Fighting Resumes Outside Goma in DRC
Congolese government troops ride armored vehicles toward the front line, near the eastern city of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2013.
GOMA — After a three-week lull, heavy fighting has resumed outside Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. M23 rebels and the DRC army blame each other for renewing hostilities. The battle began Wednesday night and continued into Thursday.
These are the first major hostilities between the government army and M23 since the army bombed the rebels’ headquarters last month. Between July 15 and 19, the army succeeded in driving the rebels back four or five kilometers from Goma - a key city on the border with Rwanda. Many civilians in Goma reacted angrily when this apparently successful offensive was called off and a fragile truce was reinstated.
That isn't surprising the citizens of Goma have been plagued by these armed thugs for too long.
An army spokesman, Colonel Olivier Hamuli, said the rebels started the fighting Wednesday evening and attacked again early Thursday morning, but without success.
He said the army had the upper hand and was fighting with artillery and small arms but has not deployed helicopters.
He denied reports from the M23 that bombs are landing in civilian-occupied areas at Kayanja, in the rebel-held zone.
Hamuli said that there were no civilians in the zone, just soldiers, so there wouldn’t be any collateral damage.
I am not so sure about that denial Chantal Faida has posted the following on Facebook
( Google Translation )
NORTH Kivu / BLACK THURSDAY GOMA. BOMBS FELL IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS. Katindo TO Unigom (at an agent of MONUSCO, a Sidibe ABDOUL only property damage), OFFICE TO BLACK HOUSE (two serious injuries and property damage), Q.OFFICE the Anglican school believe IDPs ( Internally displaced
persons ) living over there there were children killed on the way to hospital). S.O.S
An M23 spokesman, Kabasha Amani, accused the government of provoking the hostilities before Wednesday evening.
There is an almost farcical element to this conflict. I have a fairly low opinion of the Congolese Army ( FARDC ) and the Congolese Government, but for all that they are the legitimate power in the DR Congo, yet here we have a rebel spokesman accusing the government of provoking hostilities as though he was the head of a nation state. That is of course the end goal but rebellion only has one justification.
“There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a liege lord.”
“Unless you win.” James Clavell ShogunM23 are not going to win.
He said rebels saw the government was massing troops near M23 positions and making small incursions even before fighting intensified Wednesday.
A civilian living near the combat zone, Dr. Isaac Warwanamiza, said the army appeared to be making some progress.
He said the army has advanced toward the M23 positions and the front line has moved as far as the Kibati mosque, nearly a kilometer north of where it was earlier on Wednesday.
Rebel spokesman Kabasha conceded government forces have been moving forward.
The reality is that the Congolese Army can't afford another debacle like last November when M23 routed them and it would appear the government has learnt from that. They are now using well trained and equipped troops and remembering to pay them.
He said he thought the army would continue to bombard the rebels and then advance through Thursday, but he vowed M23's fighters would hold their ground.
Kabasha called on DRC President Joseph Kabila to return to peace talks at Kampala, which have proceeded in fits and starts since last December.
There is no milage for Kabila in returning to the peace talks. He has the best Congolese troops backed up by the Intervention Brigade ( Africa Brigade ). The Intervention Brigades arrival has reduced the ability of Rwanda to support the rebels. When M23 controlled Goma they had a limited ability to force negotiations but internal divisions have robbed the rebel movement of much of its strength. Human Rights Watch has reported on M23 increasingly desperate recruitment strategies.
A 15-year-old Rwandan boy told Human Rights Watch that he and three other young men and boys were promised jobs as cow herders in Congo, but when they got to Congo were forced to join the M23. They were given military training by Rwandan officers in Congo and told they would be killed if they tried to escape. Other M23 deserters also said Rwandan officers were training new M23 recruits.
Congolese media report that the new head of the UN mission in Congo has said he wants the mission to be closer to local people in areas plagued by armed groups.
That could mean the mission will give more direct backing to the government against the M23, who appear to have little popular support.