Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been touring parts of his country that until recently were in the grip of the M23 rebel militia. Kabila, who has been driving himself in a convoy of 70 vehicles on the 575-mile (930 km) journey, undertook the tour to reassure local people that the North Kivu province is now fully in control of the central government.
Thousands of locals have been turning out to hear speeches that Kabila has been making along the way. Jubilation that the rebels have been thwarted is tempered only by anxiety that other militias may take their place. One resident of Rutshuru, which was held by the rebels for over a year, told the BBC, “The M23 is gone now but there is nothing to indicate that there won’t be an M24 tomorrow or an M25 after that.”
North Kivu and eastern areas of Congo were, until a month ago, held by the mainly Tutsi rebel group that had been operating in the vicinity since April 2012. Government forces along with a new U.N. intervention brigade recently recaptured all the rebel-held areas, prompting the M23 to renounce its insurgency. The eastern regions of Congo have been dogged by militia activity for two decades.
The M23 were named after the peace deal of March 23, 2009 between an earlier form of the militia and the Congolese government, a deal whose promises were not honored by the government, according to the rebels. The group was thought to have received support from Rwanda and Uganda, something both countries have denied.