Stop the press, the CNDP (Laurent Nkunda's former armed group) has a new president! Ok, so it's not really that exciting. First of all, no one has heard of the guy. His name his Philippe Gafishi, a Tutsi from the Mugogwe clan (same as Bosco Ntaganda), born in Nyamitaba and around 43 years old. He did not take part in the AFDL (1996-7) or RCD (1998-2003) rebellions and apparently earned a degree in Lubumbashi before moving to Rwanda, where he has worked for some years.
What does this mean? Not a whole lot. As a reminder, after Laurent Nkunda was removed/arrested in January this year, a new crew was imposed: Desire Kamanzi and Jean Munyampenda. These guys were also largely ciphers (Munyampenda has been involved in the AFDL) and didn't really seem to have much weight within the CNDP. In any case, the CNDP troops are still largely divided between the minority who support Bosco Ntaganda and the majority who are behind Nkunda (even if he is under house arrest in Kigali). The CNDP political movement is now largely controlled by the pro-Bosco faction, which it is not surprising that Gafishi is rumored to be a relative of the ICC-indictee.
Talks in Kinshasa between the armed groups and the government began this past week, and it is not clear whether Gafishi will attend the talks, which are supposed to talk about the implementation of the March 23 agreement. Most of the armed groups are still unhappy that their soldiers have been integrated but the political leadership is still largely unemployed and broke.
What else is the CNDP getting for Christmas? It looks like perhaps a Supreme Court trial? Nkunda is supposed to finally get a hearing in front of the Rwandan Supreme Court, as his lawyer announced a few days ago. He has consistently complained that he has been illegally detained without an arrest warrant for almost a year. I don't think formal charges have been brought against him. The court hearing is supposed to happen on Janaury 13, 2010.
Also, more reports are coming out of the Ntoto-Kibua (southern Masisi) area of a mutinous ex-CNDP battalion. Not clear what exactly happened, but it appears that Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva (ex-CNDP) deserted from his position around Nyabiondo around a month ago along with several hundred ex-CNDP soldiers. Other deserters have joined them since. Nsengiyumva is allegedly a relative of "Papa-6" (Nkunda's radio call sign) and used to be in his bodyguard. In other words, this is another sign of splintering within the CNDP.
The other CNDP wing accuses Nsengiyumva of being in cahoots with the FDLR.
Ah, Christmas in Masisi! Keep your eyes peeled, it always around this time of year (when the diplomats are busy tending to the yule log) that trouble breaks out around Goma - certainly was the case for the past three years.