News / Africa

DR Congo, Rwanda Agree on 'Partial Solution' to M23 Rebellion

M23 rebel fighters rest at their defense position in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in north Kivu province, near the border with Uganda, July 12, 2012.
M23 rebel fighters rest at their defense position in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in north Kivu province, near the border with Uganda, July 12, 2012.
Nick Long
KINSHASA — The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have agreed to a proposal for a neutral force to be stationed along their border.  The agreement, signed by the presidents of the two countries on Sunday, says the proposed force would help to eradicate the Congolese rebel movement, the M23, and other armed groups in the region.

The proposal was put forward by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, an inter-governmental body for 11 countries including Rwanda, Congo and other neighboring states.

It is not clear which of these countries would supply troops for the neutral force, nor where the money would come from, although the African Union has said it would be prepared to help.

Rwanda’s foreign minister has said the agreement is not the solution, but part of the solution to the M23 rebellion, which started in April and which Rwanda denies supporting.

The M23 rebels are led by ethnic Tutsi commanders who for many years have had strong links with the Tutsi-dominated government in Rwanda.

A Congolese Tutsi community leader, Edouard Mwangachuchu, says that the agreement is a good sign and suggests the M23 war can be settled by negotiation. "I think the Congolese government is working very hard to finish this war, by negotiation, and I think if Rwanda cooperates with the government, this war will end," he said.

The M23 rebels take their name from an agreement they signed with the DRC government on March 23, 2009, in which they agreed to integrate with the army and to turn their political wing, then called the CNDP, or National Congress for the Defense of the People, into a political party.

They say they started the M23 rebellion because the March 23 agreement was never properly implemented.

Senator Mwangachuchu helped to negotiate that agreement in 2009 and is currently the president of the CNDP.  He admits that the agreement was not fully implemented but says that the M23 leaders should have talked this through with the government instead of starting a new rebellion.

Mwangachuchu says that everything still needs to be negotiated and he suggests that the 2009 agreement could still be a basis for talks between the M23 and the government. "They could just go back and go over the things that the agreement says.  So they could say we have [agreed] this and it did not happen," he said. "At that time we could go back and review all the agreement and fix the things that were not done."

Controversial points in the agreement are likely to include the return of some 53,000 Congolese Tutsi refugees from Rwanda and the future deployment of Tutsi soldiers in the Congolese army.  It is not clear how many of those refugees have returned, and the Tutsi soldiers from the CNDP have for years resisted being deployed away from the Kivu provinces, their home region.

Another Congolese Tutsi leader, Senator Moise Nyarugabo, says some Tutsi soldiers have difficulty fully integrating with the army because they face discrimination from other communities.  

"I think this is one reason why some soldiers from the Tutsi community are not ready to go very far from the Kivu - it’s such kind of discrimination.  Even some soldiers are afraid to go far from where they can protect themselves," said Nyarugabo.

Tutsis in Congo have never been victims of a genocide as the Tutsis were in Rwanda, but they have faced expulsion from certain areas.  They have nevertheless been more successful in business than other communities, and their large land acquisitions over the the years and during recent wars have caused resentment.

Hostility to Congolese Tutsi also stems from the fact that many of them have been close allies of the Rwandan army in Congo’s recent wars.  Several times, Rwanda has supported rebellions in eastern Congo on the grounds that it still faces a threat from the remnants of Rwandan Hutu forces which fled the area after the 1994 genocide.

Senator Mwangachuchu says the great majority of Tutsi soldiers in the Congolese army have not joined the M23, which was thought to have only a few hundred fighters, but in the past two weeks has defeated much larger Congolese army forces.

It is widely believed that the trigger for the M23 rebellion was the judgement by the International Criminal Court against the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who was found guilty of conscripting and using child soldiers.  One of the M23’s leaders, Bosco Ntaganda, is co-accused with Thomas Lubanga and faces an ICC arrest warrant.

It’s thought he started the rebellion because he was afraid of being handed over to the Hague.

Senator Nyarugabo said he was not happy with the way the ICC had been doing its job since it had only convicted one person, Thomas Lubanga, in 10 years.

"And the only charge they got him on was recruitment of child soldiers in the army.  Do you know how many armed groups in Africa are recruiting child soldiers?  Almost all of them," explained Nyarugabo. "I’m sorry, personally I am not very proud of that international justice.  Sometimes I have the impression they are just doing some politics."

But Nyarugabo also said that recruitment of child soldiers should be discouraged and Bosco Ntaganda should have to take responsibility for his acts.  

Nyarugabo insists that the Tutsi community should not be stigmatized as rebels.  He points out that many of them are fighting against the M23.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More