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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid