Rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are on a mission to repair their image.

"The fastest way to stardom and money and power in poor countries like the DRC is to build a militia, to get support from foreign countries like Rwanda and Uganda .... A real, sustainable military solution would be to help DRC have a solid and strong army, a strong state."

- Marie-Roger Biloa, the editor of Africa International magazine

The M23 rebel army, which seized control of areas along the border with Rwanda, is now establishing its own administration, complete with ministers, committees and local councils. The group is trying to present itself as a new type of Congolese army - as a stabilising and liberating force.

But people in the region remain sceptical of their motives.

Leaders of the DRC, Rwanda and nine other nations have been meeting in Kampala for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to discuss cooperation against armed rebels in the DRC.

On Tuesday they agreed to deploy a joint force in eastern DRC.

Details of the size and composition of the joint force are yet to be finalised but the decision marks a breakthrough for regional states.

"I'm very sceptical. It will be very difficult to find the funding, troops, a political agreement among states about this force, and there is a real danger that the can will just get kicked down the road ... and the military situation in eastern Congo will continue to escalate."

- Jason Stearns, a former UN expert on DRC

The DRC government has persistently accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels - claims Rwanda continues to deny.

Inside Story asks: Is military action the answer to this crisis? And what does it mean for security in this volatile region?

Joining presenter Ghida Fakhry for the discussion are guests: Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, a lecturer at the school of advanced international studies at Johns Hopkins University; Marie-Roger Biloa, the editor of Africa International, a pan-African magazine; and Jason Stearns, a former UN coordinator of a group of experts on DRC and a director at Rift Valley Institute who has written several books on DRC, including Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa.

"It [the current crisis] is the expression of the bad negotiations that have taken place between Kinshasa and various militia groups, integrating them into the military but not really making them part of the larger structure .... [A] military solution [does] not lead anywhere."

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University


  • History appears to be repeating itself in DRC, and for almost 20 years ethnic rivalries have led to fighting across the eastern border.
  • In 1994, the conflict in Rwanda begins leading to the genocide of mostly Tutsis. By June the Tutsis take power in Rwanda and the Hutus flee to DRC.
  • In DRC, Laurent Kabila comes to power in 1997, backed by Rwanda. But Kabila loses Rwanda's support in 1998, sparking five years of conflict.
  • The war between DRC and Rwanda ends in 2003. Six years later the two countries sign a peace deal and the Congolese Tutsi rebels are integrated into DRC's army.
  • But in March 2012, the Congolese Tutsi fighters who set up the M23 group stage an army mutiny. The DRC alleges that the group is getting support from the Tutsi-led Rwandan government.

Source: Al Jazeera