When Congo’s army retreated in panic from the eastern city of Goma last month, many observers blamed the poor morale and leadership, ill discipline and corruption that have sapped its fighting capacity for years.
In the hours before Goma fell to M23 rebels on Nov. 20, drunk and terrified Congolese soldiers roamed the streets or huddled in doorways before melting away, witnesses said.
M23’s 11-day occupation of the city was one of the worst battlefield defeats for the DRC’s armed forces, which at 150,000-strong are among the largest in Africa. They are also backed by 17,000 UN peacekeepers.
As recriminations swirl over the Goma defeat, which forced President Joseph Kabila to accept talks with a group he says is a creation of Rwanda, allegations have emerged that betrayal in the army’s ranks may have led to the rout. M23 representatives did not show up at a crucial meeting of the talks on Monday in Uganda.
The Congolese government has launched an investigation into the army’s actions in Goma, but little evidence has come to light beyond anonymous allegations against officers from subordinates who accuse their commanders of selling them out. “All of our intelligence was given to M23,” alleged a senior army officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because army regulations forbid him from commenting publicly.