Refugees fleeing as M23 advances; photo CNN
M23 forces have begun to withdraw from smaller towns around Goma. A report today from Agence France-Presse, published on ReliefWeb.int, says that rebels have been seen pulling back equipment from the area. AFP quotes Col. Antoine Manzi, a senior commander in the M23, saying the troops will begin by leaving the smaller towns, then finally pull out of Goma on Friday. According to a BBC article posted on Wednesday, rebel military commander Sultani Makenga confirmed through a spokesman that the M23 forces will begin withdrawing, with a handover ceremony in Goma on Friday. He said, however, that 100 troops will be left at the Goma airport, as part of the agreement. It has also been reported that the M23 political wing may establish its office there.
This action by the M23 follows a meeting last weekend in Uganda of regional political and military leaders to address the crisis. Makenga was told firmly that there can be no negotiations on the issues underlying the rebellion until M23 has withdrawn from Goma. That group of leaders is scheduled to travel to Goma on Friday to monitor the rebels’ withdrawal.
To look behind the headlines, I’ve spent a chunk of time today digesting half a dozen articles on Congo, ranging from news to analysis, and what follows is a flash tour through them. Feel free to thumb through the coming paragraphs as you would a magazine.
M23 troops in Goma; photo CNN
It has been an open secret that Rwanda has backed the M23. Though that country denies it, the United Nations has identified it as a material supporter of the rebels. A resolution adopted by the Security Council on Wednesday expressed “deep concern at reports indicating that external support continues to be provided to the M23 . . . causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23,” and called for an end to “any and all outside support.” The rebels have been well armed, both in weaponry and in other aids such as night-vision goggles.
Of course, you won’t hear any of this in the evening news headlines. The major American news outlets (along with most of their other Western counterparts) have been consistent through the years in giving scant attention to events in Congo. In a commentary published on CNN’s website, Vava Tampa, a Congolese who founded the organization Save the Congo, compares the attention given to the problems in Gaza and Syria with the lack of visibility for Congo. Tampa made vivid the number of deaths caused by the wars in Congo over the past 15-16 years:
“The wars in that country have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — all combined and then doubled.”
There are other reflective, substantive articles on Congo out there if you happen to spot them. A couple of days ago Byron called my attention to one written by Richard Lee of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and published on AllAfrica.com. “Congo-Kinshasa: Governance Reforms Key to Lasting DRC Peace” reports that three Congolese organizations are calling for greater participation by noncombatants in negotiations for peace. Focusing more broadly on the country’s governmental structure, they ask for “clear, structured, coordinated and deep reform of the security sector, including the army, police and intelligence services.” They also call for an overhaul of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and for “the establishment of a National Commission on Human Rights to protect human rights and boost citizen’s confidence.”
12-year-old who lost his arm to a stray bullet; photo CNN
And finally, another perspective is offered by Mort Rosenblum, writing Wednesday on the International Herald Tribune’s IHT Rendezvous blog site. In “The Source of Congo’s Bleeding” Rosenblum reacts to “another of those recurrent headlines” — “Congo Slips into Chaos Again as Rebels Gain” — and says, “It is too easy to blame an innate heart of darkness or a soul poisoned by King Leopold’s colonial cruelty. That leaves out the part about how big powers did — and do — geopolitics.” He looks back at Congo’s history, focusing particularly on the complicity of American and Belgian agents in the assassination of the country’s very popular first president, Patrice Lumumba, and on U.S. support for Mobutu Sese Seko — “the chosen despot.” And he points out one more issue: “Within artificial borders drawn generations earlier in Europe, traditionally hostile tribes don’t accommodate without disinterested outside help. If there are riches to steal, and no real government, obscene thievery is inevitable.”
If you’ve reached this end of the article, it’s pretty likely that you’re more than just curious — that you do care about the people of Congo. If you’re interested in following Congo news in digest form, two good sources are AllAfrica.com and ReliefWeb.com, both mentioned above. In both cases you can sign up for the news you choose to find in your inbox each day.
SAJ 29 Nov 2012