All eyes are on Gaza, but what about the Congo’s Goma?

5-m23-march-on-goma2While all eyes have been on the Gaza this week, another major conflict is slipping past the radar of most people. Unfortunately it appears that an African conflict is less interesting to the west and its media than a Middle Eastern one.

On Monday, armed rebels from the M23 (which stands for March 23 Movement) rebel movement took the city of Goma, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have vowed to “liberate” the rest of the country and topple the country’s President Kabila.

According to Reuters, the M23 were able to take control of the city, which borders Rwanda, after UN peacekeepers gave up and government officials retreated from the city after days of clashes between the rebels and Congolese army.

Rwanda’s role

Various leaders, including the UN, African Union and those from surrounding areas have called for the M23 to leave Goma, which the group is refusing to do. Rwanda has been accused by the United Nations of supporting the rebel group, an allegation which the Rwandan government has denied. In a report released last week the United Nations said that not only was Rwanda supporting the creation and expansion of the group, funnelling weapons, facilitating recruitment and providing military reinforcement, but that the M23 group is actually controlled by Rwandan Defense Minister General James Kabarebe.

Over one million people live in Goma and many have been fleeing for their lives. The charityUNICEF says that over 100,000 have been displaced as a result of recent fighting, with many of those affected being children under the age of 18.

The international reaction – it’s not enough

On Wednesday, President Obama wrote a letter to Congress in which he said: “The situation in or in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been marked by widespread violence and atrocities that continue to threaten regional stability, continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States…For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency to deal with that threat and the related measures blocking the property of certain persons contributing to the conflict in that country.”

The UN Security Council has also unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the rebels’ seizure of the city and calling for sanctions against leaders and backers of M23 although it is unclear what, if any, impact any of this will have.

The real question is why this issue is not being given more attention and why more people are not calling for an end in the same way that they are in Gaza. Do African lives mean less?


The view from the ground – see our photos has an eyewitness on the ground, in the shape of British documentary filmaker Orlando von Einsiedel who is currently in the region working on a documentary film about the people in the Virunga National Park who are working to save the last of the world’s mountain gorillas.

Being so close to the conflict, von Einsiedel has been able to capture images and give us his own view on what is going on in the region. His photos are compelling and give a true sense of what is currently happening in the region.

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