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M23’s Potemkin village

M23’s Potemkin village

The Globe and Mail’s Geoffrey York visits the rebel group’s showcase capital city

The rebel capital, Rutshuru, is a showcase for their ideology. Neat and tidy, without a scrap of trash to be seen, Rutshuru is supervised by taciturn young M23 members in clean new uniforms, with new radios and weaponry from their Rwandan sponsors.

Just as in Rwanda, anti-corruption signs are posted on the roads, and every adult is compelled to clean the city streets for four hours on one Saturday per month. “Our priority is the social welfare of the Congolese people,” says Benjamin Mbonimpa, the M23 administrator here.

Yet beneath this beautified surface, the rebels hold power by terror and violence. If you talk to Rutshuru’s residents in a secure place, away from the watchful eyes of rebels’ spies, they reveal the deadly reality of life under the M23.

“They take whatever they want,” says a carpenter. “If I report it, they will come back and kill me.”

James Verini reported on M23’s taking of Goma last week. The .N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the group "among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC, or in the world" for the atrocities committed on the march across the country.

Government troops now appear to have reasserted control over Goma, but the likely Rwandan-backed rebels are threatening to retake the city if their demands aren’t met.