Congolese cross the deserted market as they flee after Congolese soldiers and rebel fighters battled for hours over the eastern Congolese town of Sake, 27 kilometers west of Goma on Nov. 22, 2012. (More)
The M23 rebels have been blamed for hundreds of deaths since the former army soldiers mutinied in April, unhappy with the outcome of a 2009 peace deal that integrated them into the regular army. One of their leaders is Bosco Ntaganda, a former army general nicknamed the “Terminator” who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The UN has accused neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels, charges that both countries deny. Two wars that shook the country between 1996 and 1997 and then again from 1998 to 2002 both began in the Kivu region, with Rwanda and Uganda playing active or behind-the-scenes roles in much of the fighting.
Since 1998 more than three million people are estimated to have died from combat, disease and hunger and 1.6 million have been left homeless. The former Belgian colony, known as Zaire under the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was toppled in 1997, remains one of the world’s least developed countries despite its mineral wealth.
[Credit : Jerome Delay/AP]