Armed groups proliferate like rabbits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many fizzle within a few months or years, while others build enough strength to sustain decades of sporadic, low-intensity fighting with government forces. In 2012, one new armed group managed to grab international headlines. From its formation in April to its dramatic capture of Goma in November, the M23 movement has become one of the strongest eastern Congolese armed groups to arise in many years.
Stubborn Conflict, Persistent Promise: East Africa's Regional Aspirations
East Africa is a region where both conflict and opportunity show little regard for national borders. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the M23 rebellion and Rwanda's involvement in it underscore the persistent legacy of identity and origin in the conflict-ridden eastern provinces. For U.S. policy in the region, a preoccupation with security and counterterrorism interests often conflicts with concerns over human rights and democratic governance. And amid the region's tangle of economic communities, the East African Community's dynamism offers a model for broader regional and continental integration.
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Since the attacks of 9/11, U.S. security intertests in East Africa have often conflicted with U.S. policy that encourages democratization and more attention to human rights. Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda -- all central to U.S. security policy objectives in the region -- demonstrate the fine policy line that the United States is walking as it actively seeks the support of their governments, which exercise varying degrees of repression.
Since being reconstituted in 1999, the East African Community's dynamism has helped to propel efforts toward the most ambitious African trade project yet, the so-called Tripartite Free Trade Area. As a result, the goal of a continental economic initiative within reach or at least within sight: The African Union declared in 2012 that an African free trade agreement would be launched in 2017. But the region's policymakers must first resolve several challenges.