International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Violence and Chaos Return to the Democratic Republic of Congo

Today’s article in the New York Times on the Congo provides much material for discussion. The tradition of violence and chaos, according to Jeffrey Gettleman, continues in the DRC as the M23 rebel group continues to seize control of the country. The prison of Goma has been emptied, giving freedom to 1,200 rapist, murderers, and rogue soldiers.  Moreover, M23 kidnapping is used to punish any spoken resistance, says Luke, a local un-employed man. The M23, however, is not the sole root cause of the widespread violence in the DRC.

President Kabila has also played a role in the chaos of Congo. His administration has been one of corruption and inefficiency. According to Gettleman, “During the [Kabila] [re]-election, his agents were caught red-handed stuffing the ballot boxes. His unpopularity is due to suspicions on him “hoarding millions if not billions of dollars from mineral deals” while leaving infrastructure of the Congo a “fiasco.” This unpopularity has resulted in widespread mobs and riots throughout the city. President Kabila’s clear monetary distraction is more clearly evident in his pursuits of the notorious Ntaganda, otherwise known as “the Terminator.

Ntaganda, who the ICC has issued two arrest warrants for, continues to be a severe issue in the DRC. As a main leader of the M23, he represents an important target in order to end the reign of the organization. Fortunately for him, the incompetence of Kabila as well as several other factors have resulted in his continued freedom. With persistent financial support from Rwanda, Ntaganda has lead the M23 rebel group to an almost unstoppable position; “the government army unraveled” at each battle against the rebel group.

“Few counties in the world have been as disastrously ruled in the world as Congo,” says Gettleman. Despite exhausted efforts nothing seems to bring the Congo from its perpetual state of violence and chaos. In fact, Gettleman touches on this theme when he states: “deep wounds of past, unhealed, produce new violence.” For whatever reason, Congolease citizens are not satisfied with past peace efforts and transitional justice, and have decided to take matter into their own hands. This is demonstrated through two forms of violence: organized and unorganized. Organized, of course, being the M23 rebel group who seek to dramatically alter the Congolese government; unorganized being the widespread mobs and riots occurring throughout the country.

With every option justice and reconciliation seeming to fail, what other options can the DRC seek in order to end this trend of violence and heal the deeply entrenched wounds of the Congolese citizens?


4 responses to “Violence and Chaos Return to the Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. Alana Tiemessen November 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Apparently the M23 are now engaging in talks with the DRC government. It be will interesting to see to what extent, if any, accountability features into the negotiations and at what stage the international community will push for greater accountability of regional actors as well. The main concern will surely be ensuring stability in the area and re-establishing some form of legitimate governance.

    There may be some parallels here with the Uganda and Sierra Leone cases in terms of putting justice on the agenda in peace negotiations.

  2. smshetty November 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Al-Jazeera today posted a Q&A ( with Jason Stearns, former coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on the DNC. When asked how to possibly defuse the current situation, he replied that:

    “I doubt fighting will bring a solution. As we have seen, the Congolese army is disorganised, while the rebels are unpopular and rely heavily on outside support. But negotiation will also be difficult, as I don’t see what the possible compromise could be. Kinshasa does not want to re-integrate the M23, while the M23 and Rwanda deeply mistrust Kabila.

    The M23 need to be re-integrated into the national army, but their parallel chains of command in the Congolese army needs to be dismantled and their worst offenders (as those in the Congolese army) arrested. The Congolese government needs, at the same time, to tackle entrenched problems of local governance, security sector reform, and communal reconciliation.”

    In keeping with Stearn’s position, it does seem like the best solutions are hybrid ones that combine diplomatic and social compromise with certain, selective punitive measures. Though UN peacekeepers have been somewhat successful politically, their military efforts have by and far been a failure, especially against the expanding forces of M23. An article in The Economist ( further explored this failure, noting that the 6,700 UN troops in North Kivu have done little to alleviate the chaos, perhaps because their mandate is more to protect citizens than fight rebels.

    Military defeat of the M23, then, seems unlikely, especially with the disorganized state of the DRC’s national army. This situation should be resolved with increased diplomatic negotiations between DRC, M23, and Rwandan leaders. As was previously mentioned in one of the blog posts, “Rwanda-Congo deja vu?”, there is a strong possibility that M23 is being aided by Rwanda. In the Economist article, it’s stated that Rwandan denials that this is not the case are “fast losing any credibility. The UN Security Council, which condemned the rebels’ capture of Goma, has a dossier from its own investigators detailing Rwanda’s involvement in every aspect of the mutiny, from recruiting soldiers and financing operations to intelligence sharing and direct military support. Rwandan troops were seen by numerous witnesses to be fighting alongside M23 in at least two recent operations.” Other ties include the fact that the Tutsi leaders of M23 are from the same ethnic group, and closely affiliated with, Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Rwandan leaders must be forced to withdraw support for M23 forces, and additional possible solutions could, as Stearns suggest, involve Rwandan aid donors predicating their aid on the success of peace talks with the DRC. Only after such peace talks succeed can the process of reconciliation begin.

  3. ookesanya November 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    In an article posted today on the BBC website (, they stated that the M23 Rebels have set their conditions for potentially pulling out of Goma. Sultani Makenga, the military commander of the M23 rebels flew to Uganda on Monday for talks and he agreed to pull the rebels out of the city by Tuesday afternoon. The political leader of the group, Jean-Marie Runiga declared that they would only withdraw from Goma if the remaining Congolese troops in the region were disarmed. Additionally, they required the suspension of the electoral commission and freedom of movement for Etienne Tshisekedi, the opposition leader. Tshisekedi lost last year’s presidential election to Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his house has since been heavily guarded. Runiga was quoted as saying “If Kabila agrees to our demands then we’ll go quickly.” However it is highly unlikely that these demands will be met because they would mean “political suicide” for President Kabila.

  4. mhdeck November 27, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    This article argues that the M23 rebels simply won’t pay attention to the international community because they have the upper hand in the battle over Goma ( This can be understood by the demands the M23 rebels have set for the Congolese government. Additionally, the during the negotiation talks strong messages were sent to the international community that pressure should be applied to Kabila to listen to the demands of the rebels (
    What does that mean for the international community, UN and ICC when a rebel group has the upper hand outside pressure had little effect on the group?
    The damage done by the M23 rebels is overwhelming. Over a 100,00 people have had to flee their homes because of the M23 rebel attacks ( In total there are over 2.4 million people internally displaced in the Congo because of the violence between the military and rebels (
    Many of the families end up in the Mugunga camp, which is bursting at its seems because of the influx of people into the camp ( Interviews with people in the camp report that they angry at the international community, the rebels, and their government for allowing the situation to happen. What is the role of the international community in a situation such as this where the rebel group holds power and won’t listen? What is the correct sequencing of events? Should peace and stability be the focus of the international community to protect the civilians or should justice be done? Additionally, what type of justice can be done properly in a situation where the national government is very weak and corrupt?

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