DR Congo: Absence of security gave birth to M23 rebellion – Amb. Karega

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Esha Saxena Mandala
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The M23 rebellion and its predecessors like the CNDP and RCD-Goma are a result of longstanding security threat posed by militias heated up by genocide ideology, Rwanda’s former ambassador to DR Congo Vincent Karega said.

Speaking on The Long Form podcast, hosted by Sanny Ntayombya, Karega said that these armed groups were created as “self-defence” mechanisms for the Congolese Tutsi communities that were threatened by militias like the FDLR and Mai Mai.

Long before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Kinyarwanda-speaking Tutsi communities in DR Congo were discriminated and despised as Rwandans.

The influx of the Interahamwe and members of the former Rwandan army into DR Congo in 1994 exacerbated the ideology of genocide this time targeting the Congolese Tutsi. It also fed into discriminatory tendencies that claimed that the Congolese natives of the Kivu regions and the Rwandan migrants who had been naturalised were ‘Congolese of doubtful nationality.’

“These people had to fight to reconfirm their nationality,” said Karega, adding that the “Rwandophones were politically becoming fragile.” That is how the RCD-Goma was created in late 1990s in rebellion to Laurent Desire Kabila’s divisive politics that side-lined the Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese Tutsi.

In the 2000s, the armed group CNDP was born with Laurent Nkunda at its head. On March 23, 2009, the CNDP reached a peace deal with the Congolese government to integrate the rebels into the national army and the political wing becoming a party.

The M23 rebel group was formed in 2013, after some of the former CNDP elements claimed that their communities were still threatened by the FDLR militia and local groups such as Mai Mai, Nyatura.

Nkunda and Bosco Ntaganda, one of the founders of the M23, took up arms “to defend their parents, their cattle, their properties,” from the negative forces and a hostile government in Kinshasa, he noted.

“Even though they were integrated in the army, at a certain point, other soldiers, especially in different provinces, started killing them,” Karega noted. “So, it was out of anger as most of their brothers were killed continuously under the watch of the state that they rebelled again in a mutiny against the national army.”

The M23 rebellion and its predecessors are “all about the Tutsi feeling victimised, feeling rejected, seeing their nationality put into question as well as their title of land and political positions being threatened. They are a defence mechanism,” Karega said.

The M23 was defeated in 2013, with its soldiers fleeing to Uganda and Rwanda. Karega noted that dialogue between the M23 rebels and the Congolese government continued in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, reaching a demobilisation and reintegration agreement.

“But that did not happen for 10 years. And when [President Felix] Tshisekedi took over [from Joseph Kabila], he invited them to Kinshasa in 2019 for talks,” Karega said.

After spending 14 months in Kinshasa, without any talks with Tshisekedi’s government, he noted, they got discouraged and had to take up arms again in 2021.

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