[Blogging will be slow this week, as I am teaching in Bujumbura.]
readers will know, a lot has happened in recent days. M23 launched a
major offensive, taking the strategic border town of Bunagana, as well
as Rutshuru, the territorial capital. This advance was an embarrassment
for the Congolese army, as 600 of their soldiers fled to Uganda and
their commander of the military region, General Vainceur Mayala,
reportedly sought refuge with the UN. A UN soldier also died due to an
M23 mortar round, and the blue helmets engaged their attack helicopter
against the mutineers.
Mayala, along with another
senior Congolese officer, is now reported to be on his way out after
over six years as the head of the military region. The Congolese
government, meanwhile, has repeated its accusation of Rwandan
involvement in M23, saying that whole battalions of Rwandan troops took
place this offensive.
Now, the M23 has beat a tactical retreat from the towns it captured, in some places reportedly leaving police
forces loyal to them behind. One of their officers told me that this was
because some Congolese officers were trying to organize a massacre of
the local population there and stick them with the blame; the army
In Goma, in the meantime, fear and anger spread as people worried about a possible attack on town. In a few places this resulted in xenophobic outpourings. A group of youths at the Université de Goma
began attacking Tutsi students, throwing stones at them and calling them
names. Police reportedly had to intervene and escort some of the Tutsi
student to the neighboring Rwandan town of Gisenyi. Elsewhere,
motorcycle taxi drivers grouped together to attack Tutsi, as well.
M23 has accused Governor Julien Paluku of being behind this; the
victimization of Tutsi has been one of their main justifications for
leaving the army and starting a new rebellion. Governor Paluku's people
have retorted that M23 is cynically paying people to harass Tutsi, so as to have a pretext for their rebellion.
The presence of large numbers of motorcycle taxi driver could be an
indication of some sort of organization behind this, as in some places
up to 80 motorcycles allegedly gathered to harass Tutsi.