Congolese protest that the UN is stopping their army's advance on Rwanda's M23
KPFA Evening News, 07.20.2013
On Friday, July 19th, Congolese in Goma marched on the UN Mission holding placards that accused the UN of trying to stop their army's advance against Rwanda's M23 militia.
KPFA Evening News Anchor Cameron Jones: In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congolese Army is reported to be driving Rwanda's M23 militia from their positions in North Kivu Province, causing euphoria among eastern Congolese people, but yesterday Congolese in Goma, North Kivu’s capital city, marched holding placards accusing the UN Mission of using allegations of atrocities as an excuse to prevent the Congolese army’s advance against M23. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: On Wednesday, July 17th, Nick Long reported, for the Voice of America, that the Congolese army’s recent successes at driving the M23 militia from their positions in eastern Congo have caused euphoria amongst Congolese, particularly in Goma, the capital city of North Kivu Province on Congo’s border with Rwanda. Here’s most of that radio report:
Voice of America/Nick Long: GOMA, DRC — The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army has continued advancing in a fourth day of fighting against M23 rebels near the eastern city of Goma. The scene is a government army position at mid-afternoon Wednesday, just after the M23 had started targeting some nearby tanks.
"You men get forward," the sergeant is shouting. "Where are you retreating for? Get in front of the tanks."
For a moment, there was a brief panic as mortar bombs started falling, causing some casualties in a commando platoon.
"Take that man and get him out of here," an officer shouts, pointing to a soldier who has just been hit.
But the incoming fire seemed to be heavily outweighed by the army’s outgoing fire with tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships that pounded the rebel positions. After an hour or more of shelling on both sides, the commandos moved forward following the tanks.
The M23 is outmanned as well as outgunned, having only around 2,000 combatants, against an army that on paper numbers 100,000. Although the army faces many other armed groups, few of them support M23.
A civilian, Jules Akili, who traveled through the M23 zone on Wednesday before crossing over to the government side, told VOA he saw hardly any M23 soldiers.
He says he traveled from Rutshuru Centre a distance of about 40 kilometers, and saw only five M23 soldiers along the route, which was guarded by M23 police.
The Congolese army’s recent successes have prompted euphoric scenes in Goma, with civilians waving leafy branches staging victory runs on the outskirts of town. Tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting who are living in camps around Goma are hoping the army can defeat all the rebels so they can return to their homes. Women at a displaced peoples camp say they would be very happy to see their villages liberated from the rebels, and are hopeful the army can do it.
KPFA: Two days later, Nick Long reported, this time for the Associated Press, that 200 demonstrators had marched toward the United Nations base in Goma carrying placards that read "The UN is mocking us" and "Let our armed forces do their job."
Aimé Bomela, a native of eastern Congo now in Houston, said that Congolese people have every reason to believe that the UN is preventing the Congolese army from advancing against the invaders because they have a history of doing so.
Aimé Bomela: In 2007, I went to Butembo. I met with a Congolese soldier. So he told me that when Laurent Nkunda's CNDP attacked Rumangabo Camp, the United Nations was saying,"Congolese army, you have to stop. You have to stop, so that we can make a negotiation between you and CNDP." And in the same time, Laurent Nkunda didn't listen anything that United Nations was saying. And he came back to fight and he killed so many Congolese soldiers.
KPFA: Kambale Musavuli, Congolese native and Mining Researcher for Washington D.C.-based Friends of the Congo told us that Friends of the Congo’ on-the-ground sources in Goma, who did not want to risk being identified, confirmed that UN Forces had actively blocked Congolese forces from advancing further on M23. Kambale also asked KPFA to remind listeners that the UN’s history of crushing Congolese nationalist movements goes back as far as 1960 and 1961, when they collaborated with Belgium and the U.S. in assassinating Patrice Lumumba, the hero of the country’s struggle for independence from Belgium, and its first Prime Minister.