It was an assault that few DRC cynics thought possible. Last week, with the assistance of the United Nations’s newly established Force Intervention Brigade, troops from the FARDC drove the M23 rebel faction to the Ugandan border and forced what has been effectively their total and unconditional surrender. Almost a year ago, the M23 marched into the regional capital Goma, to the humiliation of MONUSCO and FARDC troops who either fled or looked on without engaging – to the fury of local citizens.
Now, a year onwards, a disciplined and streamlined FARDC force has effectively crushed the M23 rebellion in a matter of days. Assisted with logistics, intelligence and – thanks to a rare offensive mandate – heavy weapons and air assault capabilities from the UN, M23 has declared an end to their operations within hours of losing their final positions at the town of Bunagana.
Phil Moore, a photojournalist following the FIB/FARDC assault, recalls the progress of the last weeks.
Indian peacekeepers sit atop a BMP in Monigi on the outskirts of Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 19, 2013. The UN has been supporting the Congolese army with logistical support, and forming a rear-line as the FARDC battle M23 rebels. [PHIL MOORE]
M23 rebels sit on the shore of Lake Kivu in the city of Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 20, 2012. Following gun fights with government soldiers this morning, the rebels walked through the city of Goma, and continued un-challenged to the Rwanda border, past United Nations peacekeepers. [PHIL MOORE]
Congolese national army soldiers take cover beside a wooden shack during fighting between the army and M23 rebels on the outskirts of Goma in the east of D. R. Congo on July 17, 2013. For the first time in over a year, the army is gaining ground against the rebels, who took the city of Goma last November. [PHIL MOORE]
A Congolese army soldier reacts to shelling in the village of Kanyarucinya, on the outskirts of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17, 2013. Heavy fighting erupted today between M23 rebels and the government forces. [PHIL MOORE]
Congolese army soldiers march ahead of an advancing tank through Kanyarucinya on the outskirts of Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17, 2013. The army fought a heavy battle with M23 forces today around Kanyarucinya, pushing the rebels back by several hundred metres, amidst heavy shelling and closequarter gun battles. [PHIL MOORE]
Colonel Mamadou Ndala, commander of the 42nd battallion of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), addresses a crowd as he tries to disperse a demonstration in Goma in the east of DR Congo on August 2, 2013. Several hundred angry civilians stoned UN vehicles and called for the UN to leave the country, due to a perceived feeling of inaction by UN forces. Col. Mamadou has gained a large following of civilians in eastern DRC with recent successes over M23. [PHIL MOORE]
FARDC Colonel Mamadou’s vehicle arriving and heading to the front of the procession in Rugare about 5 or 10 km from Rumangabo. The colonel got out just in front and marched / ran along with the population for a couple of kilometres. On arrival at the turn off to Rumangabo, the colonel got out of the car again and advanced the 5 or so km up the hill through the town to Rumangabo military camp followed by a tank and surrounded by six of his close soldiers. [JOSEPH KAY]
In Rugare on the way to Rumangabo last Monday (28 October). The army marched to Rumangabo from Kibumba which fell in the early hours of the morning without any resistance and to cheering crowds lining the streets. [JOSEPH KAY]
An injured man, alleged by the Congolese army to be an M23 fighter, lies on a stretcher in the village of Rusayo during a press visit, some 13km from Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 16, 2013. Combat continued today between M23 rebels and the national army – who are making ground against the rebels for the first time in over a year. [PHIL MOORE]
A Congolese army soldier with the FARDC takes up position near Mutahao, several kilometres from Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 15, 2013. The army was pushing back M23 rebels for the first time in over a year of the rebellion. [PHIL MOORE]