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. ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images
Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images
Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.