Why are Congolese rebels praising Nelson Mandela on Twitter?

Why are Congolese rebels praising Nelson Mandela on Twitter?

Nelson Mandela is back in the news this week with the announcement that he’s once again in the hospital and in fragile condition. And while the legacy of the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary leader is open to debate, there’s no denying that he’s often turned to as a source of inspiration. Apparently, that even applies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s M23 rebel militia.

On Monday, a Twitter account that appears to be run by members of the rebel movement published a series of tweets quoting Mandela and hailing freedom and peacemaking — not exactly what you’d expect from an armed group that has used violence to battle the Congolese government since 2012


Not surprisingly, the rebel army’s decision to invoke one of the world’s greatest peacemakers has ruffled a few feathers. 


So what explains M23’s love of Mandela? It’s not entirely clear, but M23 members have argued that they have Madiba’s principles on their side in their struggle with the Congolese government. "I appeal to our brothers, the South Africans, not to allow an individual or a group of individuals to discard the values that have built their nation and for which values Nelson Mandela sacrificed his youth," declared M23 youth leader Ali Musagara last month, in urging South Africa not to support Kinshasa.

And hey, given that M23 leaders are currently trying to hash out peace talks with the Congolese government, maybe they actually are inspired. The group has already suggested that just like Mandela, who was once labeled a terrorist, M23 may one day be known for brokering peace, not waging war.