Since I blogged yesterday about the fighting around the city of Goma between the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) supported by UN forces and the M23 rebels, the situation has deteriorated.
Yesterday, the rebels had pulled back to await a response from Kinshasa to its demands that Goma be de-militarized and that a border post with Uganda be reopened. Kinshasa did not accept the M23 ultimatum, and the rebels have now occupied the city and its international and military airports for the first time since 2003. In the general melee, DRC soldiers shelled a neighboring Rwanda district, killing two, according to Rwanda sources. That same Rwanda source says, however, that Kinshasa has apologized. If so, Kinshasa and Kigali may be trying to avoid any cross border escalation, a positive development.
Meanwhile the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General have again reiterated their condemnation of M23 aggression. The UN Secretary General has previously said that UN troops will remain in Goma, though it is not clear if their presence will continue now that the city has fallen.
Local media is reporting that Goma residents are blaming Kinshasa for this latest reversal. Goma’s fall is bound to damage that already tattered credibility of Congolese president Joseph Kabila.
Easy to overlook is the appalling humanitarian cost of the renewed fighting in Eastern Congo. Humanitarian agencies now estimate that there are 1.6 million internally displaced persons in North and South Kivu (Goma is the capital of North Kivu) out of a total of 2.4 million in the entire country.
The CFR is closed for the rest of this week in celebration of Thanksgiving. So, the next “Africa in Transition” blog post will be on Monday, November 26th.