Event

Rwanda-backed Tutsi rebel group M23 occupied the provincial capital of Goma in North Kivu on 20 November and somewhat embarrassed President Kabila and his national army given their inability to react despite their preoccupation with the eastern crisis since April. Even the impressive UN peacekeeping mission was humiliated as it simply witnessed the ill-disciplined army flee while rebels effortlessly took over. M23 declared that it would topple President Kabila and march on the capital Kinshasa, though they are unlikely to get anywhere near that far. The statement reminds us of Rwanda's first post-genocide intervention in the DRC in 1996 when Rwanda's proxies went to overthrow the government in Kinshasa. Repetition of this scenario seems unlikely as President Kagame – content with control over resource-rich Kivu where he has extensive economic and security interests – is increasingly conscious of donor disapproval and the detrimental effects of further fund withdrawal. Under western diplomatic pressure, a deal was brokered by the presidents of the Great Lakes States under Uganda's leadership. M23 rebels agreed to pull out of Goma thereby raising hopes for a negotiated solution to end the insurgency.

Impact on country risk

The overrun of Goma has fuelled fears of a renewed 'African World War' comparable to the 1998-2003 regional conflict which drew in nine African countries. With Kabila's army too weak to counter the insurgency alone, it might yet again look for backing of neighbouring countries to fight Rwanda's proxies. Negotiations were kicked off with surrealistic rebel demands which would mean a political suicide for Kabila. Nevertheless the path of negotiations has been chosen now and yet, a peaceful settlement is only possible if M23 leaders in Rwanda are involved. With Kabila's lacking legitimacy in Kinshasa after fraudulent elections, his struggle for authority in the remote eastern regions and increasing resistance within his own ranks, the government has to seize the opportunity of talks to address deep grievances in order to avoid plunging into misery again. The ineffective state building and deeply rooted patronage will have to be tackled in the hope of reaching sustainable peace in the region. ONDD is off cover for the Eastern Province, North and South Kivu. Any increased risk of political volatility due to possible attempts to overthrow the government in Kinshasa – as a result of the renewed questioning of Kabila's legitimacy and a clearly weakened and embarrassed national army - or the possibility of escalating violence in the region will be closely monitored.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com