Congo: M23 Crushed Again

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November 6, 2013: The UN Intervention Brigade (IBDE) was not directly involved in the recent series of battles between the Congolese Army and M23 rebels but was in the area. That meant a lot to the Congolese Army and the rebels. The battles began at the end of October and ended with M23 routed, retreating, and suing for peace. The IBDE gave the Congolese Army a lot of confidence when the brigade engaged M23 in late August. IBDE participation encouraged the army to press the rebels and the army won its first tactical victories over M23 in almost two years. Now the question is, will the IBDE’s relative success in the eastern Congo lead UN decision makers to use it against other rebel forces like the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda)? Employing the brigade in the Congo’s south (Katanga province) has already been discussed. The UN could use the brigade to quell the chaos in the Central African Republic (CAR).

However, South African losses in the CAR earlier this year embittered many South African citizens. The CAR may not be in the cards since a South African infantry battalion is the IBDE’s most professional component. The operational speculation inevitably leads to a strategic question: will we see more IBDEs in the future? Will “hard” peacekeeping or peacekeeping with teeth (meaning offensive war waged by the UN) become UN policy? (Austin Bay)

November 5, 2013: The government claimed that it has scored a significant victory over the M23 rebel movement and repeated that it will not accept a ceasefire deal with M23. This followed a rebel announcement that it now intends to disarm and pursue political discussions. The rebels said that M23 commanders were preparing their troops for disarmament and demobilization. If that is not quite surrender, it is close. Observers in eastern Congo confirmed that M23 fighters withdrew from two bases (Tshanzu and Runyoni) and that a large contingent of rebels have surrendered with their weapons. Another group fled across the border into Uganda. A senior M23 commander reportedly fled to Rwanda. The army is now preparing to disarm the FDLR, which was organized by radical Hutus who helped organize and lead the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Elsewhere in the area army, troops are now in control of the town of Bunagana (North Kivu province).

November 4, 2013: Every person in the town of Bunagana is now a refugee. Many residents have fled into Uganda. Congolese Army units and M23 rebels have been fighting in and around the town for several days. Army units supported by tanks and rocket fire attacked an M23 position on a hill near Bungana and forced the defending rebels to retreat.

November 3, 2013: M23 rebel leaders announced that they are declaring a ceasefire. The declaration follows a series of defeats by army units. Most of the fighting has occurred near the Congo-Uganda border.

November 2, 2013: M23 and army units continued to fire on one another around Runyoni (North Kivu province). The situation in the area is chaotic, though the army appears to control the area and has seized key positions near the town of Bungana.

November 1, 2013: Uganda has told Kenya that it believes Jamil Mukulu, a key leader in the ADF (Allied Democratic Force) rebel group, may have assisted the Somalia Islamist militants who attacked a mall in Nairobi in September. The ADF always had militant Islamist connections. Mukulu calls himself the ADF’s Supreme Commander. According to the Ugandan government, the ADF has several bases in the Congo’s North Kivu province.

October 30, 2013: The U.S. believes that the latest surge of fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels could ignite a larger regional war in central Africa and urged all parties in the conflict to re-open peace negotiations.

October 29, 2013: The Seleka rebel group, which now controls the CAR (Central African Republic), is increasingly accused of bad behavior (crimes against humanity) that include random executions of innocent civilians, mass rape, and looting. The largely Moslem Seleka tends to target Christians.

October 28, 2013: A Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed during a firefight between Congolese forces and M23 rebels in the town of Kiwanja. The peacekeeper was part of a contingent assigned to protect civilians in the area. Kiwanja is north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

The Congolese Army reported that it is fighting an M23 force in the town of Kiguri (about 25 kilometers north of Goma). Soldiers took control of Kiwanja on October 27, after taking Kibumba (Rwandan border) the day before. Army units are consolidating their control over these towns.

Meanwhile, M23 rebels acknowledged that they have withdrawn from the town of Rumangabo. M23 had occupied the town since late 2012.

The Rwandan government accused the UN of ignoring the threat posed to Rwanda and peace in central Africa by the FDLR.

October 26, 2013: After two days of stiff fighting the army succeeded in driving M23 rebels from several key positions along the Ugandan and Rwandan borders. This included forcing M23 to abandon the town of Kibumba (20 kilometers north of Goma).

October 25, 2013: Rwanda claimed that its territory was shelled by Congolese Army forces and that it will not tolerate attacks on its territory. At the same time, some 5,000 Congolese civilians had fled into Rwanda to avoid fighting between the army and M23.

The army forces attacked M23 near the town of Kanyamohoro (15 kilometers north of Goma). Troops around Goma were supported by heavy artillery fire.

October 24, 2013: The government is blaming M23 for the breakdown in negotiations which has led to the latest round of fighting in North Kivu province.

October 21, 2013: Peace negotiations between M23 and the government have been officially suspended. M23 has demanded that the Congolese government give senior M23 commanders amnesty. The government does not want to give amnesty to people it calls mutineers. UN mediators warned both sides that the breakdown in talks could lead to another round of fighting. Negotiators had reached agreement on several major issues, but neither side was willing to give on the amnesty demand. At the moment, UN observers estimate that M23 controls around 700 square kilometers of Congolese territory. That zone is divided into several enclaves. The largest enclaves are on the Rwandan and Ugandan borders.

October 20, 2013: The government of Angola claimed that a contingent of Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) soldiers got lost and accidentally crossed the border into Angola’s Cabinda enclave. The Angolan explanation followed a Republic of Congo accusation that Angola had launched an invasion of Republic of Congo territory.

October 19, 2013: A UN investigation found that some 200 former M23 combatants said they were recruited by M23 in either Rwanda or Uganda.

October 15, 2013: Army and M23 rebels fought near the rebel held town of Kanyanahoro and at least one rebel was killed.

October 14, 2013: The government again accused Rwanda of helping M23 and believes that M23 is preparing to launch a new series of attacks in the eastern Congo.

October 13, 2013: The UN condemned an M23 rebel attack on a UN helicopter. The incident occurred near Rumangabo in the eastern Congo.

 

 

 

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