Countless lives are again at stake in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where rebels have seized control of Goma, a major city in the mineral-rich east of the country, after defeating government forces and coercing United Nations peacekeepers to stay out of the conflict.
The rebels, known as the M23, are reported to be backed by Rwanda and Uganda — who have denied the allegations. African leaders have given the rebels two days to leave Goma, but they are likely to be reluctant to intervene militarily in the conflict. Besides being very costly — the rebels have given no sign of withdrawing — the last war in the DRC drew in six countries and took millions of lives. Nonetheless, African and UN forces must be ready to protect civilians and efforts to rebuild the DRC.
The DRC has historically been a quagmire of political and ethnic divisions and competition over some of the world’s most valuable mineral resources. However, international powers must also be held responsible for their role in instigating and persistently fuelling the bloody conflicts in their efforts to control its resources and maintain their political influence. The international community has a special responsibility to create peace and security in the country.
Credible and legitimate demands from the rebels must be taken into consideration in any peace initiative, but ultimately their military capacity must be broken and they must be held accountable for any criminal actions. The rebels must know that peaceful dialogue is the only way out.