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

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.