse on the ground in Congo. I preferred to save my life,” he told Reuters at Rwanda’s Nkamira refugee camp. “For the moment, I am here to find asylum.”

Dozens of other M23 fighters, including senior officers, had handed themselves over to U.N. peacekeepers in recent days, according to a U.N. source, who asked not to be named.

“It’s over for the Bosco and Runiga faction,” he said.

The United Nations has accused Rwanda of backing armed uprisings in its vast and unstable neighbor to tackle extremist Rwandan rebels who operate there and to protect its economic interests. Rwanda dismisses the accusations.

In 2009, Kigali played a key role in ending the last major insurgency when it arrested its former ally and rebel leader Laurent Nkunda as part of a deal with Kinshasa.

That agreement saw Ntaganda integrated into the Congolese army as a general. It was Kinshasa’s alleged failure to honor that deal that the rebels say sparked the M23 uprising.

M23 is one of many rebel groups operating in eastern Congo, which has been torn apart by nearly two decades of fighting over land, ethnicity and resources which has left millions dead.

(Reporting by Jonny Hogg and Jenny Clover;)