Tracking the M23

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013, marks the one year anniversary of the M23 movement’s capture of the city of Goma. The M23 rebel group developed out of the March 23, 2009, peace agreement between the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, and the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP. While CNDP leader, General Bosco Ntaganda, agreed in the 2009 March accord to integrate his forces into the government army, he led a mutiny of soldiers in early April 2012. General Ntaganda believed the DRC government was failing to implement the March accords and that the Congolese Tutsi population would be at risk of persecution in eastern Congo. Fighting in eastern Congo between the M23 and the Armed Forces for the Democratic Republic of Congo, or FARDC, has led to massive civilian displacement and human rights abuses over the past several years and their power culminated in the capture of Goma last November. However, after months of increased UN support to the FARDC and a series of military gains, the M23 surrendered on November 7, 2013.

This timeline, featuring embedded photos and documents, tracks key events from the creation of the CNDP to the present day. Browse through the timeline to view the series of violent acts, negotiations, and international actions that led to the disbandment of the M23 on November 7, 2013.

2009-03-23 14:09:48

Goma Peace Agreement

The National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, and the DRC Government sign a peace accord aiming to resolve crises in eastern DRC and achieve lasting peace throughout the country. The Accord states that the CNDP, led by Bosco Ntaganda, will end its military movement, integrate into FARDC, and become a political party. In addition, the CNDP and DRC government mutually agree to take steps to integrate CNDP into national government structures and the government will pass an amnesty law for former rebels.

2012-04-04 23:44:37

M23: Ex-CNDP Troops Desert FARDC

General Ntaganda, now a senior officer in the FARDC, leads a mutiny of 300 former rebels in North Kivu, citing poor living conditions, bad wages, and the unwillingness of the government to implement details of the March 23 deal. The defectors clash with Congolese loyalists in Rusthuru, north of the provincial capital of Goma. This rebel movement to the March accords will become known as M23.

2012-05-08 23:44:37

Makenga Replaces Ntaganda

Mutineers in eastern Congo proclaim that Colonel Sultani Makenga will lead the M23, removing General Ntaganda from a leadership role. Analysts say this switch was made to protect Ntaganda from allegations of war crimes.

2012-06-15 23:44:37

UNSC Condemns Mutiny

The United Nations Security Council issues a statement condemning M23’s mutiny and calling on neighboring countries to prevent the armed group from attaining outside assistance. The statement urges the region to cooperate with the DRC in demobilizing the M23 and expresses concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

2012-06-27 04:55:57

MONUSCO Mandate Extended

The Security Council adopts Resolution 2053, which extends MONUSCO's mandate until June 30, 2013, and reaffirms that protection of civilians must take priority.

2012-06-27 20:59:29

UN: Rwanda helped M23

A leaked UN expert report alleges that Rwandan officials have given “direct assistance” in launching the M23, as well as helping the group procure weapons, recruit soldiers, and develop logistics.

2012-07-06 20:59:29

M23 Seize Bunagana

The M23 seize Bunagana, a key population center and trading town in eastern Congo, bordering Uganda.

2012-07-08 20:59:29

M23 Seize Rutshuru and Rumangabo

The M23 take over the major towns of Rutshuru and Rumangabo as they force their way through North Kivu.

2012-07-09 03:41:39

UN, DRC troops Sent To Goma

United Nations and DRC send troops to reinforce Goma out of alarm for M23 advancement toward the city. Thousands of refugees flee in anticipation of the violence. A UN official describes a UN takeover of Goma as “disastrous.”

2012-07-11 03:41:39

M23 Threaten to Seize Goma

M23 soldiers warn of a march on Goma if DRC forces continue attacking civilians expressing allegiance to Rwanda.

2012-07-13 03:41:39

ICC Arrest Warrant for Ntaganda

The ICC's second arrest warrant against General Bosco Ntaganda details four counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity.

2012-07-15 05:55:42

Agree On International Border Force

At an African Union Summit, President Kabila of the DRC and President Kagame of Rwanda meet to discuss the security situation in eastern DRC. They agree to work with the AU and UN to establish a neutral international force to destroy armed groups in eastern Congo.

2012-07-22 12:05:59

US Cuts Military Aid to Rwanda

In an email statement, the U.S. State Department said they will not be providing $200,000 worth of military aid to Rwanda for the 2012 fiscal year. This is in reaction to UN accusations and evidence that Rwanda is supporting rebel groups like M23 in the DRC.

2012-07-25 04:36:05

UN Forces Attack M23

UN helicopter gunships attack suspected rebel strongholds near Rutshuru, about 30 miles north of Goma, in support of FARDC efforts to stop the M23 from seizing Goma, the provincial capitol.

2012-08-02 01:42:12

UNSC Condemns M23

The UNSC strongly condemns the attacks by M23 and reiterates their demands that M23 cease activities, particularly their advancement to Goma.

2012-09-11 11:07:36

HRW Report: M23 War Crimes

A Human Rights Watch report details M23 war crimes including summary executions, rape, and forced recruitment. The report also accuses Rwanda of complicity in war crimes through continued military support to the M23.

2012-10-01 06:16:57

UNSC: Rwanda and Uganda Support M23

A confidential report by the UN Security Council Group of Experts accuses Uganda and Rwanda of continual support to M23 rebels, despite the two countries’ denials. The 44-page report accuses Rwanda of helping to coordinate and create the M23, while detailing Uganda’s political support of the rebel group. The report also says that M23 leaders receive direct instruction from the Rwandan army.

2012-11-18 21:43:04

M23 Advances Toward Goma

M23 rebels reach the outskirts of Goma, within 2 miles of the city. Fighting with DRC and UN troops around Goma led to the death of 151 M23 soldiers and two DRC army officers. M23 spokesman Colonel Vianney Kazarama says, "We are about to take the town. We will spend the night in Goma tonight."

2012-11-20 01:04:48

UN condemns M23

UN Security Council unanimously condemns the M23's seizure of Goma. The Security Council Statement demands M23’s immediate withdrawal, cessation of advancements, and permanent demobilization.

2012-11-20 07:56:15

M23 takes Goma

Goma falls to the M23 rebels, who were largely unchallenged in their operation. Goma citizens are divided in supporting the M23, with many remaining inside for fear of repercussions for showing dissent. About 1,000 residents meet the M23 with cheers as the rebel group arrives.

2012-11-24 09:41:05

ICGLR: M23 Have 48 Hours to Withdraw

The Heads of State of the ICGLR meet in Kampala and declare the M23 must immediately withdraw to no less than 20km outside of Goma within 2 days. The communique does not call on the M23 to disarm, but to withdraw to a strategic position without threat of attack.

2012-11-28 20:53:58

UNSC Extend Sanctions

In reaction to continued violence, the UNSC passed Resolution 2078, which renews the arms embargo and other sanctions on armed groups in the DRC to February 1, 2014.

2012-12-01 17:28:16

M23 withdraws from Goma

The M23 leaves Goma under international pressure, ending the 11-day occupation.

2012-12-11 03:17:51

Peace talks stall

Peace talks stall once more when the M23 delegation refuses to attend the proceedings in which the DRC government rebutted M23's accusations.

2012-12-31 22:08:38

UNSC sanctions M23

The UN Security Council issues sanctions against the M23, accusing the group of targeting women and children in times of armed conflict, carrying out mass killings, and forcefully recruiting child soldiers. M23 leaders will have assets frozen and will be barred from travel.

2013-01-03 09:11:55

M23 threaten to leave talks

M23 threatens to pull out of the peace talks scheduled to begin Friday, January 4th, unless Kabila signs a ceasefire agreement. The plan for negotiations follows the arrangement led by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region after M23’s withdrawal from Goma.

2013-01-08 22:08:38

M23 ceasefire

In reaction to the ICGLR statement, M23 declares a unilateral ceasefire ahead of second round of peace talks, hoping that the DRC government would do the same. M23 spokesman Francois Rucogoza declares that M23 will engage in peace talks even if the government fails to follow suit.

2013-01-18 14:09:12

DRC Rejects Rebel Demands

The DRC Government has rejected M23 rebel demands during peace talks in Kampala, claiming the demands are "unconstitutional."

2013-02-24 22:08:38

Peace and Security Framework

The UN and African Union (AU) collaborate to draft a comprehensive plan addressing instability in the DRC. The Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the DRC and the Region, or PSC Framework, is signed by 12 African countries in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

2013-02-28 18:07:05

Runiga dismissed

M23 political leader Jean-Marie Runiga is dismissed from his position after accusations of high treason. M23's military command states that Runiga was unable to carry out the group's objectives and allege that Runiga allowed former commander Bosco Ntaganda to influence high-level decisions.

2013-03-07 19:47:57

Reports: Peace deal close

Anonymous security sources report that the M23 and DRC government are close to reaching a peace deal. The sources say that Kinshasa offered amnesty to forces loyal to Col. Makenga.

2013-03-11 07:31:21

Peace deal terms

Sources continue to speculate that a peace deal between M23 forces and the DRC government are impending.

2013-03-16 23:07:04

Runiga arrested in Rwanda

M23 faction leader Jean-Marie Runiga is detained in Rwanda after fleeing across the border. Runiga and the soldiers accompanying him are disarmed and detained in Rwanda.

2013-03-28 21:58:02

Intervention Brigade authorized

The UN Security Council renews MONUSCO’s mandate and authorizes a new offensive force in UNSC Resolution 2098. The Intervention Brigade will aim to neutralize and disarm M23 and other armed groups in eastern Congo.

2013-04-24 22:08:38

Ntaganda surrenders to ICC

General Bosco Ntaganda voluntarily surrenders himself to International Criminal Court custody. Ntaganda is suspected of seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity.

2013-05-20 11:21:00

M23 attacks FARDC

The M23 attacks FARDC troops north of Goma in an attempt to disrupt the deployment of MONUSCO peacekeepers. While the M23 was pushed back, sporadic fighting continues. The M23 accuses FARDC of initiating the attack.

2013-07-14 11:21:00

MONUSCO statement on fighting

MONUSCO issues a statement urging parties to abide by the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. MONUSCO also states that any M23 advance on Goma will be considered a direct threat toward civilians.

2013-07-14 11:21:00

M23-FARDC Fighting Resumes

Fighting between the M23 and DRC army resumes for the first time in two months in Mutaho, a few kilometers north of Goma. Citizens of Mutaho cheered their army, providing support for the impending fight. While FARDC insists that M23 initiated attacks, M23 holds that FARDC began the hostilities.

2013-07-15 11:21:00

120 M23 killed

Reports surface that 120 M23 soldiers and 10 FARDC soldiers have been killed in the recent clashes.

2013-07-16 11:21:00

UNHCR fears for refugees

Day three of fighting is met with UNHCR fears for the escalating refugee crisis as violences forces citizens to flee to neighboring Uganda. UNHCR states that they are rushing to help “tens of thousands of refugees.” A senior UNHCR official says the fighting is “ongoing and intensifying.”

2013-07-16 22:31:38

FARDC "in compliance" with agreements

As FARDC helicopter gunships attack rebel positions on the third day of FARDC-M23 fighting, Congolese Colonel Mustapha Mamadou insists that Congolese forces are reacting to attacks and remain in compliance with February’s peace agreements. A South African army statement counters this claim, insisting that FARDC moves are “predetermined.”

2013-07-18 11:46:13

UNSG Statement on fighting

As day four of fighting opens, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon alleges that FARDC soldiers have been violating M23 troops’ human rights throughout the conflict. The Secretary General expresses concern over these reports of mistreatment, stating that MONUSCO will reevaluate its support to FARDC.

2013-07-19 06:52:54

Civilians protest Kabila

Hundreds of citizens gather in Goma to protest President Joseph Kabila’s inability to deal with the M23.

2013-07-22 01:52:58

HRW reports M23 abuses

Human Rights Watch releases a report on M23 human rights abuses, accusing the rebel group of raping and killing civilians. The report also details instances of forced recruitment and evidence of Rwandan support for the M23.

2013-07-22 13:56:15

Break in fighting ends

M23 rebels shell an army camp in Kanyanja, 22 km north of Goma, during what appeared to be an end to hostilities, ending a three-day lull in fighting. Reports of heavy artillery use surface from the area.

2013-07-23 03:21:53

M23 statement on fighting

In a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the M23 condemns the resumption of hostilities and insists that they are ready to return to negotiations. The statement, made after a week of renewed fighting, urges the United Nations to revoke support for FARDC.

2013-07-24 01:52:58

MONUSCO press conference

A MONUSCO press conference reveals that only four M23 soldiers have surrendered, while 29 FARDC soldiers have been medically evacuated in the past three days. MONUSCO also announces the launch of an operation to expedite an end to hostilities.

2013-08-01 07:08:52

UN Disarmament Deadline

MONUSCO issues a deadline for M23 to disarm voluntarily. After the deadline, the rebel group risks being forcefully disarmed by UN peacekeepers. The deadline comes in response to M23 attacks on government troop positions since mid-May.

2013-08-28 13:49:40

M23 offensive kills peacekeeper

While FARDC troops supported by MONUSCO push back the M23, one UN peacekeeper is killed and three are wounded during the M23 offensive. Head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, issues a statement condemning the attack.

2013-09-05 13:49:40

ICGLR demand peace talks

The Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, met in Kampala at a summit to discuss the deteriorating situation in eastern DRC. They demand that talks between the DRC government and the M23 resume within 3 days of this Summit and conclude within a maximum of 14 days. If these demands are not met, the ICGLR will meet again and decide on a way forward.

Tracking the M23

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