Congo: Going For Goma And The Wicked M23

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

July 16, 2012: The M23 rebel military, led by general Bosco Ntaganda, continues to hold the town of Bunagana, on the Congo-Uganda border. M23’s rebel fighters now face a reinforced UN peacekeeping contingent. However, M23 has demonstrated that it is able to defeat the Congolese Army (FARDC) any time it decides to make a concerted effort. The rebels appeared to be driving toward Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. However, the UN has reinforced the town. Still, the rebels have positioned their main force to threaten Goma, which is a major transit point for Congolese mineral shipments (tin and tantalum, mainly). M23 can also control other trade routes (like Bunagana) north of Goma, or at least close them. M23 maintains that it is willing to negotiate with the government and will turn over the towns they control to UN forces if the government agrees to talks. M23 has around 1,500 to 2,000 fighters in the area most of them ethnic Tutsis. Many of them once served in the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) militia and were subsequently integrated into the Congolese Army after the 2009 peace agreement. In March and April of this year they began defecting from the Congolese Army. M23 takes its name from the date the Congolese peace agreement was signed, March 23, 2009.

July 15, 2012: The Congo and Rwanda have signed an agreement to eliminate armed rebel groups in the eastern Congo. Key leaders of both countries put their personal stamp of approval on the deal, face to face. The agreement is designed to insure that the Rwandan government is not supplying the M23 rebels.

The African Union said that it is willing to send peacekeeping troops to the eastern Congo in order to stop armed rebel groups.

July 14, 2012: Uganda has beefed up military and police units along the Congo-Uganda border, in order to stop spill-over violence from battles between the Congolese Army and the M23 rebel militia. Special police security units have increased patrols in and near the town of Nteko.

July 13, 2012: The UN reported that it has reinforced peacekeeping units in North Kivu province. Another contingent of UN forces has moved into Goma. The army reported that it had recaptured the towns of Rutshuru and Kiwanja. Both towns had been under the control of M23 fighters. M23 claimed that its fighters withdrew from the town and would retake them if M23 supporters in the towns are threatened by government security forces.

July 12, 2012: UN and Congolese Army helicopter gunships attacked a M23 rebel position near Bukima village, 35 kilometers north of Goma (near the Rwandan border).

July 10, 2012: The army is sending a U.S.-trained infantry battalion to Goma. The battalion is currently in northern Congo, conducting operations against the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The UN is also repositioning troops near the town of Goma, sending in a Ghanaian infantry unit. A special forces contingent with Egyptian, Jordanian, and Guatemalan special forces troops is also heading toward the town. The UN indicated that it is preparing to defend Goma from attack by M23 rebels. UN briefers said that M23 fighters have good equipment and are well-supplied.

July 9, 2012: M23 rebels pulled out of the town of Rutshuru, which they seized July 8. M23 claimed that its fighters withdrew in order to prevent civilian casualties if a battle erupted in the town. A senior rebel officer said that M23 would continue to hold the town of Bunagana (Uganda-Congo border).

July 6, 2012: M23 rebels attacked and seized the town of Bunagana (Uganda-Congo border). Some 600 Congolese soldiers fled into Uganda., where security forces disarmed them and gave them refugee status. Over 2,000 Congolese civilians also fled into Uganda. One UN peacekeeper died fighting in the area on July 5.

July 2, 2012: A new UN report has confirmed that Rwanda is supporting rebel militias in the eastern Congo. Officials indicated that the U.S. had temporarily blocked release of the UN investigation. However, the U.S. claimed that it had asked Rwanda to help prevent supplies from reaching the M23 rebels. The UN report said that Rwanda has provided weapons and recruits. Some Rwandan soldiers have also aided M23. Rwanda has denied the allegations.

June 29, 2012: The UN released a report on how Congolese rebel militias finance themselves. Crime is a favorite method. Rebel militias have robbed banks. The International Bank for Africa, in Goma, has been robbed twice. They also run extortion rackets, though they like to say they are collecting taxes. The rebels take cows from defenseless civilians. They set up illegal roadblocks, then take a percentage of a vehicle’s load as a transit fee. The biggest racket is smuggling precious metals, especially gold.

June 26, 2012: Despite new laws, illegal gold (conflict gold) is still being sold. Several reports have documented active trading in the town of Mongbwalu. Significant amounts of smuggled tantalum and tungsten are also reaching international markets.

June 24, 2012: Another seven Congolese army officers and some 170 soldiers have reportedly deserted and joined the M23 militia.

June 21, 2012: Since the mid-1990s, when the great Congo War erupted, over five million people have died due to the conflict. That is the right way to word it – due to the conflict. Most of the dead died from exposure, starvation, and disease. Earlier this month, the UN reported that 204 peacekeepers have died in the conflict. The UN deployed armed soldiers in 2000.

 

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