UN ultimatum to the M23

31 July 2013 | ResolutionPossible

Yesterday the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) announced a 48-hour deadline for the M23 armed group to disarm. MONUSCO has stated that ‘it will, for the first time, use its intervention brigade to enforce a security zone around the flashpoint city of Goma’.

‘After 4pm on Thursday, 1 August, [the M23] will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement.’ – MONUSCO’s statement

FIB Tanzanian special forces, part of MONUSCO, in Sake, North Kivu, July 2013. (Photo: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti)

The ultimatum comes after months of attempts to secure a peace agreement between the M23 and the DRC government, flare-ups of fighting between the two groups, the repeated capture of the town of Goma, and speculation about Rwanda and Uganda supporting the M23.

The peace talks in Kampala between the Congolese government and representatives from the M23 have yet to provide any solutions. In fact, violence seems to be intensifying in the region. Intermittent fighting continues in the area around Goma between M23 and the Congolese government’s troops, the FARDC. Also fighting in North Kivu are Ugandan armed group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who were ousted from Uganda several years ago, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and several smaller non-governmental troops.

We recently talked to Jason Stearns, author of the book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa and the Congo Siasa blog, to ask him why he thinks the talks are failing and what the obstacles are to resolving the violence. You can read the full interview in our Commentary section.

The main problem Jason raised is that there is very little chance of reconciling the demands of the M23 and those of of the Congolese government.

The negotiation stance of the Congolese government and the M23 are still miles apart. Any deal reached will not be palatable to the M23. [Mary] Robinson and Ban Ki Moon talk about no impunity for war criminals, including the key top members of the M23 such as Innocent Kaina and Sultani Makenga. It is difficult to see how the M23 could agree to that sort of conditionality.

Jason added that although Rwanda has not admitted to any links with the M23 most people believe that Rwanda is behind the group, and therefore it should be up to Rwanda to take responsibility for stopping the M23. For Jason, it is Rwanda’s actions that will affect the resolution of the conflict, regardless of whether they admit to supporting the M23. He referred to a similar situation in late 2008 and early 2009:

Rwanda was providing support to the CNDP [armed group led by former General of the Congolese Armed Forces, Laurent Nkunda], they never admitted to it but they then came in and arrested Nkunda and forced the CNDP to integrate into the Congolese army. So they didn’t officially admit it, but it was clear to pretty much everybody involved that all along Rwanda had the capacity to bring these people to heel and force their integration. They don’t need to admit to it. Their actions will be more important than what they say.

Jason went on to say that pressure by the international community, especially those governments who are investing in and providing aid to Rwanda, could be one of the ways to encourage Rwanda to take real action, rather than simply to promise not to support the M23. This pressure was high on the agenda at the end of 2012 when the M23 was prominent in media coverage following violence in Goma, but is now easing off.

Whereas the donors put a lot of pressure on the Rwandan government last year, up until early this year, that pressure is now going to considerably diminish. A lot of funding has been released to Rwanda, so the donor community is no longer as united. This is mostly because there hasn’t been much fighting, Rwandan support to the M23 isn’t as blatantly obvious, and donors have their own imperatives of dispersing money and continuing funding programmes they have been funding for years now.

Read the full interview to find out what else Jason Stearns had to say.

We have more questions in light of MONUSCO’s ultimatum.

  • Given that the intervention is focused on the protection of civilians by creating a ‘safe zone’ rather than addressing the root causes of the M23’s actions, does this limit its usefulness? 
  • If the key to resolving the stalemate between the M23 and the Congolese government lies with Rwanda, could a direct intervention by Rwanda lead to more tangible results than the UN mission? How plausible is Rwandan involvement – and would the people in the Kivu provinces want it?

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.