The seizure of Goma and proliferating negotiations

How the deep fractures in Congolese politics aided M23's swift invasion of Goma. Français.

4 December 2012

In April 2012, it was in the Kivus that soldiers from the FARDC defected from the army. The majority were Congolese from Rwanda who had remained faithful to General Bosco Ntaganda after he became wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Congolese government launched an offensive against the rebels, who resisted and took control of the Rutshuru territory, which they have now controlled for more than six months.

Many people in Congo and abroad are wondering why Goma fell into the hands of the rebels so fast and without any resistance. In fact, the men of the M23 are neither capable nor in sufficient number to overcome a city as big and strategic as Goma, but this was achieved by the expansionist-minded coalition of the Ugandans and the Rwandese, to whom the rebels of the M23 are only pawns.

The reason why the city fell is that the troops from the FARDC left the city without fighting. Asked to explain why, Colonel Olivier Amuli, the spokesman of the 8th military region said that the troops of the  FARDC left so as to save the civilians from a bloodbath. However, the same military spokesman says that they are going to launch an attack to recover the city of Goma. One is left wondering what methods he advocates to protect civilians.

Many soldiers from the FARDC died during the attacks. Eighty soldiers have been wounded and abandoned in the military hospital of Goma where they receive no care and are not monitored, since all the soldiers including military nurses fled to escape the fighting.

Another reason why the city fell is that the Congolese army is infiltrated by foreigners (65%), mainly because of a process implemented by the government after the peace agreement signed in Goma in 2009 between General Laurent Nkunda, former head of the CNDP, and the Congolese government. Other armed groups like the Mai-Mai, Kirikicho, Kapopo, Simba, Yakotumba, Raia Mutomboki, Nyatura, etc., have signed the agreement.

This process, which has been diversely called integration, blending, or intermingling, drove to the FARDC all the criminals and the rapists and is at the root of the misfortunes of the Congolese. All the warlords were awarded ranks and duties, which is why there are more military officers in the Congolese army than rank-and-file soldiers. All these colonels, majors, captains and second-lieutenants have received no military or ideological training. Most of them are illiterate and have been raised to their positions because they are the younger brothers or cousins of a particular officer, or because they belong to the tribe of the general in charge of the integration, the blending or the intermingling.

People were promoted to the rank of officer for having shot civilians or raped a woman, to the point where the FARDC was saturated with all these criminals.

Why the M23 rebels recruit successfully

Regarding the seizure of Goma by the rebels of the M23 and their threat to continue the war, many people comment that “the Democratic Republic of the Congo is betrayed by her own sons and daughters”. Many Congolese political figures from the presidential majority as well as from the opposition rally the M23 rebels to fight the Congolese government.

When Prime Minister Augustin Matata Mponyo formed his government, some political figures like the national deputies from the East of the DRC did not get ministerial offices. Dissatisfied with this decision, they chose to join the rebels of the M23 against the government, hoping to be rewarded with ministerial offices – three months of which in the DRC being enough to make you rich and able to buy villas in Europe or elsewhere. The children of Congolese cabinet members also have the possibility to study in America, in Europe or in South Africa in good universities, while there are no desks in the schools where others study, particularly in the villages destroyed by the war.

For a long time, the members of the Congolese opposition who joined the M23 rebels had tried to engage in a national and inclusive dialogue with President Kabila, arguing of the many irregularities and disputes over the elections of November 2011. President Kabila refused. He adamantly rejected the dialogue, which caused his opponents to rally the M23 rebels so as to impose this dialogue.

I take at his word Jean-Marie Runiga Rugerero, leader of the M23 rebels, when he says that Kabila must negotiate with the rebels of the M23, the Congolese opposition and the opposition in the diaspora, if he wants the M23 rebels to leave Goma. They have now received a mandate from this opposition group which had been requesting a dialogue for a long time. These opponents as well as other Congolese politicians have become opportunists who declare wars so as to be invited to the table and get their share of the cake.

History repeats itself. People still remember the global and inclusive agreement signed in Sun City, South Africa, in December 2002, which led to the formation of a government made of one President and four Vice Presidents. The DRC is the only country in the world where the republic is directed by one President and four Vice Presidents, and probably no other country will ever resort to such a measure to solve a crisis.

Bleak outlook for the future

Many people think that the negotiations in Kampala between the M23 rebels and Kabila are a waste of time, since the rebels chose to avoid direct negotiations with the government and to negotiate instead with Kabila in the hope of trapping him. They go beyond the specifications given, and bring up other issues such as opening the dialogue to other players like the political opposition, the civil society or the opposition of the diaspora. They also bring up elements of the FDLR and many others so as to stall the process.

Many things are happening in the country, and the Congolese need the help of others to help the country recover from the abyss where it has fallen. Many Congolese would thus like President Kabila to inform them of all the secret agreements he signs with the rebels. He is the President of the Republic, but the country belongs to all the Congolese citizens.



Translated by Ludmilla Barrand

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