Across town at Unity Stadium, a tumbledown soccer pitch with concrete bleachers, hundreds of police officers and soldiers who'd turned themselves in were mustering each day under orders from M23. Many were frightened they'd be sent to the frontlines. Still, the scene was a strange mixture of suspicion and joviality. Some had shown up to the stadium in their uniforms, but just as many were in natty street clothes. A national army colonel dressed in red chinos and a multicolored Johnnie Walker baseball jacket told me that they were awaiting transport to a camp at the village of Rumangabo. They'd been informed that there they would undergo two days of "ideology" training before being redeployed.
At the nearby Stadium of Volcanoes, where the M23 held a victory rally that brought in thousands, young men were trickling in to enlist in the rebel army. They were being promised six months training, and food. "We don't force anyone to join," a recruiter told me. "These are volunteers."
I asked a 22 year-old man named Faraja why he was there. "I want the M23 to take over the Congo, because all the young people you see here don't have jobs," he said. "When they take over the country, they'll create jobs. That's what they told us." Just who may be commanding Faraja, however, is unclear. Laurent Nkunda is still officially living under house arrest in Rwanda. Bosco Ntaganda -- or "The Terminator," as he's known -- has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, and is rumored to be moving between the Goma area and Rwanda.
How Faraja will be treated is another question. One prominent M23 commander, also a reintegrated CNDP veteran, is Seraphin Mirindi. He can often be found at Colonel Kazarama's side. One day I went to the home of a prominent figure in Goma who is opposed to the M23. He sat me down at his desk and turned on his laptop. He clicked open a file called "Seraphin's tortures" and brought up a video, shot in January, when Mirindi was still officially in the national army.
It shows Mirindi, in the yard of his home, in track pants and a t-shirt. With him are several national army soldiers. A shirtless man with his arms tied behind his back at the elbows enters the frame. Mirindi addresses him briefly, and the man pleads with him. The man is then pulled from the frame and pushed to the ground. A soldier begins whipping him with a stick and then kicks him. In a subsequent video shot during the same incident, another man with a large, bleeding contusion in his head, his arms also tied behind him, is pushed to the ground and whipped and kicked. The men being tortured had been accused of stealing the radio of one of Mirindi's family members, the man told me.
"These are our new masters," he said as we watched.
The M23 has other problems. Until now, Goma's population has been peaceful, either out of fear or patience. But if power and water service are not restored, and imports and aid agencies are not allowed back in, that will soon change. At first hard to find, reports of its soldiers looting homes in Goma and abusing and raping civilians are beginning to proliferate. On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that the M23 looted Goma's central bank. And the extent of its support among the population is undecided. Though generally Tutsi-dominated, the M23 has been boycotted by much of Congo's Tutsi elite. In order to keep taking territory, the group has had to forge alliances with undisciplined and venal local militias, known as mai mai, some of them rabidly anti-Rwandan. (When I was in Goma, a mai mai fighter attacked a British photojournalist.)
Meanwhile, donor nations are threatening to withdraw hundreds of millions in aid from Uganda and Rwanda and have frozen Makenga's foreign assets. The Security Council has sanctioned it. Washington, London, and Paris, along with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have all called on the M23 to pull out of Goma. After talks with Kabila in Kampala last week, so too have Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, officially at least. On Monday, Makenga was in Kampala to negotiate.
But Kazarama and his colleagues are still calling for Kabila's ouster, or meetings with him, depending on the day. On Tuesday, November 27, M23 political leader Jean-Marie Runiga issued a list of demands before it would leave Goma. It includes prisoner releases, investigations into army corruption, and other impracticable things. Last Friday, the M23 held a press event at the abandoned national army camp to show off seized weapons. Mirindi stood over a pile of rusted mortar guns and bellowed, "With these we will defeat Kabila!" As reporters gathered around Kazarama, I handed him a copy of the U.N. report, which had been publicly released the day before, and asked him about its allegations of child-soldier recruitment and executions.
His eyes bulged and he launched into a tirade in increasingly loud and fragmented French. "You are all journalists," he said. "Check if there are child soldiers. I am Kazarama, I am not children. I'm an adult!"
As for the dragooning charges, he said, "How could we take people be force? Everyone in Goma welcomes the M23 -- except for the children. The will of the people is to come with us. Apart from the children."