War

Congo Rebels Conceal Brutality in Showplace Capital

Potemkin village hides the usual nastiness

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In a land of brutal militias and mass atrocities, Congo's M23 rebels have claimed to be different: professional, disciplined, democratic and caring for the welfare of the people.

The rebels are obsessed with their image. They have a Facebook page. They issue press releases. They give speeches in favour of freedom and democracy. They pay money to young men to wave pro-M23 placards and hold orchestrated pro-rebel marches.

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.