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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora