Congo's Eastern Rebels Seize Goma: Will Rwanda Then Takeover?

From World ยป Alex Perry | TIME.com Tue Nov 20 2012, 12:01:14

When I spent a few days with the M23 rebels of eastern Congo in August, they were clear that their April mutiny against the Congolese army and seizure of territory along the Rwandan and Ugandan borders was essentially a form of blackmail. The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its President, Joseph Kabila, were weak and corrupt, they said, and constantly tried to cheat, steal from or even kill men from the east -- who, like most of the M23, were former rebels integrated into the national army after a similar rebellion in the east in 2009. The mutineers, hardly angels themselves, with a string of human rights violations to their names, including the recruitment of children, use of rape and sometimes execution of civilians, said they didn't necessarily want to take the strategic eastern cities of Goma or Bukavu, and certainly didn't want to advance on the capital Kinshasa. But they did want the government to honor the integration deal it agreed on March 23, 2009 and since it hadn't -- withholding salaries, integrating soldiers at lower ranks, even continuing to kill a few easterners -- the rebels were trying to force it to. What if Kinshasa still refused to come up with the goods, I asked? They'd take Goma, a base for one of the world's largest U.N. peacekeeping and aid operations, to up their bargaining position and press their point. "Taking Goma would not be a battle," said Major Emille Shabani, who had defected from the Congolese army to the rebels a few days before. "The government soldiers are tired and they know no one will look after their families if they die." That's the broad scenario that appeared to have played out Tuesday as M23 rebels rolled into Goma unopposed by government forces, who fled precisely as the rebels predicted, and peacekeepers from MONUSCO, the Congo U.N. force, who simply watched. Though there had been some sporadic fighting on the outskirts of Goma Monday, loss of life seemed mercifully low. A German ...

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