Over the past year, the M23 rebel movement has captured vast tracts of land in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, even advancing towards Goma, the regional capital.
The rebels claim to be protecting the region’s Kinyarwanda speaking population, but the Congolese government says they are a military proxy for the Rwandan government.
Both rebel and government forces have been accused of committing serious human rights violations, and the East African Community has deployed an intervention force to prevent the situation from deteriorating.
Goma, 7 November 2022: Young men attend their first military training at a base in Goma. The army has signed up 3 000 new recruits to fight the rebels who, according to the DRC and some international agencies, are supported by Rwanda, which denies these allegations
Goma, 12 November 2022: Soldiers from the newly constituted East African Community Regional Force arrive at the international airport. The force is being led by soldiers from Kenya. As agreed with the Congolese government, the force can number between 6 500 and 12 000 troops and its mandate must be renewed every six months.
Rumangabo, 6 January 2023: M23 rebels prepare to leave an army base that they had previously captured, just 35km outside Goma. Their retreat was secured as part of a ceasefire with the East African Community Regional Force. The DRC’s president, Félix Tshisekedi, has said that this retreat was largely ceremonial, and that the rebels have occupied territory elsewhere to compensate.
Rumangabo, 6 January 2023: A soldier with the East African Community Regional Force guards the army base after the departure of the M23 rebels.
Rutshuru, 6 January 2023: A house that was destroyed during clashes between the DRC army and the M23 rebels. The fighting has displaced more than half a million people in the past year.
Goma, 18 January 2023: Residents of Goma protest against the planned arrival of South Sudanese troops, who will be joining the Kenyan soldiers as part of the East African Community Regional Force. Protesters say the regional force has not done enough to combat the rebels, and that the DRC army is capable of defending itself. Security forces used tear gas to break up the protest and arrested 12 people.
Bulengo, 27 February 2023: Like always, the people who pay the price of war are the civilians who are caught in the middle – this time between government forces on the one side, and the M23 rebels on the other.
Mail & Guardian