Saturday, April 6, 2013

DR Congo: All eyes on Goma.

Radio Okapi ( DR Congo ) reports ( in French translated by Google translate )

North Kivu: the President of the Provincial Assembly denounces the troop surge M23
April 5, 2013,

                                                                                     Les rebelles du M23

Several dozen soldiers from Rwanda have crossed the last three days to reinforce the troops of March 23 Movement in North Kivu, denounced Thursday, April 4th, the President of the Provincial Assembly of North Kivu during a press conference in Goma. According to him, these reinforcements would seek a new attack on the city of Goma to force the government to give in to the M23.

 I can't see this as credible option for M23 or Rwanda but I note  Alex Engwete   does not dismiss this as unrealistic.

" According to observers who've elaborated on the basis of Hakizimwami's 
initial analysis, Rwanda--and Uganda, incidentally--wants M23 to 
reoccupy Goma--and eventually attack Bukavu--ahead of the deployment 
of MONUSCO's Intervention Brigade so as: (1) to preempt this 
intervention by rendering the costs of its collateral damage 
prohibitive in urban settings; and (2) to force the DRC government to 
heed M23 "claims" (Hakizimwami). "

My feeling is that M23 are in deep trouble, under strength and divided in goals and can be dismissed as they are being by the Government of the DR Congo.   
Bertrand Bisimwa is pleading with Uganda's Museveni to restart the peace talks that have languished in Kampala. The African Intervention Brigade  rumored to be going into action in as little as two weeks and as far away as three months must be factored into the decision making of the now depleted remnants of M23 and Rwanda as current chair of the UN Security Council would be wise to play a straight hand over this.

 "The same soldiers who went to Rwanda are being returned quietly to support those who are in Rutshuru. Really consistent reports of a concentration of men and weapons on the Rumangabo Kibumba-axis, just for the sole purpose of making an assault on the city of Goma, "said Jules Hakizimwami without specifying whether s 'is Congolese and Rwandan soldiers.

One would expect something as grave as this to be easily verifiable and I am not reading any reports of troop build ups. To do this away from scrutiny suggests a capability and discipline  that I doubt  M23 or Rwanda possess. 

This termination occurs after the Rwandan government announced Wednesday, have relocated more than 100 km from the border with Congo rebels M23 who were defeated in Kibumba a rival faction of the rebellion on March 16. Rwandan Minister for Refugees stated that his country hosted the men on humanitarian grounds and that they should choose between the status of refugees and their military activities.

I assume that is in reference to this. 

A new wave of Congolese refugees including combatants fleeing recent fighting between two factions of M23 rebels have crossed into North Western Rwanda overnight.

Foreign Minister and Government spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo confirmed that among the recent influx are about 600 combatants: "The soldiers and officers from DRC that have entered Rwanda have been disarmed and detained. Several wounded among them are receiving treatment with assistance from the Red Cross. We are consulting several regional and international organisations to facilitate appropriate handling of this new group of refugees."

Among those who have sought refuge in Rwanda is Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga, former president of M23, who has been kept separately away from the refugee camp for his own safety and has requested to go to Uganda.

Now I will be the first to admit I treat any statement from any part of the Rwandan government with extreme skepticism but I can't see anything to sinister in this. We know that a bloody conflict occurred within the M23 factions. It would seem unlikely that that is now in the past and the M23 movement is now solidly behind Bertrand Bisimwa to the point that another invasion of Goma is on the cards.

This also assumes that MONUSCO will again allow the rebels to take control unopposed as last time. That I just don't see at all. MONUSCO is a joke and it needs all the credibility it can garner at the moment. Handing over Goma to the remnants of M23 in the days preceding the launch of the African Intervention Brigade just fails the credibility test.

 "We are tired. The population of Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Goma, Masisi and elsewhere are not guinea pigs on which to experiment with weapons performance, the performance of soldiers who are experienced in the field of battle, "lamented Jules Hakizimwami .

According to him, the attempt by the rebels M23 reoccupy Goma is orchestrated by neighboring countries of DRC.

"We believe that enough is enough and we are aloud to wear our denunciation against precisely this attempt to occupy the umpteenth, especially since it's always with the help of neighbors! And we know from reliable sources that they get help from neighboring countries, "he said.

I don't doubt his claims about M23 having received support in the past from neighbours but the situation on the ground has changed at least temporarily and the price of such interference might well be to high.

The President of the Provincial Assembly of North Kivu called the Armed Forces of the DRC and MONUSCO to take the necessary arrangements to ensure that the population of Goma revive her experience last November when the M23 has held this strategic city of North Kivu for over a week.

That is a poor translation but the meaning is obvious to all and MONUSCO if not FARDC should be paying attention.

Established in May, rebels from the M23 are CNDP of Bosco Ntaganda. They demand the full implementation of the agreements signed between the government and the CNDP on 23 March 2009, which included the recognition of degrees rebels amnesty and the transformation of the movement into a political party, the return of refugees.

After briefly occupied Goma in late November 2012, the rebels withdrew in exchange ( talks ) opened in Kampala in December and negotiations are suspended at present.

Given the total mess that seems to have occurred within M23 that is not a surprise. I don't see the negotiations being reopened but rather M23 is going to get told to accept what gains it has made and the African Brigade is a very large stick that will be in the forefront of the rebels thinking.

On February 24, eleven African countries signed a framework agreement for peace in eastern DRC under the auspices of the United Nations. They pledged not to support criminals and armed groups destabilizing the region. These heads of state have created a task force that the UN was created within MONUSCO to combat armed groups.

After the creation of this force with an offensive term as UN calls "intervention brigade" Kinshasa called M23 cease to exist. The M23 has its share disapproved the creation of this brigade, accusing the UN of having exercise the option of war not of peace.

The message seems to be being sent to M23 that they now exist on sufferance and any further acts of stupidity will erode what little goodwill there is towards them.

Hat Tip Alex Engwete

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