What’s going on in Goma – a timeline

This article has been updated.

 The escalation we’ve all been fearing has taken place. How did this unfold? Here is a rough timeline, including some possibly unrelated events:

  • Sunday, November 11:
    • Belgium halts its small military cooperation plan with Rwanda and says it wants to push for further sanctions against the country;
  • Monday, November 12:
    • The Ugandan government, under fire for supporting the M23, closes its Bunagana border post, where the rebels had been gathering tax revenue;
  • Tuesday, November 13:
    • One of the main allies of the M23, Colonel Albert “Fokka Mike” Kahasha surrenders in Bukavu with thirty-five other soldiers;
  • Wednesday, November 14:
    • The US Treasury and the United Nations put Sultani Makenga on their sanctions lists;
  • Thursday, November 15:
    • Fighting begins in Kibumba, 30km north of Goma, bringing an end to the three month-long ceasefire. Kibumba was the main defensive position for Goma, and the Congolese army, which had dug in here with several thousand troops, initially pushed back the M23. There were reports from the United Nations of heavy casualties on the rebel side;
  • Saturday, November 17:
    • The M23 launches an early morning offensive and succeeds at pushing back the Congolese army, despite support from UN attack helicopters. According to the local civil society, foreign journalists on the ground and the Congolese army, the Rwandan army participated in this offensive, crossing the border around Kabuhanga or Kasizi. This attack also put the 16,000 households in the Kanyaruchina IDP camp on the run toward Goma;
    • At the same time, the M23 pushed back Congolese army positions in Kalengera and Mabenga, two different front lines 30km and 60km north of Kibumba, respectively. The Congolese army was reported to have used local militia here to tie down M23 positions;
    • The UN Security Council condemns the M23 offensive and warns them not to take Goma. Other diplomats follow suit, including the US, the UK and the EU;
  • Sunday, November 18:
    • The fighting reaches Goma, with M23 infiltrating units behind the front lines, giving the impression that the Congolese army is being attacked from behind. “Tunavipata kwa kifua na matako,” one officer told me. (We’re getting it in the chest and the buttocks);
    • The Congolese opposition leader Vital Kamerhe calls for negotiations with the M23.
    • A high-level Congolese military delegation arrives in Goma, along with reinforcements from South Kivu;
    • After the Kibumba defeat, the morale of the Congolese army plummets and several units take to looting in Goma;
  •  Monday, November 19:
    • Fighting escalates in Goma, as Congolese army units withdraw from parts town, briefly giving M23 control;
    • In
      frustration, the Congolese army lobs mortars across the border, killing
      several Rwandan civilians. Unconfirmed reports suggests that Rwanda
      responded in kind, hitting several locations––including a gas
      station––in Goma;
    • Various reliable sources, including the UN, suggest that Rwandan army troops briefly cross the border, but withdraw by nightfall;
    • Several eyewitnesses see the Congolese army distributing weapons to youths or militiamen from Masisi as army units flee town;
    • The
      M23 call for Goma to be demilitarized and for negotiations with the
      government. The government refuses, but there are rumors that a
      high-level delegation left Kinshasa for Kampala;
    • The French government is due to propose a Security Council resolution that would probably include condemnation of Rwanda;
  • Tuesday, November 20:
    • The Congolese army redeploys in most of Goma, including at the airport and by the border, while fighting continues in town.
    • By 2pm, however, the M23 had advanced to control the airport and much of the town.