Women in Goma marched in the streets to celebrate the defeat of the M23.
For many months, I have heard tragic reports of rising conflict from our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eastern DRC has been engulfed by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda—where they had just slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most organized genocides of the 20th century.
But in the last week, we have started seeing signs of hope. The notorious M23 rebels have finally surrendered, after years of unrelenting attacks against both civilians and the DRC military.
Here in DRC, people have been celebrating this important milestone. Women have dressed in white to show their support to the Congolese army and government in Goma and Kinshasa. There is a festive mood in the air.
However, grassroots advocates for peace are also calling for caution. People are waiting to see what happens next and how the pending peace negotiations between the government and the M23 unfold. Still, this is a huge step toward breaking the cycle of recurrent violence in the Eastern DRC. We hope the United Nations and the Congolese army succeed in fighting the remaining rebel groups. There will be challenges ahead, particularly when human rights groups seek justice for war crimes—but this is a huge first step.
Read on for reflections on this news from AJWS partners in Goma and Bukavu, DRC, who will continue working with their communities to recover from this conflict and demand their basic human rights.
On Saturday, the International Day of Peace, AJWS grantees and other women’s groups in North Kivu gathered to protest ongoing conflict and finalize a joint statement to Mary Robinson. This activist’s sign reads, “Mrs. Robinson, we want justice and not impunity.”
On September 21, the International Day of Peace, many of AJWS’s partners around the world were pushing for peace, justice and reconciliation in their communities and countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting has escalated due to a standoff between armed groups, civilians have increasingly become the targets of violence, particularly women and children. AJWS’s grantees and allies in DRC are particularly working to address sexual violence in North Kivu province, the epicenter of the recent fighting. Read More
Last week, conflict ramped up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Congolese rebel group M23 and the Congolese Armed Forces escalated fighting. At least 800,000 people have fled their homes in the DRC since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012 and laid siege to the city of Goma last December. In response, the United Nations has launched an intervention brigade with the strongest mandate in UN peacekeeping history.
However, civilians in North Kivu have begun protesting the intervention brigade, arguing that the UN has not done enough to protect civilians. This week, forces from DRC dropped bombs in Rwanda, creating a complex and controversial political situation. Rwanda has allegedly supported the M23 rebels and is now threatening retaliation. According to an AJWS consultant, the current situation is very unpredictable.
This post comes to Global Voices from Nelly Godelive Mbangu, who lives in Goma.