Congo: Another Rumble With Rwanda

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

June 18, 2012: The March 23rd Movement (acronym is M23) rebels have seized a strip of territory along the Congo-Rwanda border. Both the UN and the government claim that M23 now controls an important border area, despite heavy attacks by government forces, including attack helicopters. M23 insists that they are not acting on behalf of former Congolese Army (FARDC) general, Bosco Ntaganda, but the government insists it has evidence that Ntaganda is M23’s leader. Ntaganda took over the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) after Laurent Nkunda was arrested in early 2009. The CNDP was largely manned by Congolese Tutsis. Ntaganda’s force was integrated into the Congolese Army in 2009, as part of the peace process. This is why the M23 rebels are sometimes referred to as mutineers. The seizure of territory near Rwanda boosts those in the Congolese government who have been insisting since early May that Rwanda is involved with the M23 conspirators. Over the past six weeks the Rwandan government has repeatedly denied it is supporting the M23 faction. That may be true but it does appear that the M23 rebels are receiving supplies that are moving through Rwandan territory. International mediators are trying to encourage negotiations between M23 and the government, but at the moment the government says it is not interested. The government intends to defeat M23 on the battlefield.

June 17, 2012: M23’s senior commander in the border region, Colonel Vianney Kazarama, said that his forces had seized a large quantity of weapons from the Congolese Army after a June 14 battle. Fighting continues around the towns of Mbuzi and Runyoni (Rwandan border area).

June 15, 2012: The UN Security Council condemned the army mutiny by the M23 rebel faction. The Security Council asked countries in the region to help stop the flow of supplies to the mutineers and urged other nations in the region to assist in demobilizing all armed militias in the region. The UN also reported that an estimated 200,000 refugees have fled fighting between the M23 rebels and the army. Other militias in North and South Kivu have been involved in chaotic fighting as well. Since mid-May, the mutiny in North Kivu province has had effects in other parts of the eastern Congo and could re-ignite a new regional war.

June 12, 2012: Over 120 people have been killed in ethnic massacres (tribal fighting) during the last 30 days. The most serious massacre occurred between May 17, and May 22, in the Masisi region (North Kivu province). Two Mai-Mai militias (Raia Mutomboki and Kifuafua) are believed to be responsible for the Masisi murder spree. The Mai-Mai allegedly targeted natives of Rwanda. Most of the M23 rebels are from Rwanda, so the implication is the Mai-Mai militias moved into the Masisi region after M23 fighters left the area around May 7. Both rogue militias began as tribal defense organizations. The Kifuafua Mai-Mai militia was originally a Tembo tribal militia which formed in the mid-1990s. It fought against the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia. In 2010, the Kifuafua became angry with the central government because they felt they were being cheated out of political jobs some of their members were promised during peace negotiations. The Raia Mutomboki was another local militia in South Kivu province. Its militiamen clashed with the FDLR in 2011, in the Shabunda area. The Raia Mutomboki also participated in an attack on alleged FDLR supporters in March 2012. There are several other Mai-Mai militias that from time to time crop up in North and South Kivu provinces. The Mai-Mai tend to appear then disappear. Often times a new militia is just an old one with a new leader and the militia takes the new leader’s name. These include the Yakutumba Mai-Mai militia which was once run by a former army officer named Yakutumba. Other Mai-Mai that have operated in the Kivus include the Aochi, the Nyakiliba, the Mulumba, and the Kirikicho. The remnant National Congolese Resistance (RNC) militia is also considered to be a Mai-Mai militia.

June 11, 2012: Several international agencies are saying that there is credible evidence that M23 rebel group, which is largely composed of former CNDP rebel fighters, is receiving aid from groups outside of the Congo. These new claims are in line with a UN report leaked in late May. Today the government claimed that 200 to 300 of the M23 rebels were recruited and trained in Rwanda. The government does not want to antagonize the Rwandan government. It does want Rwanda to help convince the mutineers to end their rebellion. The Rwandan government, however, denies any involvement in the M23 revolt. The CNDP was for the most part an organization run by Congolese Tutsis and the leadership of the Rwandan government is predominantly ethnic Tutsi.

June 7, 2012: Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels attacked a park ranger guard position in the Congo’s Garamba National Park. A group of park rangers discovered a large group of LRA fighters (possibly 50) in the park after investigating gunshots fired near an elephant herd. An hour-long firefight ensued and the park ranger patrol retreated. The park rangers believe they wounded several LRA rebels.

May 28, 2012: Some UN officials believe that Rwanda is helping support the M23 mutiny in North Kivu province. Some mutineers, who defected to the government, claimed they were recruited and trained in Rwanda, then were sent across the border to join the rebellion. Rwanda continues to deny any involvement. General Bosco Ntaganda was born in Rwanda and the CNDP was originally a defense force of Congolese Tutsis.

May 15, 2012: The UN Security Council condemned the May 14th, attacks that seriously injured 11 Pakistani soldiers assigned to peacekeeping duty with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) in the Congo. About a thousand people in the town of Bunvakiri (South Kivu province) attacked a base camp manned by the peacekeepers. At least seven of the Pakistanis were wounded by gunfire. Members of a Mai-Mai militia, the Raia Mutomboki, may have been in the crowd. The name Raia Mutomboki supposedly translates as The Angry or The Angry Citizens.

May 12, 2012: The UN reported that government forces are fighting M23 rebels near the town of Bunagana (North Kivu province, near the Rwanda and Uganda borders).

May 11, 2012: Rwanda reported that 10,000 refugees have fled from the Congo intro Rwanda and Uganda. The refugees are trying to escape fighting instigated by the M23 rebel faction. About 55,000 Congolese refugees, many of them Congolese Tutsis, are now living in Rwanda.

May 7, 2012: The Congolese Army claims that it has retaken the Masisi area (eastern Congo) from M23 rebels. The M23 rebellion began after the Congolese government claimed it intended to arrest Bosco Ntanganda.

 

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