The M23 rebel movement is advancing on the city of Goma in eastern Congo. Panic breaks out among those displaced by the war.
KAMPALA taz | The rebels of the M23 (Movement of March 23) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announce a “Storm on Goma!” Government army soldiers are already fleeing the city, Tuesday’s report said. The capital of the province of North Kivu in eastern Congo will “fall without a fight”.
Almost exactly ten years after the M23 took Goma in a coup d’état, the drama seems to be repeating itself. Panic broke out in the city of millions on the shores of Lake Kivu and in the surrounding displaced persons camps.
In the past few weeks and months, since the Tutsi-led rebels of the M23 conquered large areas in the tri-border region along the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, up to 40,000 families fled the embattled villages with their belongings in the direction of Goma. In Kanyaruchinya, a northern suburb at the foot of the active Nyiragongo volcano, they have settled around a large school with a soccer field, where they have built tents out of tarpaulins and eucalyptus branches – a disastrous situation, it’s raining.
Now they have to flee again. Artillery fire was heard from Kanyaruchinya on Tuesday. Panicked, women and children gathered their belongings and ran down the hill towards the town. Cell Phone Videos, which were shared on Twitter, show the stampede. The front line between the government army and the M23 is only about 10 kilometers to the north and the rebels are advancing.
The rebels want to negotiate
The M23 is trying to capture an important military position: an extinct small volcanic crater with three telephone poles on its top, the so-called “Trois Antennes”. From this hill in the savannah you can see the megacity of Goma as far as the lake – and also bomb it.
From here the M23 had exactly ten years ago captured Goma on November 20, 2012. Now she wants to at least put herself in a position to be able to do that again – if the government doesn’t agree to talks. “Occupying areas is not our goal,” M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa told the taz a few days ago. the aim is to negotiate with the Congo government.
North Kivu’s military governor, General Constant Ndima, who has ruled the province since martial law was imposed last year, is urging the population to remain calm. “We assure you that the loyal government forces are doing very well on the battlefield,” he tries to reassure people. However, the army has lost almost all battles against the M23 in recent months.
End the war first, then talk
Meanwhile, Kenya’s ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Goma on Tuesday. He has been appointed mediator by the heads of state of the East African Community (EAC), of which Congo has been a member since April. On Monday he met President Felix Tshisekedi in the Congo capital of Kinshasa.
A large round of talks was to take place in Kenya’s capital this week: numerous Congolese militias and rebel groups are said to be negotiating with their government, mediated by Kenyatta. However, the Congo government has refused to sit down with the M23. “There will be no negotiations with the terrorists until the occupied locations are withdrawn,” assured government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.
“Let’s end the war and then we’ll talk,” Kenyatta now urges the conflicting parties. “We cannot have a dialogue and only then cease hostilities.” The talks, originally already in April were planned have now been postponed to next week, November 21st.
And the new Congo war is also an issue at the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta there on Tuesday. UN investigators have released evidence that Rwanda is providing military support to the M23. “I underscored the deep concern of the United States at the ongoing violence in eastern DRC,” Blinken said. He urged Rwanda to “take active steps to facilitate de-escalation.”