After an armed conflict lasting almost 2 years, leaders of the M23 uprising in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo announced their surrender. The violent uprising brought increased instability to the region, including widespread gender violence.
The M23 is a contingent of rebel soldiers who were integrated into the national Congolese army, but mutinied in April 2012. Late last year, the M23 briefly captured the city of Goma before retreating.The group continued to hold signifcant control of areas in the region and the caused significant displacement and instability. This conflict has seen grave human rights abuses perpetrated by both the M23 and the Congolese national army, including widespread rape.
Rights groups have called on the Congolese government to continue in the path to peace by rejecting impunity and holding its own soldiers, as well as M23 fighters, to account for war crimes committed.
This struggle against the M23 was supported by the first-ever UN offensive mission, and significant international pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to cut ties with the rebels. Both Uganda, and to a larger extent, Rwanda have been reported supporters of the group, as documented by UN group of experts, and Human Rights Watch. The US recently cut military spending to Rwanda because of links to M23. Both countries adamantly deny involvement.
The surrender of the group marks the first step on the long road to sustainable peace in the region.