The M23 attack, on Goma!? Reflections.

This is written as fighting in Goma resumes amidst uncertainty and numerous rumours about locations and reasons.

Thursday, an almost three months cease-fire between Congolese government troops of FARDC and the M23 (its military wing called ARC now) ended and clashes paved the ground for a major change of positions three days later, the outcome remaining quite unclear as the tensions rise on all levels in, around, concerned with the fate of Goma.

Two major observable developments preceded the recent revitalisation of military action between M23 and the DRC government:

1) Few days ago, Uganda acting in sequence of a DRC plea, closed its side of the border to Bunagana. Bunagana is considered as both a vital supply route for the M23 and a major source of tax income due to its strategic commercial location. The DRC side of Bunagana had been controlled by M23 for several months.

2) Few days ago, renegade Col. Albert Kahasha (Foka Mike) held a press conference in Bukavu announcing that he would defect back to FARDC and the government side. Foka Mike has been a key member of Mudundu 40 in earlier times and headed a battalion around Butembo prior to his last defection. He brings along a mix of Nyatura, Raia Mutomboki and other commanders. Both South Kivu Governor Cishambo and FARDC’s Delphin Kahimbi seem to be accepting his reintegration, although he was accused to collaborate with M23

It is not quite sure, whether these events really stimulated some of the current events, but it should be kept in mind as being important factors in the Kivu’s volatile situation. Also, the influence of Rwanda’s upcoming UNSC membership and the still pending final report of the UN Group of Experts (a leak has been published a couple of days ago by, although without the annexes) are difficult to assess but certainly play a role.

On the situation in Goma: M23 is reported to have countered some attacks by FARDC and proceeded as far as Monigi, some 10 km in the North of Goma (on the axis to Rumangabo, Rutshuru). FARDC and MONUSCO answered by defending the territory but could not avert the mutineers advance. In the night, the rebel forces withdrew to nearby town Kibumba (more in the North than Monigi). Early this morning fighting resumed in different areas. Apparently, fighting close to Goma International Airport involves FARDC, MONUSCO and M23. At the same time, it has been confirmed that FARDC mortars or grenades have been fired towards Gisenyi. It is not yet clear, whether this is an act of confusion or a well calculated operation. While M23 and its commanders Makenga, Kaina, Ngaruye etc. have been (and I think I write that the first time but as of now, the proofs are clear) pushed by the assistance of several Rwandan and Ugandan military, FARDC defense is led by General Amisi Tango Four and supported by MONUSCO helicopter gunships.

No substantial fighting is reported from other areas with regards to this major escalation around Goma. From Sake westwards to Masisi, the situation seems to be calm (after a lot of heavy clashes last week, under participation of a Nyatura splinter group, FARDC elements and maybe others such as the Guides). Same applies to the Northern Rutshuru where Mayi Mayi Shetani and FDLR-SOKI had been major opponents to M23 and the Kalehe territory in South Kivu (homeland to many Raia Mutomboki).

Although everything is in the flow and at this moment fighting around Goma airport seems to tighten, a cautious guess would be that M23 remains unlikely to take the whole city of Goma today or tomorrow. Press statements by colonels Makenga and Kaina as well as Kazarama, Epenge, Runiga and other spokespersons have been contradictory, but the ultimatum of 24 hours they offered the DRC government might first come to a term before M23 proceeds to further action. Within the combats, this prediction remains very tentative, however, and dynamics on the ground could change rapidly, especially if the airport falls and the alleged FARDC shelling into Rwanda is true.

À suivre…


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