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the M23 rebels at the gates of Goma

Artillery fire, offensives, counter-offensives, breakthroughs, retreats… Since Friday, November 11, fighting has intensified in North Kivu between the M23 rebellion and the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). At this time, it is difficult to have a precise idea of ​​the situation as the information is contradictory and the combat zones are not easily accessible to journalists. Monday, November 14, it seems established, however, that the M23 broke through the front that surrounded it in Virunga Park and especially in the direction of the regional capital, Goma.

However, on Friday, the positions of the rebel movement were intensely targeted by Congolese army artillery, just three days after airstrikes carried out by two Congolese fighter jets and two helicopter gunships. These shots would have killed about fifteen civilians, according to the spokesman of the M23, Lawrence Kanyuka.

The impotence of blue helmets

The intensity of the artillery campaign was supposed to prepare, in principle, a land offensive by the Congolese army on the rebel positions. But the M23, far from having been weakened by this preparatory phase, went on the counter-offensive on Saturday. Solidly armed and above all very effective on the ground, the rebels were once again able to shake up the forces opposing them on their western flank. And on Sunday evening, the advanced elements of the M23 were no more than twenty kilometers from Goma.

Will the capital of North Kivu fall like in 2012? The blue helmets have not yet demonstrated, as in 2012, their ability to defend the city. In an interview with RFI and France 24 on September 18, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres admitted that ” the United Nations (they were not) not capable of beating the M23″, specifying: “The truth is that the M23 is today a modern army, with heavy equipment which is more advanced than the equipment of Monusco (the UN force deployed in the DRC, editor’s note). »

The arrival of the Kenyans

However, compared to 2012, the novelty today is the presence, since Saturday, of a hundred Kenyan soldiers in Goma. This contingent is the vanguard of the 900 soldiers who will be deployed in the DRC from Nairobi as part of the future force of the Community of East African States (EAC), the principle of which was adopted in June by the sub-regional organization (1). A force placed under the Kenyan command whose size and objectives are unclear for the moment.

Upon his arrival in Goma, Kenyan Lieutenant-Colonel Dennis Obiero publicly stated that his mission was to “carry out offensive operations” alongside the Congolese forces and to help disarm the militias.

The former rebellion defeated in 2013 by the Congolese army – with the support of blue helmets – took up arms again at the end of 2021. It criticizes Kinshasa for not having respected agreements on the demobilization and reintegration of its fighters. And she accuses him of having allied himself with the FDLR (Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda), a movement of Rwandan Hutu rebels founded – and still composed today – by those responsible for the genocide of Tutsis in 1994. An alliance indeed documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW). But Kinshasa denies this charge.

Rwanda accused of supporting the rebellion

On the other hand, Kinshasa denounces the active support of Rwanda to the M23. “Rwanda’s involvement and responsibility in the tragedy experienced by my country and my compatriots in the areas occupied by the Rwandan army and its M23 allies are no longer debatable”, judged President Félix Tshisekedi during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, September 20, in New York. An implication which would also be pointed out by a confidential report of the UN, consulted in August by AFP and established by HRW, as the NGO recalls in a press release published on 1er november.

The only thinning in this increasingly international conflict, the Community of East African States announced on Sunday the resumption of peace talks on the situation in eastern DRC on 21 November in Nairobi.


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