After weeks of intense fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, M23 rebels say they have taken control of parts of Goma, one of the main cities in the mineral-rich region.
The Congolese government, on Monday, rejected an ultimatum to open talks with M23.
This came after the rebels gave the government 24 hours to withdraw troops and open direct negotiations before they said they would advance on Goma.
The DR Congo has had a turbulent past. It gained independence from Belgium in 1960, but immediately faced an army mutiny, and the UN voted to send in troops to establish order.
“Blaming is not a defence of the [Congolese] people. [To] keep on blaming the neighbours, blaming the rebels who have taken arms against your government, is not a defence. Go fight them, defeat them …. You can defeat them by changing within yourself. How do you change? It’s clear that the government in Kinshasa has some serious inefficiency. Bring reforms within yourself, fight corruption, fight all the means which are there undermining the military.“
– Yussa Bunzigiye, a Congo rights activist
In 1965, Mobutu Sese Seko seized power. He later renamed the country Zaire.
He retained power until 1997, when Rwanda invaded to drive out Hutu militias.
Laurent Kabila was installed as president and he re-named the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A year later, rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda rose up against Kabila.
Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe were drawn into a five-year conflict, which became known as Africa’s world war. At least three million people are believed to have died.
During this time, Joseph Kabila succeeded his father, who was shot dead by a bodyguard.
In 2006, he won the first free and fair presidential elections in 40 years. Kabila was re-elected in a disputed poll last year.
But his years in office have been dogged by violence, which continues to this day.
“There is no support of Rwanda to the M23. What has happened today is a clear indication that a military solution has failed to bring a solution to the crisis in eastern DRC, and a political solution is now more important than ever and Rwanda is walking towards that goal.“
– Olivier Nduhungirehe, representative of Rwanda Mission at the UN
Last month, a UN report accused neighbouring countries of backing the M23 rebels.
It said the rebellion in the eastern DR Congo is being armed by Rwanda and Uganda.
Rebel leaders are said to receive direct military orders from Rwanda.
Both Rwanda and Uganda reject allegations that they support the group.
So, why does the government of DR Congo refuse to hold talks with the rebel soldiers? And is military action really the answer to this conflict?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Ghida Fakhry, is joined by guests: Emmanuel Dupuy from the Institute for Prospective and Security Studies in Europe; Yussa Bunzigiye from the Congo Global Coalition, an alliance of humanitarian, human rights and environmental organisations specialising in DR Congo; and Olivier Nduhungirehe, the first counsellor with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations.
THE M23 REBELLION IN DR CONGO:
- M23 rebels in DR Congo seize part of the regional capital Goma
- Goma is a provincial capital in the mineral-rich east of DR Congo
- M23 rebels now control Goma airport near the Rwandan border
- The DR Congo government has rejected an ultimatum to open talks with M23 rebels
- M23 rebels are former soldiers of the DR Congo army who mutinied in April
- Rwanda and Uganda are alleged to be arming M23 and the rebellion in east DR Congo
- The UN says Rwandan officials are ‘co-ordinating’ with M23 rebels
- Bosco Ntaganda leads the M23 group and controls the rebellion on the ground
- Bosco Ntaganda is wanted by International Criminal Court for war crimes
- M23 rebels have been fighting DR Congo government troops for past six months
- Around half a million people have been displaced as a result of the fighting