As our team drives out of our Goma hotel, we are told to wait at the barrier. The police commissioner of Goma has just returned to this city. Twelve bodyguards with ray ban sunglasses, clutching semi-automatic rifles and even RPGs surround his car. As we observe the spectacle, someone says under his breath “where were these officers, 2 weeks ago?” I couldn’t help pondering that question, how could a well-armed UN backed national army and police force prefer to desert a major City than stand and fight around a thousands rebels?
Jason Stearns from the Rift Valley Institute knows more than most about why rebel groups are able to succeed in this part of the world. He says the key with M23, is “the fact that there are local elites here in Goma, and across the border in Rwanda that feel that their interests are not guaranteed by this corrupt Congolese state, without having an armed force to protect them. And that does make North Kivu, and Goma much more violent than other places in the country.”