News / Africa

Peace Process Accelerates in Eastern DRC

Congolese M23 rebel fighters gather inside an enclosure after surrendering to Uganda's government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district, 489km (293 miles) west from Uganda capital Kampala, Nov. 8, 2013.
Congolese M23 rebel fighters gather inside an enclosure after surrendering to Uganda's government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district, 489km (293 miles) west from Uganda capital Kampala, Nov. 8, 2013.
Nick Long
After nearly a year of confrontation between the DRC Army and M23 rebels in the violence-ravaged east of the country, the United Nations authorized an intervention brigade to go beyond peacekeeping and support the government with offensive operations.  By November, M23 had surrendered.  Now government and U.N. forces are jointly tackling other militant groups in eastern Congo.  

A year can make a big difference, even in eastern Congo. At the start of the year people there were still reeling from the shock of the M23 rebels capturing the provincial capital, Goma, in November.

The M23 had pulled out of the city after regional leaders came under diplomatic pressure, and in February neighboring states signed a framework peace agreement with the DRC.

Fighting flared again outside Goma in May, just days before U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon was due to visit the city. Undeterred by the violence,  Ban arrived on schedule, with this message for the many women and girls who have suffered sexual violence in eastern DRC.

"I am very angry that women and girls have to endure such barbarity, here and anywhere. This must stop. And I am humbled at their courage. I told them, have a strong courage. The United Nations stands with you and will always support you to overcome your wounds," said Ban.

Ban called for speedy deployment of an intervention brigade of 3,000 troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, to reinforce MONUSCO, the U.N. mission in Congo. The U.N. Security Council had given this brigade a tough mandate to neutralize armed groups.

As this new force started deploying, the mission’s commander, the Brazilian Lieutenant General Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, tried to damp down expectations of what it could achieve.

"It’s very important to know that the intervention brigade is one more tool in the mission in order to bring peace to this region. But we need to be very realistic, because it is not the magic solution to all the problems," said Cruz.

In August, the brigade went into action alongside the Congolese army and, after a week of heavy fighting, the M23 abandoned its positions overlooking Goma. In a ten day offensive in October, the Congolese army and U.N. forces finished off the M23, driving them out of the rest of their territory.

Observers agree that the Congolese army has been much better led this year than last, and clearly it did most of the fighting. The army said 201 of its soldiers and three U.N. soldiers were killed in the October offensive.

Nonetheless, many observers think MONUSCO’s contribution was vital. Timo Mueller is a security analyst in Goma for the U.S. based Enough Project.

"I believe the intervention brigade and MONUSCO played an essential role in helping the Congolese army to defeat the M23 in early November. It provided above all logistical support to the Congolese army, such as gas and medical evacuations, secondly operational support, such as prior planning of operations and, thirdly, it participated in the fighting," said Mueller.

Mueller cautions that there are still dozens of other armed groups in eastern Congo, although none has as many troops or as much heavy weaponry and ammunition as M23 had. The two main foreign armed groups, the Rwandan rebel FDLR and the Ugandan rebel ADF-NALU, are more embedded in the local population, however, and pose a different challenge. Mueller expects one or other of those groups to be the next target.

"I hear mixed messages as to who might be the next target. FDLR is mentioned, but the ADF-NALU is increasingly receiving attention from the brigade," he said.

As for the Congolese armed groups, the U.N. believes there may be some 7,300 men and 3,600 children that will need to be demobilized. Around 1,500 have already volunteered for demobilization, according to Mueller.

So far, there is no publicly announced government plan for what will happen to ex-armed group members. It is a very delicate issue, Mueller suggests.

A Congolese civil society activist says he believes the government will not repeat mistakes it made in the past, when it allowed armed groups to be reconstituted as army units, sometimes under their former leaders.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid