Written by Kevin Dunne.
Troubles in the Congo are reaching powder keg proportions as the M23 rebel group refused to leave the city of Goma on Tuesday. The group has taken a position in the eastern city, which is a major trading hub on the boarder of Rwanda, and, despite an ultimatum from neighbors, has stayed and promised to attack any forces sent against them. The defiance from the group has been called a declaration of war from military figures in the Congo. The city was taken by the rebel forces weeks ago and the ultimatum, given by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, expired on Monday.
The rebel faction formed, according to the Boston Herald, when “the group initially said they wanted to revisit the March 23, 2009 peace accord, which paved the way for the fighters to join the Congolese military. The group initially claimed that Congo had not held up its end of the bargain, failing to provide the fighters with adequate pay and proper equipment.” After ignoring the demands from neighbors, the government now wishes to discuss several other issues brought up by the M23 in an attempt to tackle the source of the problem.
The group is a fresh face in the old struggle for power in the Congo; formed over 7 months ago after defecting from the Congolese army because of the previously mentioned differences. In their short lifespan, the group has been responsible for sweeping acts of violence and forced child recruitment. The M23 are not acting solely alone, but are, in fact, receiving aid from the country of Rwanda to purchase communication systems and weapons. Concurrently, the FDLR, another rebel group based in the Congo, has led several attacks on Rwandan military establishments. This group seeks to retake the country of Rwanda. Both groups have caused problems throughout the region and are largely lingering remnants of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, in which the majority Hutu ethnic group attempted to exterminate the Tutsi minority. The M23 are predominately Tutsi, while the FDLR is composed of Hutu leaders from the genocide itself.
In addition from the massive support from Rwanda, the M23 are receiving a small amount of support from Uganda. The Congo is a mineral-rich country, and some wealthy Ugandans have provided support to the rebel group in hopes of gaining access to those minerals.
The conflict is far from over, especially as Congolese troops are planning on attacking the M23, though have not released a statement as to when any such action may occur. It seems as if the problems in the Congo are only going to intensify in the coming months.