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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Kabila in tight spot after Goma flare-up

Congo's M23 rebels have pulled back from the city of Goma but they are calling all the shots, leaving an increasingly isolated President Joseph Kabila with tough military and political challenges. The mining hub of Goma, the main city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, fell to the rebels in November, sparking fears of yet another fully-fledged conflict in the region. The rebels pulled out last week after their alleged backers Rwanda and Uganda stepped in but the M23 remains within striking distance and wants a raft of political grievances addressed by the government. …

Things have gone downhill for Kabila since the disputed general election last year that returned him and his party for a new mandate but drew fierce criticism from Kinshasa's Western partners over rigging. "Donors decided that a re-run would not be feasible, but that they could take advantage of Kabila’s perceived weakness to push for other reforms," read a recent report by the Rift Valley InstituteUsalama Project.

One of those was the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel leader nicknamed "The Terminator", who had been a key CNDP leader and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on several counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The pressure increased on Ntaganda when Thomas Lubanga, whom he had served as chief of staff in the Ituri region, was convicted by the ICC in March. According to the Usalama Project report's author, Congo specialist Jason Stearns, Lubanga's conviction was what "triggered mobilisation in earnest" for what was to shortly after become the M23.

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