Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Did we solve one crisis by creating another?

The detente between Kigali and Kinshasa has caused a lot of jubilation amongst diplomats. After all, the rift between the two countries that was a main driver of the Congo conflict since 1998. The arrest of Laurent Nkunda in January and the integration of thousands of CNDP soldiers in the Congolese army provided concrete proof that this thaw was not just rhetorical.

But did this solution create more problems? In particular, has the prominence of the CNDP in this agreement provoked resentment amongst other, non-Tutsi ethnic groups? There have been serious clashes over the past several months between the Alliance of People for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), a mostly Hunde militia led by "General" Janvier, and the Congolese army in western Masisi territory. The units of the Congolese deployed against Janvier are led by former CNDP officers, first Colonel Salongo and now Commander Mukiza. Why this violence? What is Janvier fighting for? (The Mai-Mai Kifua fua have also stirred up trouble, as have General Lafontaine's new, most Nande militia).

On the one hand, Janvier has said that he is upset that the CNDP have been given preferential treatment in the peace deal. In other words, he wants a high-ranking position and money-making opportunities. But we shouldn't underestimate the ethnic and ideological dimension - the ethnic tensions in Masisi are deep and have a bloody history. Between 1930-1960, the Belgian colonial administration facilitated the immigration of over 150,000 Rwandan to Masisi and other territories to work in farms, mines and plantations. This created deep resentments among the Hunde population, who were the traditional inhabitants of the area. By independence, the rwandophone population had become the majority in Masisi and over half of the land in the territory was parcelled away in large colonial plantations and the Virunga National Park. While Hunde stayed in control of the administrative apparatus for most of the post-independence period, Tutsi came to own most of the large plantations.

I won't go into details about post-independence history and violence, but major clashes did erupt in Masisi in 1965 (the so-called Kanyarwanda war) and in 1993, killing thousands on either side of the Hunde-Hutu divide (the Tutsi played less of a role back then, as they were numerically not as significant). But every times violence did erupt, it was accompanied on the Hunde side by cries of Bulongo yetu! (Our land!). Citizenship and land were the two most important factors driving violence at a grassroots level, while national and provincial politicians used cynical divide-and-rule policies to further divide the population and secure their access to resources.

Fast-forward to what is going on now. I don't think anyone knows exactly what are the factors driving the fighting between Janvier and the Congolese army, but consider these reports.
  • A MONUC official told me that the fighting had prompted ex-CNDP units to kill up to 750 civilians in Hunde-populated areas.
  • Government officials claim that around 11,900 Congolese Tutsi refugees have come from from Rwanda in recent months. However, very few seem to be coming from the refugee camps proper, implying that these are either Congolese Tutsi who integrated into local communities in Rwanda (of whom there are many), or that they are not Congolese Tutsi at all. There have been many allegations (some tainted with ethnic antagonism) that the Rwandans are infiltrating their own nationals into the eastern Congo. The Congolese government has complained that the returnees have refused to be registered at border points, and that ex-CNDP units have forcefully prevented their officials from interviewing them in their areas of return.
  • The fighting is concentrated in areas along (actually, a bit to the west of) the rwandophone-Hunde fault line in western Masisi, which also corresponds to the divide between the highlands and the lowlands.
The ethnicization of the army, the return of Tutsi refugees and the approaching local elections (which may or may not be approaching, as it doesn't look like government really wants to hold them in 2010) have created a very explosive mix in North Kivu.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Analysis of 2009 budget (first trimester)

I just now got around to taking a look of the Congo's budgetary performance for the first trimester of the year (it was published on the budget ministry's website several months ago.) Altogether, it was a dismal period, as the global financial downturn hit the commodity markets hard. The government was only able to gather 45% of the revenues it had counted on. Another reason was the considerable inflation during the period - in January alone, the inflation was at over 10% (which would have led to annual inflation of over 100% had it continued apace). At one point, the government was so strapped for cash there was only a few million US$ left in the Central Bank - thankfully the government was bailed out by $600 million in EU, World Bank and African Dev Bank money.

Some other highlights:
  • The budget for justice for the trimester was only $2 million. As a comparison, the government spent $5,8 million on SPORTS of all things. The Congolese are a bit football crazy, and numerous politicians own soccer teams, whom they use as instruments to rally support around elections (Governor Moise Katumbi of Katanga is president of TP Mazembe, the best team in the country - he even says that he spend 35% of his time on sports; General Gabriel Amisi, the army commander, is the owner of Maniema Union of Kindu; Governor Andre Kimbuta of Kinshasa used to run AS Vita Club). I know the Congolese really wanted their team to make the World Cup next year, but they didn't even qualify! (Beaten by Malawi, of all teams). So why we they go 400% over budget in the sports ministry and spent 2,5 times more on sports than on justice?
  • By far the ministry with the largest budget was defense. The government spent $76 million on defense, including at least $16 million on military equipment (it's not entirely clear, they may have spent up to $20 million), three times as much as expected. Procurement for the army is an area traditionally controlled by generals close to President Kabila and is swamp of opaque transactions, sweetheart deals and kickbacks. Very little of the procurement goes through the logistics department of the army - some of the main actors are General Francois Olenga (an old friend of Laurent Kabila, now the Inspector General of the army, who has good connections in Eastern Europe, where he spent many years); General John Numbi, a former electrician who started his political career as the commander of a youth militia in Katanga in the early 1990s before joining the army. He is now the head of the police. And General Mbala, the head of Kabila's personal military office (maison militaire de la presidence).
  • There are some other dubious budget lines. My favorite is "secret research expenses," a budget line that was over spent by 800% for a total of $15 million (the presidency and the intelligence organization were the main culprits, apparently).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with Foreign Military Expert on MONUC

The following is a Q & A with a military analyst who has extensive experience in the DR Congo. For professional reasons, he couldn't give his name.

Q: Is MONUC's mandate adequate for the challenges they face?

A: There is nothing wrong with MONUC's mandate. MONUC has a clear mandate in Resolution 1856, along with robust rules of engagement and the necessary equipment to efficiently implement it.

There are too many tasks for the amount of troops available but there is a clear priority on the Protection of Civilians. However, troop contributing countries are reluctant or commanders show unwillingness when necessary to use force to implement the mandate. Rules and regulations remain a challenge, as well: in particular with air operations using civilians rules, which makes it difficult to carry out quick operations. There is also insufficient knowledge among peacekeepers and commanders about the rules of engagement and the authorized use of force. Commanders have to be pushed all the time to implement the mandate.

I want to underline that a lot has been accomplished in the East. Since October 1st, 2004 the center of gravity has been in the eastern DRC , with the bulk of troops (87 per cent) being deployed there. We have seen that you can make a difference militarily by being as mobile as possible, operating by day but in particular also by night, using force when needed, reaching out and engaging the local population as much as possible.

However, the counterinsurgency operations have often failed because the Congolese army does not hold ground that was taken and the reconstruction efforts in the areas previously controlled by the insurgency have been too slow.

Lastly, it is important to note that there are no purely military solutions to the main problems of the East. The FDLR and LRA must be addressed politically; military pressure is a tool in a larger political strategy.

Q: What should the future structure and direction of MONUC be? What do you think about recommendations that MONUC move its headquarters to the East?

A: For the mission to be successful there must be a clear chain of command, with the structure as simple as possible.

In terms of command and control, the SRSG [head of MONUC] and the Force Commander [MONUC's military commander] should work together hand in glove. Never split them up geographically, that's a golden rule. In 2003/4 in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire such a split created a lot of problems. Keep the political/military interface where it belongs: in Kinshasa, where the government is based. The military center of gravity can be in the East but its political center has to remain in Kinshasa. Don't take the risk of having the SRSG based in Goma - what will he do there? Talk to the governor? Acting on a provincial level instead of on the countrywide level?

Q: How to you support the Congolese army, as MONUC is mandated to do, given its abuses? How can you condition support to the army?

A: This is a dilemma. The Congolese army is the single greatest threat in the Congo and will probably remain so for the near future. What can be done is limited joint operations. The Security Council has mandated MONUC to support the army, but it is up to MONUC to determine the terms of this collaboration - UN terms, not Congolese terms. Only provide support if you can be involved in the planning of operations and when they are carried out responsibly. Train the Congolese units, either through MONUC or bilateral teams.

For now, I think we need to stop supporting Kimia II. These operations do more harm than good. Consolidate the current positions and hold ground. The Congolese army is in no position to win a war against the FDLR or the LRA. With hundreds of thousands of IDPs, the results of the operations have been disastrous.

Q: There is a lot of talk about benchmarking so that MONUC can draw down its forces. What do you think are the benchmarks that need to be met for this happen?

A: Above all, there needs to be security sector reform. We need to convince the Congolese government to accept advice and support of this reform that should include rebuilding infrastructure, but also training of the police and military. Secondly, there can be no peace with impunity - on this note we need to invest much more in strengthening the judicial system.

In terms of drawing down, I think MONUC can hand over security in the West of the country to the Congolese government if the situation there remains stable.

But we need to plan for contingencies - we need to be prepared for a rapid deterioration of the security situation. This means establishing a strategic reserve force now, in line with plans made by the UN in 2004. One or two troop contributing countries can keep a standby battle group ready for deployment in their home country and agree for them to be airlifted to the Congo if necessary. Don't rely on the EU or NATO - you need a firm commitment from individual countries.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How much $$$ is the Congo getting?

Further to a posting from a few days ago, I've tried to summarize the amount of donor aid going to the DR Congo.

In the budget proposal for 2010, the Congolese government is counting on $2,1 billion in donor aid from abroad, constituting around 48% of the budget. For the first time, their biggest donor is China:
  • China: $980 million
  • World Bank: $927 million
  • African Development Bank: $81 million
  • European Union: $69 million
  • Other bilateral donors: $41 million (more information on the Budget Ministry's website)
That is donor aid that is included in the official budget, which does not include aid going directly to humanitarian organizations or projects in the field.

For 2008, the total amount of humanitarian aid to the Congo was $646 million (more info at the Financial Tracking Service website.)

MONUC's budget for July 2009-June 2010 is $1,350 billion.

If we assume that humanitarian aid to the Congo stays at par for 2010 and that the donor promises to the Congo are kept, then the total amount of donor giving to the DRC is around $4 billion for 2010.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are we really serious about getting rid of the FDLR?

There are some pretty simple steps we could do to get rid of the FDLR that do not involve the massive displacement of 900,000+ people.

Let's talk about the FDLR Diaspora. Several prominent members of the FDLR, including its President Ignace Murwanashyaka, Vice-President Straton Musoni (both residing in Germany) and Executive Secretary Callixte Mbarushimana (residing in France). In addition, the FDLR's website ( has been bouncing around from France to the UK and now the US as it comes under media scrutiny. The same goes for RUD-URUNANA, an FDLR splinter group that also may have been guilty of rampant abuses in the Lubero territory of North Kivu this year. Its president and executive secretary live in Massachusetts and New Jersey and their website ( is hosted in Canada.

So are these countries trying to prosecute these officials for leading an organization that is responsible for crimes against humanity, murder, rape and pillage? Sort of. First, all three guys mentioned above have been placed on the UN sanctions list by the Security Council, so Germany and France are supposed to freeze their assets and ban them from traveling. The German government has more or less done this for Murwanashyaka and Musoni through the Central Bank there (neither of them had much money), although it is possible that they are holding money are running businesses under other names; I am not sure what France has done to implement the sanctions against Mbarushimana. The ICTR has dropped the case against him, but there's a case being brought against him in French courts for involvement in the genocide.

That's small potatoes, however. Why don't they just arrest them? Shut down the websites? The short answer is that the states have to abide by domestic due process Apparently there are few laws in these countries that make leadership in a foreign rebel group, even if that group is incredibly abusive, illegal. In Germany, the authorities tried to prosecute Murwanashyaka for war crimes in 2006 but had to abandon the case for lack of evidence (!!!). They are now trying to nail him for belonging to a terrorist organization (paragraph 129 of the Federal Criminal Code). They've had some problems, because all of their evidence of FDLR abuses comes from MONUC, which has refused to release the conditions of confidentiality they had placed on that information.

But is that really all that can be done? I think we are not being as innovative as we might be. Let me suggest some other paths:

  • The German prosecutors should develop their own case and evidence. It would be relatively easy to gather abundant evidence of FDLR abuses in a trip to the eastern Congo. Why wait on MONUC, which has taken over a year to get back to the Germans?
  • The Congolese should issue an arrest warrant for Murwanashyaka & Co. After all, it's their population that is suffering. That could encourage the Germans and French to take their allegations seriously and provide added momentum.
  • Bring charges against the RUD leaders in the US (Felicien Kanyamibwa and Jean-Marie Vianney Higiro) under the Alien Torts Claims Act. I have seen good evidence that both (in particular the former) are in touch with RUD units in the field regularly. We now just need to beef up our evidence that RUD troops are guilty of torture or abuse in the field.
At the same time, we should remember the limitations of this approach. Neither the FDLR or RUD get most of their financing from abroad - they tax the population, mines and trade in the areas they control. The FDLR's political leadership was formed in 2001 to proved political cover and legitimacy to an already exisiting armed force in the field. Getting rid of them would be a significant symbolic victory and would send a message to the troops in the field - but it wouldn't spell the death knell for the FDLR by any measure.

We should place more emphasis on the FDLR "Diaspora" closer to their bases of operation. I have been especially shocked that FDLR liaison officers could be found in Bukavu, Goma, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi during most of the Kimia II operations. General Mudacumura (the FDLR overall commander) has a sister, Eugenie, in Lubumbashi with whom I have talked over the phone. An FDLR financial officer, Gerard Rucyira, has also been based out of Lubumbashi. Colonel Mugaragu (the Chief of Staff of the FDLR) has four children in school at the University of Lubumbashi. Many of them are protected by local Congolese officials, with whom they have business contacts.

There are also regional links: Allgedly, the FDLR have close historic ties to some members of the Tanzanian security services, and there are FDLR operatives active in recruitment and financing in Burundi.

The new UN Group of Experts report, due in several weeks' time, will shed some much needed light on these networks. For an excellent review of the FDLR Diaspora, see Rakiya Omaar's recent report: "The end in sight?"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Adieu, MONUC?

There are two birthdays coming up that should be of interest. There is, of course, the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence coming up in June 2010. General Denis Kalume, the former interior minister, and the renowned Congolese historian Isidore Ndaywel have been nominated to lead the committee organizing the festivities. We can expect this to be an opportunity for money to be embezzled (hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly went missing from the organization of the independence day celebrations in Goma this year), but also for Kabila to try to whip up national pride before the local elections (2010) and national elections (2011).

A different birthday altogether is approaching in November. MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission, is turning ten. On this occasion, the head of MONUC Alan Doss has declared himself "satisfied of the results" that the mission has accomplished. He was at a briefing of the UN Security Council last week, where he asked for continued support and highlighted MONUC's main tasks: the protection of civilians and the support of the Congolese army. More and more, however, it appears that these two tasks stand in contradiction with each other, as the same army MONUC is supporting is guilty of widespread abuse.

Others, however, have been less sanguine about MONUC's prospects. In the past weeks, there was some discussion in diplomatic circles in Kinshasa about MONUC's approaching departure. Kabila might take advantage of the independence celebrations to thanks MONUC for its good work and ask them to go home. He does not want the UN to interfere in the holding of the coming elections, a UN staff member told me. Already, the Congolese government has allegedly told donors that they want them to fund the local elections but not the national ones.

So will MONUC leave? Probably not. Since then, MONUC officials have approached the presidency to ask him whether he was serious about this, and Kabila said that he wasn't, at least not for now. Indeed, the consequences of a MONUC withdrawal would not be auspicious, whatever you may think about their current performance. Their presence on the ground has allowed UN human rights and child protection to bring to light thousands of abuses - even if little action is usually taken against the perpetrators, the information is vital. Despite MONUC's feeble involvement in the planning and execution of Kimia II operations, they have been effective in the past in shoring up the Congolese army against insurgencies - in Ituri in 2005 and in Goma in 2006.

The donors should, however, use the mandate renewal (coming up in the next weeks) as an opportunity to reflect on how to best use their leverage for the long term stability of the country and the protection of its citizens. This past week there was a meeting of the donor Contact Group in Washington, DC, presided by the new US Special Envoy Howard Wolpe. While I have not yet been able to get a read out on what was decided, it is clear that, with Wolpe's arrival, there is a new dynamism in the donor community.

I hope it is used well. In particular, I have argued here before, we need to figure out how to better leverage aid money towards concrete policy changes. This has failed in the past, from my superficial interpretation, because the bulk of the money given to the Congo is from the IFIs - the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the IMF - who are very reluctant to attach any political conditionalities to their funding. Keep your inflation low, stay fiscally responsible and improve your financial checks and balances - that is what they mostly care about. To my knowledge, none of the IFIs have ever explicitly imposed political conditionalities on their funding. This despite the many worthwhile initiatives that require political reform in order to be successful: Security sector reform, justice sector reform, decentralization, transparency in the extractive industries, to name but a few.

The funds that donors might be more willing to leverage get no traction in Kinshasa: this is aid money going to health, education and infrastructure. The Congolese government does not care much about these funds - they can't use them for their own political ends. They do care about the $600 million they got from the IMF, ADB and the European Union this year to offset the financial crisis.

MONUC can be useful in the Congo. But their role has to change. Their troops cannot prevent abuses if they are not more intrusively deployed with the Congolese army - they need to be involved in operational planning and on the front lines during the operations. Only then will they be able to document and stop the may rapes and pillaging that occurs. The same sort of intrusiveness goes for the creation of a new Congolese security force and the establishment of a monitoring mechanism for minerals in the Kivus. Yes, this would mean that the Congolese government would have to compromise some of its sovereignty. But you could argue that they don't have much of it as it us, with a large part of the Kivus under rebel control, over half of its customs revenues embezzled and most of its economy in the informal sector.

Also, who's sovereignty are we talking about - that of the Congolese government or of the Congolese people? I would imagine that many Congolese would quite like a good army and accountable government. (For a more extreme recommendation of trusteeship, see this article by Stephen Ellis in Foreign Affairs.) Otherwise we are just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Major-General" Yakutumba

It was a bit anti-climactic when, two days ago in the steamy lakeside town of Baraka (South Kivu), the rebel leader Yakutumba Amuli officially ended his insurgency and joined the Congolese army. After years of being in the headlines (at least, the MONUC internal report ones), he only pitched up with 57 soldiers and around 10 weapons. The rest of his "brigade" either doesn't exist or is part of the 50-100 soldiers who are turning themselves in at other Congolese army bases (the fact that they didn't join his majestic ceremony probably means he doesn't really control them much.) Can a bunch of bandits with some AK-47s really become such a threat to the Congolese army? This is not the first time we have seen such a storm in a tea cup- when 47 Banyamulenge "invaded" South Kivu from Burundi in 2005 with a dozen weapons and a sat phone, it was seen as a major destabilization of the province (some of them are still hanging out in the High Plateau).

His integration was briefly cast into doubt after brief skirmishes between Bembe Mai-Mai (belonging to him?) and the Congolese army. The Mai-Mai had been angered when Banyamulenge herders violated a previous agreement, under which they would only graze 80 cattle on Bembe land in the Fizi area. When the locals counted 200 cows, the Mai-Mai accused the Banyamulenge of a gross violation of their deal and opened fire on the Congolese army, who had intervened on the behalf of the Banyamulenge. Three Congolese soldiers died.

Unsurprisingly, Yakutumba, who was last a captain when he was in the Congolese army in 2005/6, has asked for the rank of Major General. He also declared that his "movement" would transform itself into the Parti d'action pour la reconstruction du Congo (PARC). Previously, Yakutumba had been allied to Bembe leaders such as Anzuluni Bembe (former head of national assembly under Mobutu).

Welcome to the Conglese army, general.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goma Murder Mystery

There's been some noise in the past week about the unsolved murder of Albert Prigogine (aka Ngezayo), a wealthy Goma businessman (and nephew of Russian-Belgian Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine) who was shot in broad daylight in Goma on 13 March 2008. The lawyers hired by the Ngezayo family gave a press conference this week in Kinshasa to announce the results of their investigations. In particular, they announced that one of the military officers involved in the plot - called "Alex" in the lawyer's document - had come out to denounce his co-conspirators.

The Kinshasa press conference was cut short after the electricity was mysteriously shut down in the designated room. A new conference was called on October 10th in Goma. Talking over a telephone during the press conference to conceal his identity, "Alex" related how Antoine Musanganya, one of the richest men in Goma, had orchestrated the murder. The motive: a property dispute between Musanganya and Prigogine. The latter owned a great deal of real estate in Goma, including the Mask Hotel, currently rented by MONUC, and 13 hectares along Lake Kivu, prime real estate (there were rumors last year that President Kabila had bought two adjacent houses close by for over 2 million euros).

According to a Supreme Court verdict, Musanganya had built illegally on Prigogine's land in order to enlarge his Cap Kivu hotel. This verdict prompted Musanganya to concoct the plan. The list of others involved is impressive: it includes the governor (who denounced the accusations), the commander of a brigade of the presidential guard and the deputy commander of Kimia II operations.

It is not clear - other than to promote the truth - why Alex is revealing this information. Given the high profiles of the men he is accusing, it is doubtful that there will ever be a fair trial. As Collette Braeckman pointed out, Prigogine had joined the ranks of other eminent victims fo assassinations in the Kivus over the past years: she mentions Belgian businessman Claude Duvignaud, but I would add Dr Kisoni Kambale (businessman, 2007), Floribert Chui (RCD politician, 2007), Patrick Kikuku (journalist, 2007), Serge Maheshe (journalist, 2006), Didace Namujimbo (journalist, 2008), Bruno Koko (journalist, 2009), Pascal Kabungulu (human rights advocate, 2005). The list is long and distinguished. None of the above cases have come even close to being solved. So much for Kabila's announced "tolerance zero" when it comes to human rights abuses.

Prigogine's family is not a newcomer to controversy. His brother Victor Ngezayo was close to Mobutu and was one of the richest men in the country before the war, with a business empire spanning real estate, coffee plantations, hotels and mining. While Albert stayed mostly out of politics, Victor founded his own political party in opposition to Rwanda and the RCD, but then became an outspoken advocate of Laurent Nkunda's CNDP.

Gorillas party in Goma

Check out this video made by the Virunga national park promoting the use of biofuel briquettes to replace charcoal. As a reminder, charcoal is a hugely profitable business for armed groups in the Kivus - every year around $20 million in charcoal is consumed in the Goma area alone, 80-90 per cent of which comes from the national park. Hardwoods from the park are much better for charcoal production (they burn longer), so timber "poachers" delve into the park to cut down trees. Because its illegal and because there's so much money to be made, armed groups get involved in protection rackets. In our December 2008 report, we argued that the FDLR might be making $2 million a year in taxes off charcoal production around Goma alone.

The briquettes are made out of biomass, so (while they don't burn quite as nicely) they would prevent the chopping down of the trees and the funding of armed groups.

The video was posted on the national park website .

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pax Angolanis: Luanda's influence in the Congo

Quiz: Which country has invaded the Congo several times over the past year, allegedly to get its hands on natural resources? Which country is obsessed with the possibility that the Congo could become host to a dangerous rebel insurgency?

For those who only voted for Rwanda, you get one point, but don't get the free Congo Siasa rubber ducky. Yes, Angola has made the headlines in the Kinshasa press again. Earlier this month, the Angolan government kicked out 20,000 Congolese who were allegedly working illegally in diamond mines there, only to have Kinshasa retaliate by expelling 16,000 Angolans. Tens of thousands of Congolese were expelled in 2004 and 2007 from mining areas in northern Angola and often subjected to abuse (humiliating anal and vaginal searches for diamonds, rape). This year, the Congolese lashed back, forcing thousands of ejected Angolans to languish in make-shift camps close to the border, drinking river water and starving.

This is the most recent episode in a long sequence of tit-for-tat retaliations between Luanda and Kinshasa. In 2007, Angolan troops invaded the border area of Kahemba in Bandundu province, triggering an international dispute over the diamond-rich patch of land and prompting international mediation. Just this week, a small platoon of Angolan soldiers crossed the border again, this time searching for FLEC rebels, who are demanding independence for the Cabinda enclave.

Western observers of the Congo have become so focused on the violence of the Kivus that we forget about political considerations that are often far more important for Kinshasa's political elite. Angola was one of the main backers of Joseph Kabila during the war along with Zimbabwe. While Mugabe brought his soldiers home in 2001 as his economy tanked, the Angolans maintained their influence in Kinshasa, moving troops into Bas-Congo as they pleased to track down FLEC operatives (at times allegedly carrying out assassinations) and deploying reinforcements to Kinshasa at key moments (as during the March 2007 Bemba-Kabila standoff in downtown Kinshasa). They co-run the Kitona training camp in Bas-Congo.

It looks like the Congolese, however, are finally pushing back (albeit a bit brashly) after years of little-brother complex. One of the reasons may be oil troubles - as one Kinshasa daily asked today, why have the Angolan not given the Congolese their share of the proceeds from a jointly owned oil block off the coast? Le Phare estimates that the Angolan government owes Kinshasa $800 million from 2008 proceeds alone. This is touchy at a moment when the Congolese government just rose gas prices across the board by 7 per cent.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Developments in North Kivu

It is easy to think that all is quiet in the Kivus, if only because international news agencies rarely pick up much of the news there - it's hard to get a novel, interesting spin on the "7 dead, five houses burned to the ground, eleven goats stolen" kinds of events that happen every day, all across the Kivus. Just think about it: there are roughly 60,000 troops deployed in the Kivus (North Kivu, South Kivu & Maniema). Last I looked, soldiers got around $50/month, money that rarely arrived on time or at all.

So, just as a reminder, and to confuse you, here are some developments of the last week in North Kivu:
  • Attempts to integrate the mostly Hunde APCLS militia continue. The group, which is led by the self-proclaimed General Janvier, is based in Masisi. Some of its soldiers have joined the FARDC, while most are still in the bush, complaining of Rwandan infiltrations and unequal treatment by the Congolese authorities ("we don't get high-ranking positions in the army like the CNDP.") Being a local militia, others probably just don't want to leave their home territory in uncertain operations against the FDLR. This past week, APCLS leaders met with to FARDC army commander General Gabriel Amisi and promised to send part of their troops to the Luberizi integration camp in South Kivu. However, several days later, the APCLS informed MONUC that the Rwandan army was infiltrating to attack General Janvier at his headquarters in Lukweti (southern Masisi). Later the same day, fighting broke out in Lukweti, allegedly initiated by the FARDC. What really happened? Not entirely clear, but there are many rumors swirling around about Rwandan infiltrations and the impending return of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda.
  • Around the same time, the FARDC launched an offensive against General Sikuli Lafontaine's militia. Lafontaine, a Nande from Butembo, had officially split from PARECO in June 2009 to create his own group, the Front des patriotes pour le changement (FPC), although the real split between the Hutu and Hunde wings of PARECO had taken place months ago. There was fighting along a 50km axis between Muhangi, Vuyinga and Bunyatenge (Lubero territory). The Congolese army also attacked FDLR positions around Alimbongo, Mbughavinywa and Kanyabayonga.
  • These operations prompted looting on all sides. According to internal MONUC sources, armed men (probably FDLR) looted Muhangi, Vuyinga, Kanzanza, Bunyereza and Ngwenda (Lubero territory). The FDLR allegedly attacked Mambira (45km SW from Butembo) in collaboration with Mai-Mai, killing two civilians, and injuring a woman and her child. Eighty houses were allegedly burned down.
  • Mai-Mai from the Cheka group (based north of Walikale town) allegedly met up with FDLR elements to plan an attack on the Bisie mining site in Walikale. Cheka is a former employee of the MPC mining company and had alleged links to Colonel Etienne Bindu, who is the chief of staff of the 8th military region in Goma. Cheka attacked the mining area in August, killing fourteen miners.
And that's not half of it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rabble-rousing MPs

One of the beauties of democracy is that it is difficult to control from the center. Institutions such as provincial assemblies and the national parliament become difficult and costly to control or buy-off. One sometimes wonders, however, whether in places like the Congo these institutions are fighting for the people who elected them or for a piece of the pie.

Two example of this made headlines this week in North and South Kivu. In Goma, a group on 19 provincial MPs tabled a motion to impeach the Governor Julien Paluku for have embezzled government funds. They were on solid ground: a few weeks earlier, a parliamentary audit concluded that the provincial government had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pole Institute summarized the main findings here, which include:
  • the disappearance of $136,00 from the budget of the 2009 agricultural fair
  • the use of fake stamps and seals to justify budgetary expenses - for example, one receipt with a fake stamp claimed several hundred dollars worth of flowers were bought by the province for the burial of a priest and a bishop. In fact, the flowers were never bought.
  • the existence of a parallel book-keeping and financial management by the governor's trusted financial advisor, the mephistophelean Francois Murairi. Between January 2008 and July 2009, he spent over 5,4 billion Congolese francs (around US$8 million, if I'm not mistaken).
This is not the first time the legislators have tried to impeach Paluku for financial crookery. In 2007, they accused him of stealing around $372,000 in road taxes. They failed to impeach him, by 15 to 27.

One of the reasons for their failure to impeach him (despite bountiful evidence) is that, as everything, these attempts are perceived as political machinations by other parties. Paluku's party and some of the his Nande brethren say that the former (Hutu) Governor Eugene Serufuli is behind this and that even Kabila might want to kick out Paluku to give the job to a Hutu or Tutsi in order to reinforce the peace deal. The Hutu and Tutsi political elite have strong connections with local militia; the Nande much less so.

But it doesn't look like the MPs will be successful. On Friday, the motion was dismissed as the provincial assembly did not reach a quorum - only the 19 sponsors of the motion showed up, far short of a 2/3 roll call.

The various parliaments in the Congo (national & provincial) have often been lauded as important checks and balances to the corrupt and abusive executives. There have been many great initiatives: the Lutundula Commission to review contracts signed during the 2 wars, the Bakendeja Commission to audit state-run companies, the recent senate commission to review mining contracts, etc. However, I am not aware that any of these commissions has had much impact in holding officials accountable. Some administrators are fired (but never put on trial), others, no doubt better-connected, stay on despite the revelations. The most classic such example was when the national assembly tried to oust Nkulu Mitumba, Minister for the Presidency, for having overridden a decree grounding all Antonov aircrafts. As a consequence, one of the aircrafts crashed in Kinshasa in October 2007, killing 49 people. Despite ample evidence, the national assembly failed to impeach him. ("Des enveloppes ont circules," an MP told me at the time - envelopes went around, cash inside.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

News round-up

The UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston published a short report on the DR Congo today. It is pithy and to the point, as those who have seen his recent work on Kenya have come to expect.
  • He looked at Bas-Congo, where over 200 supporters of the Bundu Dia Kongo community were bludgeoned, stabbed and shot to death by the government in 2007 and 2008. Alston tried to visit Kisantu, the site of one of the massacres. He was prevented from seeing BDK supporters and eyewitnesses of the violence there.
  • In the Kivus, he examined the allegations of massacres carried out in the context of the Kimia II offensive. Nothing new to the usual sad litany of abuses reported by NGOs and the press (he confirms that over 1,000 people have been killed since January and thousands more raped), except this: He looked at the Shalio massacre of 27 April 2009, when newly integrated Congolese troops attacked a refugee camp close to an FDLR base, killing at least 50 refugees. "A small group of 10 who escaped described being gang raped and had severe injuries; some had chunks of their breasts hacked off." A few days later, in retaliation for this attack, the FDLR attacked an FARDC camp, killing 96 civilians. The Shalio massacre is interesting because it reveals the ethnic tensions within the FARDC - the commander of the unit was Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, a Tutsi ex-CNDP officer, while the victims were all Hutu. I spoke to a deserter from Zimurinda's unit, a Hutu who had been in the FDLR, then returned to Rwanda, was "recycled" and came back to the Congo for the CNDP, and was close by when the massacre happened. He was furious and said, "we can't tolerate these kinds of things." On the other hand, some prominent Hutu commanders in the Congolese army such as Colonel David Rugayi have business links with the FDLR until today.
  • His remarks with regards to MONUC are also notable: "the Security Council's mandate has transformed MONUC into a party to the conflict in the Kivus." This comment and the recent calls by NGOs to have MONUC withdraw its support to Kimia II will stir up debate when the Security Council debates MONUC's mandate renewal in December this year
It is surprising the Congolese government invited Alston in the first place. I don't see his report prompting any immediate action, but it will add to calls (including those on my own humble blog) to rethink MONUC strategy in the Kivus. You can't be providing food, transport and medical support to the armed group that is most guilty of rape and that was involved in massacres like the one in Shalio. On the other hand, Kimia II has had an impact on the FDLR, who remain a serious threat.

How do you square this circle? Step back, reflect and renegotiate the terms of your engagement with the FARDC. Today, for all its support, MONUC is not involved in operational planning, not deployed with FARDC offensives on the ground and has little intelligence of command and control with the Congolese army. No wonder they have a hard time preventing these kinds of abuses.

In honor of Franco

In honor of the greatest Congolese musician of the 20th century, Franco Luambo, who died 20 years ago this week, I wanted to give a platform to some (probably gratuitous) speculations on Kinshasa's streets.

In 1985, Franco released what would become his greatest hit, Mario. It was a rambling, 13 minute track about a young gigolo who, despite having a god education, chose to sit around and live off his lover, a woman twice his age. Wonderful stuff, especially because there was some speculation that the maestro was really talking about Mobutu - the double entendres and oblique criticism were typical of Congolese music and Franco's own style of social commentary. After all, Franco could not openly insult his biggest benefactor. The Congo is full of this playful, tongue in cheek resistance.

Which brings me to the gossip on the radio trottoir of Kinshasa. Earlier this year, Kofi Olomide - arguably the successor the Franco as the king of the Congolese rumba - released his new album, "Bor Ezanga Kombo," which translates roughly as "The Thing Without a Name." This, naturally, led aficionados quickly to infer that he was talking about none other than President Kabila, whom many Kinois still suspect of being Tanzanian, real name Hippolyte Kanambe. Hence: The Thing Without a Name. Check out the track, even if you don't get the words, it's a good show.

Talking about names, for some reason Kofi has now (actually for the past 2 years) changed his name to Kofi Olomide Sarkozy. Is it entirely unclear why - I guess in 2007 there weren't many other charismatic western leaders to choose from. Maybe next year it will be Kofi Obama Olomide (after all, one of Werra Son's greatest proteges used to go by Bill Clinton (now McKintosh)). He's already tried Grand Mopao, Mopao Mokonzi, Papa bonheur, Papa plus, Papa fleur, Koraman, Quadra Koraman, Tati Wata, Chéri O, Benoît XVI (he had to drop this last name after the Catholic church protested)....

Franco was just Franco.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Kimberley Process for tin? Not really

Last week, the Congolese government asked Amalgamated Metals Corp (AMC) and Traxys to begin buying tin again. Both companies had suspended mineral shipments in May 09 and Sept 08, respectively, for fear of being accused of indirectly supporting rebels who control the tin mines.

Their boycott was a big blow - AMC subsidiary Thailand Smelting and Refining Co. was buying around half of all tin from the DRC. (Maybe the catastrophic decline in the world tin price had something to do with it, too). In any case, their boycott hit the tin traders in Goma hard.

The Congolese government says they have put a mechanism in place to certify that the tin sold by the buying houses (comptoirs) is not tainted with conflict. They have gotten together with the Tin Research Institute (ITRI) to devise a certification process. A word of caution ITRI describes itself as non-profit, but has the mission to "promote a positive image of tin and the tin industry through effective media communication and conference." Thai Smelting Co and several other big tin companies are on its board .

So does it work? Having gone through ITRI's proposal, I tend to agree with Global Witness, who published a news release on the topic today. The ITRI plan is basically for the industry to watch itself. Traders make their suppliers sign a form, where they check a box saying that the minerals do not come from rebel-controlled territories. I don't think I need to say much more...

Incidentally, this idea is not new. After our UN Group of Experts report of December 2008, some trading companies based in Belgium had already asked their suppliers simply to sign a waiver, saying that they were not selling them any conflict minerals. Hear no evil, see no evil.

But let me use this to briefly address the problem of "conflict minerals" and the Congo. Over past months, campaigns have been building around the world to "get blood out of my mobile," and other variants on the same theme. Senators Russ Feingold and Sam Brownback have introduced a bill in the US Senate to force US companies to disclose the country and - for Congolese minerals - the mine of origin.

First, the war was not started in 1996 by a bunch of blood-thirsty, greedy rebels. We need to move beyond these stereotypes and remember the complex history of the region. Domestic reasons for conflict in the Congo included the presence of a million descendants of Rwandan immigrants in Rutshuru and Masisi territories, conflicts of land tenure and access to economic and political power, and the collapse of neutral, efficient state institutions. The main regional cause was the presence of a million Rwandan refugees and militiamen in the Congo.

But once the conflict began, the presence of minerals and other resource did make it easier for armed groups to survive and raise revenue.

Today, all armed groups - probably first and foremost the Congolese army - benefit from the minerals trade through taxes, smuggling and protection money from traders. These are not the only rackets they run - anywhere there is an easily taxable commodity, especially in rural areas, rebels will tax it. By way of comparison, the annual charcoal trade around Goma is estimated to be worth $25 million a year, while the official export statistics for tin in North Kivu was $28 million in 2007 (actual exports were much higher). Customs rackets and road taxes are other sources of revenue for armed groups. The CNDP, for example, was able to raise at least $700,000 in taxes from the Bunagana customs alone.

We definitely should think about "due diligence" in the minerals supply chain. But what does that mean? There have been different proposals besides the ITRI one. Global Witness, for example, has called for a certification scheme that would be monitored by a third party (not the trader or the government) and would be audited regularly for compliance. The German government, through the German Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, has begun a pilot program focusing on similar issues in Rwanda that it intends to extend to the Congo, possibly including laboratory “fingerprinting” of coltan to identify its origin. ENOUGH, a US advocacy group, has also called for a certification scheme.

I have my doubts about these certification schemes, as laudable as they may be. All of these initiatives rely on a local mechanism that can distinguish between conflict and non-conflict minerals. Such a mechanism would have to certify the minerals at the source, as batches from different mines are often mixed together far before reaching Goma or Bukavu.

There are thousands of tin, gold, tungsten and coltan mines in the Congo. The logistics of deploying enough monitors to all of these sites is difficult in itself. As we have seen, the monitoring currently carried out by the Congolese government can be easily manipulated and tampered with. This tampering can happen in the field – where militias can force ministry of mines officials to issue fake certificates – or in the trade centers.

So what can we do? I recommend a policing option. In other words, instead of certifying ever single bag that comes out of the mines, we rely on spot checks by an independent, third party. This kind of detective work is already being done by the UN Group of Experts, Global Witness and several local NGOs. We need to institutionalize this oversight and pour in more resources. The Congolese government could enter into a formal agreement with a third party monitor, who would report back to them on traders who are knowingly buying minerals from rebel-controlled mining areas (it could later be extended to investigate Congolese army officers involved in such rackets, as well). There would also be an agreement on the consequences of abuse, either through administrative sanction or criminal prosecution. This is basically the model of criminal policing everywhere in the world - we do not take a breathalyzer every time we get into the car - but if the cops stop up, we face heavy penalties.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kimia II - Is it worth it?

The Congo Advocacy Coalition (84 local and international NGOs) published a statement yesterday, calling the humanitarian cost of the Kimia II operations unacceptable.

The coalition has information concerning 1,140 killings by the various armed groups involved in Kimia II, over 7,000 women raped, 6,00o houses burned down and 900,000+ people displaced. (The figure for killings, slightly higher than the one in the statement, was provided to me by Human Rights Watch).

Interestingly, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has obtained satellite imagery of Busurungi - a remote village on the border between Masisi/Walikale/Kalehe territories - where the FDLR and FARDC have committed some of their worst crimes. According to their analysis of pre-Kimia II and post-Kimia II pictures, 80% of the structures in the area, or 1,494 huts, were destroyed. Pretty shocking pictures, I have posted one before (black and white) and after (color) sequence to the right, but I highly recommend checking out the others . As in Darfur, this kind of imaging is a great tool to estimate the impact of such offensives.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Guest Blogger - Politics in North Kivu Since CNDP's integration

The following is a from a diplomatic source in Kinshasa - on overview of politics in North Kivu since Nkunda's arrest and the integration of the CNDP.

Politics in the Petit Nord after CNDP’s Surrender

Political and military developments in the Petit Nord were dominated by the strong military position of the RCD-Goma and later Nkunda’s CNDP, despite the RCD’s defeat in the national and provincial elections in 2006. The military wing of the RCD (ex-ANC) never accepted army integration and was the main threat to the Transition during the Bukavu crisis and later, during the electoral process in North Kivu. After the RCD’s poor results in the elections, the alliance between Hutu and Tutsi from North Kivu under the Rwandophonie fell apart and Laurent Nkunda came to the fore again, posing a major threat to the post-electoral process, drawing the attention away from the relative success of the transition and the first credible elections since the early 1960s, in dealing several blows to the national army and drawing North Kivu in an ever worse cycle of violence and humanitarian disaster.

Background to the current crisis

The Hutus of the RCD, represented by former Governor Eugene Serufuli had started flirting with Kabila’s Presidential Majority but lost out against the majority Nande at the Provincial level, while the Hutus from Panadi had mostly ran on a PPRD-slate, taking the popular Hutu-vote away from the RCD. At the national level, the RCD was a spent force, with its most influential national politicians shifting between the opposition and loyalty to the Presidential majority. The RCD became strongly divided, mostly because they had been unable to rally behind one candidate during the elections and because of popular resentment, due to the party’s strong association with the two rebellions (1996 and 1998).

Serufuli eventually obtained a post at the SNEL in Kinshasa, but most of his former Hutu and Tutsi allies of the RCD in the Kivus were left with little to show for, after ten years of rebellion against the central government. Nkunda stepped in and managed to create a political platform beyond his military powerbase, while joining him became an appealing option for those defeated politicians. Some former RCD politicians would even leave their provincial position as local MP’s to join him in CNDP’s “liberated” town of Rutshuru towards the end of 2008. They became “Commissioners” or “Ministers” of Nkunda’s short-lived parallel Administration.

But a secretly negotiated bilateral deal between Kinshasa and Kigali resulted in a Palace coup in January 2009 and Nkunda was removed from the political and military scene, after his second-in-command took over CNDP and publicly declared the ex-ANC troops would join the Government forces. Nkunda’s political negotiating team was left powerless at the negotiating table in Nairobi, while Bosco’s CNDP lined up a team of political newcomers – with clear backing from Kigali – to start negotiating directly with the Government at the Goma level. The Masisi faction within the CNDP, with mostly Tutsi-officers from this part of the province, were now lined up against Nkunda’s loyalists from Jomba (Rutshuru) but under strong pressure from Kigali almost all of the ex-ANC were integrated in an ad-hoc manner in the FARDC and deployed in the two Kivus to help fight the FDLR.

The Kigali-Kinshasa arrangement

But the politicians Bosco Ntaganda brought to the negotiating table were even more inexperienced than Nkunda’s team and had little influence over the ex-ANC troops, the officers of which were all taken by surprise by the sudden removal of Nkunda from the scene. With an international arrest warrant on his head and his unsophisticated ways, Bosco was not a credible interlocutor for the international community but clearly, Kinshasa and Kigali had needed him and several disgruntled officers in the CNDP loyal to him, to oust Nkunda, while keeping the risk of a new rebellion at bay.

This sudden shift in dynamics in the Kivus, at a time when Nkunda and his followers were at the height of their capacity of nuisance for the regime in Kinshasa, also brought an end to the siege of Goma, the provincial capital which was almost overran by the ex-ANC in November. More importantly, the shift brought a sudden change in relations between DR Congo and Rwanda, a change that had seemed impossible only a few months earlier. While one can assume that the DRC’s approval of a Rwandan military intervention in North Kivu against the FDLR, was an immediate response to Kigali’s severing of ties with the CNDP and Nkunda’s arrest, the real motivations and ramifications of this sudden shift remain subject to a great deal of speculation.

The Hutus, especially the faction close to former Governor Serufuli, seem to have played a critical role in the Kinshasa-Kigali arrangement. There is credible evidence that Serufuli’s immediate entourage, his former Director of Cabinet and several other of his influential advisors, were called to Kigali at the end of November 2008. Colonel Mugabo, leader of the Hutu-faction of the Mayi Mayi Pareco, was also a member of the visiting delegation that left Kigali and then went to Kinshasa. Apparently, Serufuli’s influence over the Hutu-population was sought and used, not only to forge an alliance between Mugabo’s forces and the Bosco-faction of CNDP, but also to sensitize the Congolese Hutu-population in favor of the imminent Rwandan military operation against the FDLR. The Hutus in Rutshuru and Masisi and Mugabo’s troops, some of whom had fought alongside the FDLR against CNDP, were reportedly used during the Umoja Wetu intervention as pointers, to denounce FDLR-leaders hiding in North Kivu. Moreover, a great number of foot soldiers and lower ranking officers of the ex-ANC were Hutu and their loyalty was also needed to strengthen the ranks of Bosco’s wing against the Nkunda-loyalist elements.

Serufuli’s expectations

It is unclear, what the Hutus were expecting in return for all this, but soon after the secretive November meetings in Kinshasa and Kigali, influential Hutus such as the Mwami of Rutshuru and Eugene Serufuli started propagating the idea of the split of North Kivu into two new politico-administrative entities. Leaflets, strongly denouncing the electoral process and the take-over of political power in the Province by the Nande, started circulating proposing the creation of a Grand Sud (the current Petit-Nord) as a separate entity, where Rwandophones (Hutu and Tutsi) would be in a clear majority, an obvious sign of nostalgia of Serufuli and his followers to the days during the war and the transition, when the RCD was strongly in power, politically, economically and militarily.

Eight months after the initial Bosco-coup, operations against the FDLR are continuing in a relatively successful manner, whilst most of the ex-CNDP and Pareco-Hutu troops have been integrated in the FARDC. But Serufuli and his lot are still waiting for political compensation and are visibly annoyed with the slow pace at which the political changes following the agreement between Kinshasa and CNDP are unfolding. For one, the Hutus in North Kivu have waited with impatience to take power again in the provincial capital Goma, where their main rivals at the provincial level, the Nande have taken power. Hutu-Nande rivalry goes back a long way in North Kivu. The Nande outnumber the Hutu at the provincial level and are an extremely affluent community of traders. The Nande started populating the northern part of the Kivus, bordering Uganda, probably two centuries ago. The territories of Beni and Lubero in the Grand Nord are almost exclusively inhabited by Nande and the community, especially in Lubero Territory is known for its tendencies to keep business competitors out, through sophisticated dumping practices and covert support for various militia, such as the Mayi Mayi and the FDLR. The RCD never managed to take control of the Grand Nord and many Nande-traders have settled in other provinces, but also in Rutshuru where Hutu-resentment against their wealth, business monopolies and practices are longstanding issues.

But despite Serufuli’s attempts to blow new life in the success-formula of the Rwandophonie, the protracted negotiations with CNDP and rumors about Kigali’s preferences for political leaders other than Serufuli at the helm of the Province, are creating confusion and feelings of betrayal. Kigali suspects some of Serufuli’s protégés, such as military commanders Colonel Smith and Colonel Rugayi, of double-dealing with the FDLR.

A Serufuli attempt to oust his main rival within the RCD, Azarias Ruberwa, and take power of the party with a view to join the DRC Government after an anticipated reshuffle, has turned into another divisive war between RCD-factions at the national level. The rivalry between the various factions within CNDP, with Eugene Serufuli backing the Bosco-coup, is also not playing out smoothly. Bosco’s political representatives are slowly but surely losing their already limited influence, while the majority of CNDP-officers are clearly taking orders from Nkunda-loyalist Colonel Makenga. The recent creation of a “territory of Mushaki” in Masisi (but extending up to Nyanzale, a Serufuli’s stronghold) by a clique of known Serufuli and Bosco followers, is illustrative of the growing frustration and impatience within the Hutu and Tutsi communities over the undisclosed arrangements between Kigali and Kinshasa. Incidents of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in the same areas suggest Bosco (and Serufuli) may want to accelerate the return of refugees from Rwanda, an issue that concerns many of the CNDP-Tutsi officers and might win Bosco some sympathy as a man who can deliver.

Bosco’s waning influence

Having divided the CNDP (and RCD), Kinshasa and Kigali are seemingly buying time, waiting for the internal power struggles of ex-RCD and CNDP to produce a new credible leadership to represent Tutsi (or Rwandophone) interests at the national and provincial levels. Although risks remain for the Nkunda-loyalists to turn back to rebellion once the Kimia operations against the FDLR are over, a new rebellion would be short-lived without Rwandan support, even though some Rwandan military officers and wealthy Tutsis in Rwanda and abroad might be willing to finance such a dynamic. But the joint operations, the shared command positions of ex-CNDP and FARDC-officers and the - no doubt - pay-offs made by Kinshasa to gain support of key military CNDP-officers seem to have their effect.

Nkunda-loyalists are also gaining renewed visibility in Goma – after several of them fled to Uganda, Gisenyi and Europe in January – while the actual composition of the CNDP-negotiation team in talks with the Government seems to change regularly and reflect the fact that the Bosco-faction may be losing ground. General Bosco Ntaganda, whose real role within the Kimia operations or the 8th Military Region remains unofficial, is clearly sensing that his usefulness is diminishing and therefore, that he may be in danger of being killed or handed over to the ICC. He now only controls a handful of followers amongst CNDP’s former officers, despite some heavy-handed attempts to impose some of his closest confidents in CNDP-military and police positions. These attempts have only led to skirmishes amongst the numerous escorts of both CNDP-factions, but if any new rebellion is to be expected, it would probably be from Bosco’s camp, potentially with covert backing from Serufuli and Hutu-leaders in Masisi.

Bosco is clearly frightened he might become the next victim of the rapprochement between Kigali and Kinshasa. He is rarely seen in Goma but is clearly stocking up supplies and keeping a few loyalists in an area between Mushaki, Ngungu and Kilolirwe, where most commanders are indeed still loyal to him. Bosco is a seasoned rebel and it cannot be excluded that he might sit out an eventual confrontation with the FARDC for several months. He may also hope that some of the Nkunda-loyalists would join his attempt to derail the process. It is unlikely however, he would ever have the political clout, the more charismatic and sophisticated Nkunda had.

Financially Bosco has clearly profited from his new position as a Government loyalist. It is thought that, through his relatives and in an arrangement with Kimia Operational Commander General Amuli, Bosco has acquired some exclusive contracts to import food for the FARDC. Bosco’s influence at the Bunagana border post, where he is reportedly exporting large quantities of timber, is also generating a steady income. Several Ugandan businessmen, no doubt acquaintances from Bosco’s time in Uganda, Kisangani and Ituri, are the conduits for this merchandise. Bosco is trying to link up as well, with some Ugandan officials. A loyalist ex-CNDP intelligence officer in Bunagana was recently arrested by Colonel Yav in Rutshuru, but then reportedly released by Yav’s Deputy, ex-CNDP Colonel Eric Ruhorimbere, on Bosco’s instructions. This officer, who is now hiding in Ngungu, had facilitated the passage of some UDPF Intelligence officers and potentially mercenaries for Bosco’s faction. Some remnants of Nkunda’s controlling agents in Bunagana, have tried to interfere with Bosco’s business dealings, resulting in some violent incidents in Goma between Major Wilson, a Bosco-loyalist and the escorts of Colonel Christian Payi Payi, the chief of ex-CNDP-‘s police.

Bosco’s waning influence is also visible in the distribution of command posts in the Kimia Operations, especially in important mining zones where former Nkunda followers have clearly been rewarded with the richer pickings (Kamituga in Mwenga, Bisie in Walikale are all in the AOR’s of Nkunda-loyalists). Whatever Bosco’s ties may be with the Hutus, the Nkunda-camp is convinced that Governor Serufuli and Bosco – through Serufuli’s close ally Seninga – are allies in a bid to impose their demands on Kinshasa. But this alliance of convenience, this time against the Kigali-Kinshasa arrangement - carries a risk to divide the Hutu and Tutsi communities loyal to CNDP and RCD even more. Serufuli’s NGO Tous pour le Developpement (TBD), an outfit created for political and social activities, is losing some of its influential Tutsi members (the Makabusa brothers for instance), due to the diverging interests and ambitions.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether Bosco – although military in control of a part of Masisi territory – may be able to garner much support from the wealthy caste of Masisi-based cattle ranchers who had thrown their support behind Nkunda. Only Senator Mwangachuchu, often at odds with other Tutsi-ranchers over property disputes, seems to be backing Bosco. Accusations from the Nkunda-side, that Serufuli is inciting Hutus – with the backing of Bosco - to go and cultivate land in Tutsi-grazing areas in Masisi, suggest that a struggle for power, within the Tutsi and Hutu communities is turning into a clan-war between various factions.

It seems that Nkunda-loyalists have every reason to believe that a confidence-building process with Kinshasa is in their best interest at this point. Now that some of the roles are reversed, this confusing situation may bring some short-term relief and be a guarantee for the effective integration of the Nkunda-loyalists in the FARDC. As a worst case scenario some skirmishes to neutralize Bosco’s grip on Masisi could be considered and although that would put pressure on the integration process, a real fratricide amongst Tutsis is close to impossible to imagine.

Another scenario needs to be taken into account however. Former Governor Serufuli has historically illustrated that he – and the Hutu-population and military officers loyal to him – have a serious capacity to spoil things : covert support to the FDLR and the CNDP alike, the distribution of weapons to civilians, the dream of a new role as Governor of a new Rwandophone province with all the risks for inter-ethnic tension that would entail or the instigation of a split within the FARDC with Hutus massively deserting or taking sides with the FDLR, are all potential processes Serufuli is capable off putting in motion, unless he gets his anticipated political rewards. This disgruntled faction of the Hutus does by no means represent the entire community (certainly not the PPRD and Panadi-Hutu who have been rewarded for their support to Kabila), but Serufuli’s generation of politicians – newcomers mostly who made their careers during the Masisi wars and the two rebellions – are not to be underestimated.

Confusion by design ?

From the side of Kigali and Kinshasa, few attempts have been made to assist the various factions in resolving their internal conflicts. This suggests that the situation is kept festering, either because the operation against the FDLR take too much effort or because the resulting weakening of the former Nkunda-rebellion and a sanitizing of the RCD-leadership serves the interests on both sides of the border. A likely scenario would be that Kinshasa waits for a new political alliance of RCD and CNDP personalities to emerge from the dust, and the potential inclusion of these in the AMP or the Government. CNDP is no credible political force at the national level, while the RCD’s balancing act between the opposition and the majority is politically suicidal. Unless the political confusion and bickering within CNDP and RCD are resolved – and the key to this is in the Kivus - bringing any clarity to the distribution of posts in any new national and provincial Government reshuffle or other positions of power is impossible.

The non-Rwandophone communities in the Petit-Nord are just a side-show for this power struggle. Their fears of a new Rwandophone takeover of the province generate resentment and renewed activism of certain Mayi Mayi Groups (Kifuafua, Shirikito, ACPLS, etc ….), but none of these are in any way capable of staging credible rebellions. The risk however is, that IDPs and refugees, whose fate still hangs in the balance, will only be able to return to Rwandophone dominated areas, where they are under the protection of Rwandophone officers. This will no doubt exacerbate the inter-community rivalry between Rwandophones and non-Rwandophones, with a significant potential for violence from both sides against soft targets, i.e. vulnerable populations in ethnically contested or mixed areas or cattle, mining and other economic interests.