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General News    H3'ed 3/2/13

M23: Today's Doomed Rebels or Tomorrow's Revered Revolutionaries?

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(Article changed on March 2, 2013 at 23:21)

(Article changed on March 2, 2013 at 12:47)

"And so I have studied, I have to tell you, revolutions and uprisings for a long time. They are all slightly different, but what they all look for is some kind of a mechanism to go from an authoritarian system to an open, democratic system."-- Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of State 

FLASH UPDATE: M23 reports to OEN News and the LAPROGRESSIVE today that 95% of the M23 soldiers are now with General Sultani Makenga. "Ntaganda  (ICC wanted warlord)  is only with his body guard without weapon. He has been defeated, we are following him, he is heading to Nyiragongo mountain."

For the past year, with the exception of a few analyses, like this one from Blomberg News, the foreign press has generally vilified the M23/CRA revolutionary movement in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; accusing them of supporting ICC wanted warlord, Bosco (The Terminator) Ntaganda. A complete understanding of what is happening in Congo regarding the current "split" within the ranks of the M23/CRA requires a complex interpretation of history. 24 hour information cycles do not take this into account as media rushes to put out "news" for quick consumption. In the face of vehement denials that Ntaganda has been running the M23/CRA, the press continued to report Ntaganda's involvement. All that may change today with the report that M23/CRA is on the verge of capturing the warlord. 

For the uninitiated, a partial timeline of the evolution of the M23/CRA (Congo Revolutionary Army) can be found at the end of this post for reference.

General Sultani Makenga enters Goma
General Sultani Makenga enters Goma
(Image by M23/CRA)
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General Sultani Makenga enters Goma by M23/CRA

An analysis of reports on the Congo peace process and the influences of the M23/CRA finds mostly half-truths, some outright lies, and plenty of distortion that serves the geo-political interests of the powerful and completely ignores the problems that have plagued eastern Congo since the days of King Leopold and Mobutu. Corruption and ethnic hatred find sustenance in the lies told by the powerful. It is surprising that the progressive press, which prides itself on "speaking truth to power," has completely bought into the distortions.

Notice how many reports subtly refer to an "ethnic Tutsi" connection.

There are many Congolese whose native language is Kinyarwanda. Kinyarwanda is a dialect spoken by some 12 million people in Rwanda, and is also spoken by many in parts of Uganda. The political boundaries between countries in central Africa were literally lines drawn on the world map by the during the 1885 Berlin conference. References to the M23 as a "Tutsi" group is misleading. If you live in Congo and your native language is Kinyarwanda, it does not make you Rwandan. You may be Tutsi, you may be Hutu, or you may be Pygmy. In addition, some of M23 leading figures, such as its spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa, are not Tutsi and do not speak Kinyarwanda. In fact people will be surprised to know that most of M23 fighters are not from the Tutsi community, albeit its military leadership is.

In a fair world it would make no difference what language you spoke, but the world is not fair, nor is it kind.

There is no doubt that Kinyarwanda speakers in eastern Congo have been historically persecuted and denied citizenship, and that the government of Congo is supporting the FDLR and at least two dozen Mai Mai militias whose mission remains to remove Tutsis from their ancestral lands in the Congo.

Ethnic references obscure the more salient point that the M23/CRA evolved as a reaction to failures by the Government of Congo under the leadership of President Joseph Kabila to implement a peace accord, signed in March 2009, which guaranteed political change in eastern Congo.

Let's face it. Most American readers are not interested in an in-depth understanding of history, and very few care one wit about central Africa unless the "news" is bloody. But truth resides in historical minutiae, while lies thrive in the portrait painted with the broad brush favored by news analysts. The spectacular event and the heinous crime provide compelling images.

When the M23/CRA revolutionary movement captured the provincial capitol of Goma and then withdrew in the interests of promoting a peace process with the African Union, the focus was on the event and not what led up to it. The ideals, hopes, and dreams of the good men and women who support the principles behind M23/CRA were almost completely ignored. And there are good men and women in this movement. I met some of them back in 2009 when I was fortunate enough to interview  General Laurent Nkunda before he was put under house arrest by the government of Rwanda.

The fact that Goma was taken peacefully in late November 2012 was a footnote. AlJazeera reported abuses committed by the Congolese Army, while most international press reports looked away. The true story did not fit the narrative developed by the powerful.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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