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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Insight: Congo army debacle at Goma raises specter of betrayal

When Congo's government army retreated in panic from the eastern city of Goma last month, many observers blamed the poor morale and leadership, ill discipline and corruption that have sapped its fighting capacity for years. In the hours before Goma fell to M23 rebels on November 20, drunk and terrified Congolese soldiers roamed the streets or huddled in doorways before melting away, witnesses said. M23's 11-day occupation of the city was one of the worst battlefield defeats for Democratic Republic of Congo's armed forces (FARDC), which at 150,000-strong are among the largest in Africa. They are also backed by 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers. …

Speaking on condition of anonymity because army regulations forbid him from commenting publicly, he said he was convinced former land forces commander, Major General Gabriel Amisi had been in contact with the rebel side. He said he had served alongside the general in the field. A member of Amisi's military entourage said the general "rejects categorically" allegations of betrayal: "He could never do that, he wants nothing from the rebels," the aide said. "He only just escaped with his life, five of his own men died." …

"This is not the first time Amisi has been accused in undermining the army. There is deep suspicion among officers that he has been a fifth columnist for Rwanda," said Jason Stearns, a Congo expert and author who has written a study of M23 for the Rift Valley Institute's Usalama project.

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