Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit on March 27, 2010. The event was a rally to demand justice in the assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah by the FBI on Oct. 28, 2009., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
M23 Rebels Withdraw From Goma as the Struggle For the DRC Continues
Role of US ally contested in the region
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officials and troops re-established their authority in the eastern city of Goma on December 3. Mutinous rebels from the M23 movement had taken the municipality of one million people in November threatening to extend its control over larger sections of the central African country including the capital of Kinshasa.
M23 is said to be supported by the government of President Paul Kagame in neighboring Rwanda. Although conflicting claims of involvement have surfaced in the recent period, Kigali has for many years worked in alliance with United States and European economic and military interests.
M23 rebels have reportedly taken up positions outside Goma as they are still demanding direct talks with the government of Joseph Kabila. The M23 group is saying that an agreement signed on March 23, 2009 with the Congolese government that resulted in their integration into the national army, has been violated.
DRC Interior Minister Richard Muyej told journalists in Goma that the government would work to close the power vacuum left with the departure of M23 over the weekend. “We shall work very hard to re-establish the authority of the state as fast as possible,” Muyej said. (Associated Press, December 3)
The M23 rebels agreed under international pressure to leave the areas under their control around Goma pending talks surrounding their grievances with the Kabila government. However, it is not clear whether talks envisioned by M23 will materialize in the near future.
From positions just 1.6 miles outside of Goma, rebel spokesman Col. Vianney Kazarama said that “We gave Kinshasa a 48-hour deadline, and we are now waiting for these 48 hours to expire. You should call Congo and ask them what they plan to do. They have not yet contacted us. And we are waiting to see what happens.” (Associated Press, December 3)
Thousands of people have fled Goma since the threat of a M23 takeover became imminent. In the aftermath of the withdrawal by the rebels, markets have re-opened but the banks have not.
In an internally displaced person’s camp about 15 miles outside of Goma, the United Nations said that unidentified gunmen raided the location on November 30. The food supplies were looted in the attack and several women were assaulted.
Role of Rwanda Highlighted Again
Investigators commissioned by the United Nations Security Council have reported that Rwanda was directly involved in the upsurge in fighting in North Kivu. The findings were revealed in a letter written on November 26 to the Security Council alleging that Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) units were operating alongside M23 rebels.
The letter noted that “a mixture of M23 and RDF troops clandestinely entered into Goma from the Rwandan town of Gisenyi through small streets situated between the town’s two official border crossings.” (Reuters, December 3) Rwanda has repeatedly rejected claims that it is directly involved withM23 and other military and criminal activities in the eastern DRC.
DRC officials have complained that M23 units have not withdrawn to positions at least 30 miles away from Goma. Interior Minister Muyej said of the situation that “They are in Monigi. It is only 3 or 5km away. It is not good.” (Reuters, December 3)
The November 26 letter to the Security Council indicated that M23 “benefitted from direct RDF support during combat on the frontlines at the village of Kibumba, according to former RDF officers, FARDC officers and local leaders.”
In excess of 1,000 RDF troops participated in the operations that led to the seizure of Goma. Approximately 130,000 were displaced due to the fighting.
The relationship between the Rwandan government and military with the U.S. goes back at least to the Clinton administration during the 1990s. In August 1998, at the aegis of Washington, Rwandan and Ugandan troops backing a rebel group known as the Congo Democratic Rally (RCD), invaded the eastern DRC with the objective of overthrowing the 15-month old government of Laurent Kabila.
In response the Southern African Development Community (SADC) military commission headed by Zimbabwe at the time intervened along with Namibia and Angola to prevent the further advance of the Rwandan, Ugandan, Burundian and RCD rebels westward and into the south of the country. Between 1998-2003, the fighting left many dead and displaced.
After the negotiations to end the war in 2003, repeated efforts to integrate the armed forces and embark upon development projects in North Kivu have been undermined by Rwanda and Uganda. Another war in 2008 with Rwandan involvement was ostensibly resolved with the merging of another rebel group with the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC).
It is the apparent failure of the 2009 agreements that have led to the formation of M23 and its military campaign against the DRC government and Congolese civilians impacted by the fighting. Despite the U.N. peacekeeping contingents in the region, they were not responsive to the needs of the people while the M23 took over villages and eventually Goma.
Former U.S. Under-Secretary for African Affairs at the State Department during the Bush administration, Jendayi Frazer, disputed the claims that the fighting in eastern DRC was the fault of Rwanda. Appearing on Al Jazeera Television on December 2, Frazer said that the allegations against Rwanda were wrapped in “a cloud of anonymity about the experts on the panel.”
Frazer said “I don’t even know who these experts are…there is this cloud of anonymity about who these experts are and what agenda they are pushing.”
Yet the agenda of U.S. imperialism through successive administrations has been to preserve and exploit the mineral resources of the DRC for the benefit of the ruling class inside the western capitalist states. The U.S. has been involved in financing Rwanda and providing it with both military and economic assistance as well as giving the regimes of Uganda and Rwanda political cover.
The previous Bush administration envoy to Africa spoke against conventional wisdom saying the “U.S. doesn’t fund Rwanda to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, which is the problem of the nature of reporting, these broad generalizations that are repeated over and over again, are not based on fact trying to push policy….”
Denying Rwandan responsibility for the situation in the eastern DRC is an attempt to cover the tracks of U.S. imperialism and its allies in Europe who have to be saddled with the primary responsibility for the millions who have been killed in the region over the last decade-and-a-half. Most of the mineral wealth coming out of the eastern DRC is stolen by the transnational corporations and their agents within regional governments that finance and offer logistical support to many of the rebel formations.
It will be only when these arrangements are disrupted that genuine development can take place in Congo and throughout the regions of central and eastern Africa. Over the centuries U.S. imperialism has only been interested in the super-exploitation of the continent’s people and resources.