The name M23 is the abbreviation for “Mouvement du 23 Mars” and goes back to March 23, 2009. At that time, an agreement was signed between the government and the then rebel group CNDP, which was strongly anchored in the Kivu provinces, which sealed the integration of CNDP military units into the Congolese army.
In April 2012 there was a mutiny within the Congolese army in Goma, as a result of which numerous fighters, mostly members of the former rebel movement CNDP, deserted, among other things on the grounds that the government had not signed the agreements of March 23, 2009, which were already mentioned at the time have complied. According to estatelearning, they founded the new group M23 in the regions near the Rwandan and Ugandan borders and fought heavy battles with the government troops.
Initially, the M23 rebels fought the national army, which was supported by UN troops, so successfully that they even managed to capture Goma, the most important city in Eastern Congo, in November 2012. Only after international pressure and the approval of direct negotiations that had previously been rejected by Congo’s President Kabila did the M23 soldiers withdraw from Goma.
From December 2012, negotiations between representatives of the M23 and the Congolese government began in Kampala with Ugandan mediation. However, these were not successful.
As a significant international measure, on February 24, 2013, on the sidelines of a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa and as part of the “International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)”, 11 states in the region signed a framework agreement in which the democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, in the presence of the UN Secretary General, the Commission President of the African Union and the SADC President, among others, agreed not to support armed groups any more.
At the end of February 2013 there was a split in the M23 and bloody fighting within the movement that lasted for several days. In the end, the faction led by General Sultani Makenga decided the internal dispute for itself. Approx. 600 members of the defeated faction, including the then political leader Runiga and General Bosco Ntaganda wanted by the International Criminal Court, escaped across the border into Rwanda. Bosco Ntaganda went to the US embassy in Kigali on March 18, 2013, from where, at his own request, he was transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
At the end of March 2013, the UN Security Council decided to strengthen the existing mission (MONUSCO) to set up an intervention brigade consisting of 3,069 soldiers with a more offensive mandate. The countries Tanzania and South Africa offered themselves as troop providers. The special task of the new brigade was to take active action against rebel groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
At the end of August 2013, fighting between M23 and Congolese government troops north of Goma escalated. For the first time, combat troops from South Africa and Tanzania acted alongside government troops as part of the UN mission. Important gains in terrain were recorded compared to M23. Artillery fire killed and injured civilians in the provincial capital of Goma. As well as across the border on Rwandan soil, bullets struck and claimed victims, Rwanda put its army in readiness to fight towards the border. This reaction raised fears of a regional wildfire, whereupon an emergency summit of the ICGLR (International Conference of the Great Lakes Region) was convened in Kampala. The ICGLR summit decided to immediately resume peace talks between the government of the DR Congo and the M23 rebel movement.
While peace negotiations continued in Uganda’s capital Kampala, the precarious truce on the war fronts was broken.
At the beginning of November 2013, the Congolese government troops, now better organized and fighting with improved equipment, with decisive support from the UN reaction forces, managed to conquer the last bastions in North Kivu and defeat the M23 movement.
It is estimated that 1,500 M23 fighters and their commanders fled across the border into Uganda. Some of the fighters and commanders fled to Rwanda, where they await their fate.
However, the conflict continues in the eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu. Supported by the UN mission MONUSCO, the Congolese national army is still fighting against rebel groups around the FDLR and Mayi-Mayi.
Impact on Rwanda
The DR Congo government has seen the cause of the conflict in Rwanda. Official Congolese circles have claimed that the military aggression of the M23 rebellion was controlled by the Rwandan leadership. Another reason given was that Rwanda intends to continue destabilizing the border region, which is rich in raw materials, in order to better assert its economic interests.
This version of the statements was shared by the so-called expert group, an investigation group operating on behalf of the UN Security Council on the situation in eastern DR Congo. This has already heavily incriminated the Rwandan government in several reports, according to which it should support the M23 rebel group with weapons and soldiers. On the basis of these allegations, some development partners, including Germany (suspension of budget support), reacted temporarily by suspending aid programs.