DRC troops counter attack, mediation stalls | Africa | DW | 22.11.2012
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DRC troops counter attack, mediation stalls

Congolese troops were reported to be fighting back against rebels who captured Goma earlier this week. Prospects for a mediated settlement appeared slim.

M23 rebels stand guard outside the Goma football stadium Photo: EPA/TIM FRECCIA

M23 Rebellen in Goma Kongo

Thousands of people fled the area around the town of Sake in DRC's North Kivu province as M23 rebel fighters rushed from Goma to reinforce their positions against a counter-offensive by the army.

The rebel movement, widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, has vowed to 'liberate' DRC. They say they will hold their ground until DRC President Joseph Kabila opens direct talks with them.

DW: Jason Mosely, is miltary intervention the answer to the Congolese problem?

Jason Mosely: Well probably not. I can't imagine that the Congolese armed forces are in a condition to decisively deal with the situation militarily. Clearly, they haven't been in a condition to prevent the situation from escalating. It is sort of beyond the remit, the capacity, of the UN peacekeepers to keep the situation from escalating. Then the question becomes whether external military intervention is warranted, but considering the links between the rebels and Rwandan military, and question marks over the relationship between Uganda and the rebels in light of the recent group of experts' report, the question of military intervention just sort of seems to unravel and so that points back to dialogue.

Why is the Kinshasa government reluctant, or refusing, to hold direct talks with the rebels ?

I think Kabila has been struggling to avoid legitimizing or elevating the group who have been characterised as mutineers from the army, although it should be remembered that many of the troops were sort of integrated after having been previously rebels a few years ago. So rather than letting this group present itself as legitimate, or a group with a widespread following, he hoped to contain it by isolating it or refusing to hold direct talks, but that has obviously got out of hand by now. I don't think he'll be able to resist calls for direct talks much longer

What would be the implications of the government's failure to engage in dialogue?

Well I don't buy the rhetoric coming from ARC or M23, as it is still better known, about marching on Kinshasa. I think that they may press on within the region and try to entrench their control, but there are questions around how they have managed to expand their fighting force so dramatically in the last few months.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (L), his counterparts Yoweri Museveni (C) of Uganda and Joseph Kabila . AFP PHOTO / PETER BUSOMOKE (Photo credit should read PETER BUSOMOKE/AFP/Getty Images)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and DRC President Joseph Kabila meeting in Kampala

There is a question on the one hand of how much territory they can hope to control so I don't really see it as a gambit on controlling territory or displacing the government in Kinshasa, in which case I think it is a ploy to drive for negotiation.

Looking at the recent meeting between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Joseph Kabila that was mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni – can Uganda's president be a neutral mediator?

Well that has clearly come into question after the leaked UN report which has now been released officially, as of yesterday or the day before. I know that Kampala is disputing those claims quite strenuously, but it does put a question mark over the ability to be a neutral broker but that doesn't mean it can't be a broker of any kind. It clearly has influence in the region.

How much faith do you have in the international community's ability to bring about an end to this conflict?

It's a huge undertaking which I think would require a level of sustained engagement that has been absent in the last 15 years, but I'm fairly confident that there will be some piling in now and an attempt to calm the situation down. Resolving it is going to require probably far more attention that the international community is willing to devote.

Jason Mosley is an Associate Fellow with the Africa Programme at Chatham House, UK

Interview: Isaac Mugabi


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