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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The pitfalls of supporting the Congolese army

Believe it or not, despite the headlines of UN failures, there have been some modest gains within the UN on the issue of protection of civilians. The UN Policy Committee, (which is presided by the Secretary-General and composed of UN Under-Secretaries-General and leaders of UN agencies) agreed last month that any form of UN support to non-UN security forces shall be conditional to respect for human rights international and international humanitarian law. That means anywhere in the world.

This is a result of the Congo fiascoes, but also of the growing criticism of the conduct of AMISOM troops in Somalia - see for instance this, as well as the investigations into the World Food Program’s contracts with Somali businesses linked to Al Shabaab.

The impact of this policy will be far-reaching. It also applies to development aid, and requires every UN entity to develop its own operational directive to be in compliance with fundamental principles of international law. This also includes sanctions, and MONUSCO is expressly requested not to provide any support to the individuals included in the Security Council black list, including our man Bosco Ntaganda.

Although an important step, the policy is at an early development stage. The Policy Committee agreed to set up a panel of senior UN officials to draft a framework policy.

As for the Congo, MONUSCO has begun - at last hesitantly - to show its teeth. It has been refusing logistic support to a number of FARDC requests due to the presence of problematic commanders, and also stopped a few FARDC commanders for boarding their planes, including Baudouin Ngaruye, who the UN Group of Experts has implicated in the massacre of Shalio in 2009, as well as other officers. A cell within MONUSCO has also begun to put together a list of the most serious human rights offenders within the Congolese security forces to serve as a reference for the UN and donors.

However, MONUSCO still has a relatively vague policy on how to support the FARDC in the Kivus, especially as much of the aid it provides - water, food, medicine, fuel and perhaps even ammunition - is fungible and the real capacity to monitor both the troops behavior and the distribution chain is very limited as the Mission's resources are overstretched. Conditionality is also easily circumvented, in light of the chaos which reigns among FARDC deployments and parallel chains of command. This is compounded by blue helmets who are unfamiliar with their surroundings and the FARDC units they deal with.

So far MONUSCO have just laid out the ground rules of their cooperation with the FARDC. They have an elaborate set of conditions that their collaboration with FARDC units is based on. Has it had an impact? Hard to say. Reported word is spreading – albeit slowly – among FARDC troops that human rights violations are no longer a free ride and that their conduct towards the civilian population is "being monitored by the international community".

We need to make sure, however, that the policy is not just a means for the UN to avoid complicity. The real aim of the policy should be to pressure the FARDC into much-needed reforms. Abusive units could thus be marginalized, sending a clear message.

For this to happen, conditionality alone isn’t enough. It should be linked to security sector reform – the chimerical beast – and support to the justice sector. Then there is the issue of taking more aggressive action, such as arresting Bosco Ntaganda and pressuring the government to suspend or prosecute officials who are well-documented criminal records (Innocent Zimurinda comes to mind, as does Lt Col “Shetani,” a Munyamulenge commander reportedly involved in the 1998 Kasika massacre).

This will ruffle some feathers – MONUSCO has spoiled the Congolese by providing free services to the Congolese government for the last 10 years with few string attached, and the international community is ever fearful of rocking the boat.

The international community, money and 2011 in the Congo

Just a few months ago, President Kabila's outlook wasn't too bad. He had achieved debt cancellation, freeing up a substantial amount of money in his budget, he had made (tentative) peace with his longstanding external rival Rwanda, while his longstanding internal rival Jean-Pierre Bemba will be standing trial in The Hague in November. If the case of Thomas Lubanga is anything judge by, Bemba could be in the docket for quite some time - Lubanga has been standing trial since January 2009 - apparently disqualifying him from participating in the Congolese elections of November 2011.

The economy is set to grow by over 6% next year and the IMF continues to make rosy statements about the country's economic outlook.

Now, the mood has changed. Violence continues in the East, and there have been three briefings to the UN Security Council already in the past few months about sexual violence in particular. The cancellation of First Quantum and Tullow's mineral and oil concessions has affected investor confidence. And the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya - followed several months later by a similar death in prison of a Belgian-Congolese protester - has raised serious questions about the government's dedication to good governance and human rights.

His foreign donors, who so amiably had canceled $12 billion in debt in July, are now balking at the cancellations of $2,9 billion of bilateral debt through the Paris Club. The World Bank is reportedly extremely frustrated with the government's cancellation of First Quantum's mining concessions in Katanga, which had been supported by the World Bank's private investment branch, the IFC. The World Bank has allegedly suspended its project to reform the artisanal mining sector, called Promines. (The Bank's official response is that they are still going through the required bureaucratic steps.)

To make matters worse, Vital Kamerhe, the president's long term ally turned rival, has apparently finally decided to run and has begun discussions with the UDPS and MLC opposition parties, seeking their support. If he does get their support - even if just for a second round of the presidential election - that alliance between strong western, central and eastern candidates could be a serious threat to the regime.

It is within this chilly climate that the Congolese government is asking donors to supply around $346 million from donors and MONUSCO to fund the 2011 elections. They have also asked for increases in general donor budgets.

The answer has not been enthusiastic so far. MONUSCO's budget is on the wane. The US government, according to one source there, has until now only set aside $4 million in his aid budget for the elections.

This is not good. if we do not fund elections, we will not be able to help Congolese civil society set up the necessary safeguards - election observers, oversight structures, audits - and we won't have the diplomatic clout needed to be heard in Kinshasa. The international community loves the wring its hands about not having any influence over the government in Kinshasa, only to disburse almost $3 billion in funding to the country. While I understand that it is difficult to tie this funding, most of which goes to humanitarian and infrastructure projects and is not fungible, to concrete conditions, I think we can do better.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Latest sexual violence stats

A quick update of the sexual violence statistics. Here are the most recent stats from UNFPA for this year, across the whole Congo. Most of the sexual violence is in North and South Kivu, most of it affects girls between 10-17 and - surprisingly - only 1/3 of the perpetrators are reported to be soldiers (although for North Kivu the figure is 52% and for South Kivu 86%).

7,685 cases reported in total for the first 6 months of 2010, including 2,275 for South Kivu and 2,245 for North Kivu.

Bear in mind that there is a large amount of under-reporting, and what qualifies as "sexual violence" may vary significantly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peace vs. Justice: A Response

I wrote this as a response to Kate's posting below.

I agree that, despite mud-slinging from both sides on this debate, we have little empirical evidence to go by. However, I think that, in this absence of evidence, doing nothing could be just as risky and probably less noble than promoting accountability.

Let's look at the theory, as there is little evidence. For the people on the justice side, they must prove that prosecutions do more good than harm. Usually, the argument is made that prosecutions are the just thing to do, that they deter future violence and that the counter a culture of general indiscipline and impunity. Strong arguments, I would say. But prosecutions can destabilize as well as deter, and we don't know how much one Lubanga prosecution, for example, buys us in deterrence or destabilization.

Also, international prosecutions usually come in the single digits per annum - if we lock up 5% of the top-level killers (don't even mention the low level ones), will it really deter the other 95%? This reasoning, however, can be flipped around and applied to those worried of destabilization: will prosecuting 5% really bring down the regime?

For people on the destabilization side, however, I would say this: The impunity that was supposed to be the glue of the transition in the Congo has ended up being more like acid. The fact that Rwanda was not held responsible - in the court of donor politics or in an international court - for its crimes in the eastern Congo gave it a blank check. Same goes for Kabila's crackdown on the Bundu dia Kongo in Bas-Congo in 2007, or the rash of killings and rapes by Congolese army members in the Kivus. It is hard to argue that impunity has been very successful in stabilizing the country.

I would also emphasize that this is not an either-or situation. Vetting, for example, would allow Kabila to purge his army of abusive officers without having to try them in a court of law - they would be forcefully retired, as happened in many post-Soviet countries. A real Truth and Reconciliation Commission (not the farcical one we had during the transition) could educate people about happen and serve as a warning to officers not to re-offend. Above all, a serious crack-down on current abuses would send a strong signal, especially if commander are held responsible for the behavior of their soldiers.

It is fair and well to preach justice, but it is worthwhile noting the hypocrisy of western donors: After the US Civil War, President Johnson handed Lee and his men a collective amnesty. In Spain, to this day no one has been tried for crimes committed during the civil war (an amnesty law was passed in 1977); no Italians to my knowledge were tried after World War II for their war crimes; no American has been sentenced for crimes committed at My Lai in 1968 and only a few for Abu Ghraib. The biggest exception are the Nazis and their allies, of whom thousands were tried throughout Europe and executed.

There is no formula for how to do this. But, when in doubt, I would suggest being smart about it, tailoring any solution to the local situation, involving local civil society groups (two hundred of whom demanded a tribunal), and erring on the side of justice.

Peace vs. Justice: Kate Cronin-Furman

I invited Kate Cronin-Furman, of Wronging Rights fame, to chime in on the recent release of the UN Mapping Report on the DRC. Kate is a PhD student a Columbia, where she's getting a joint degree in satire and political science, and has an avid interest in transitional justice (OK, the bit about satire isn't true.)

The UN Mapping Report came out a couple of weeks ago, with the much-tantrumed-about allegations of genocide intact. (Toned done a bit, but impressively extant.) Naturally, this has led a lot of people to conclude that what the DRC needs; more than security from the threat of violence, a competent police force, a functioning road network, protection of property rights, and access to clean water; is a mob of international lawyers traipsing about the place.

Whether or not you think the call for war crimes trials sounds totally reasonable or like so much crazy sauce depends on which side you're on in the great “No peace without justice” vs. “Does justice comes free with peace? Cause if not, I’ll just take my peace with a side of fries, please” debate.

If, like I do, you love peace, french fries, and justice, you may not know where to come down on this. The argument of the pro-trials folks (made recently by international justice A-lister Reed Brody here) is a viscerally compelling one; it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense that impunity breeds atrocity and that allowing war crimes to go unpunished will only result in more war crimes. For a lot of people, the theoretical appeal of this argument, coupled with the sense that it’s a moral imperative to punish guilty parties, is enough to justify a push for war crimes trials.

Me, I like my theories backed up by a bit of evidence. Unfortunately, in this case we don’t have any. International war crimes trials are a relatively recent phenomenon and we just don’t have the kind of data necessary to begin to draw informed conclusions about what benefits trials have and how they produce them. There is some evidence, however, that war crimes trials may exacerbate existing tensions and potentially trigger or prolong conflict. While the argument, mostly advanced by governments and diplomats in the region, that an accountability exercise would not be worth the instability it could produce might sound self-serving (after all, they weren’t the ones getting massacred), they may have a point. Consider, for example, the effect that the backlash to ICTY prosecutions had on the transitional process in Serbia.

In the absence of evidence, a highly plausible theoretical account of a deterrent effect might be enough to offset the potential risk of worsening the violence in the Eastern DRC. But the deterrent effect of criminal punishment is a contested concept even in domestic criminal law. In the international system, where we have nothing approaching the level of certainty of punishment and sentencing severity that arguably produces general deterrence in a domestic system, a reliable deterrent effect is that much less likely.

Without deterrence, the argument for pushing for immediate war crimes trials rests on the assumption that the moral imperative to punish the guilty demands punishing them instantly upon discovery of the crimes. Or rather, instantly upon publication of an official report detailing what we’ve all known for upwards of a decade. I’m just not sure that’s enough to justify the risk.

Tensions Rise in Goma

A strange press statement was issue yesterday in Goma, or rather the combination of signatories was strange: CNDP and PARECO. The two groups, once part of the same group, then bitter enemies, now once again apparently allied, wrote to denounce the lack of progress in implementing the March 2009 peace deal, as well as to castigate Human Rights Watch for the latest press statement on Bosco Ntaganda.

In particular, the two groups demand the return of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda, the formal recognition of their ranks within the national army and the integration of their cadres into Congolese administration and military. They also said that Bosco should be presumed innocent and that we should not jump to conclusions that the assassination of Maj. Antoine Balibuno was in fact carried out by his men.

None of this is new. (Read here the CNDP demands handed to Kabila last month.) The fact that most CNDP military units have been integrated into the national army and been given lucrative and important positions (although not yet official ranks) indicates that they may not have it as bad as they suggest. There have indeed been delays regarding refugee returns, but some of these are understandable given the tenuous security situation in their villages of origin, and Congolese authorities have not been very strict (to put it mildly) about verifying the refugees' nationality and place of origin. There are certainly problems and matters of concern for the CNDP and PARECO, but things are not so bad.

So what is really going on?

One serious concern on everyone's mind and lips is the announcement by the Congolese army that they would be moving units from the Kivus elsewhere in the country, especially CNDP units. This provoked a serious backlash from within the CNDP, who fear being isolated and marginalized if they are broken up and sent to Bas-Congo, for example. Some suggest that this move was backed by Rwanda, which is concerned of a possible CNDP-FDLR-PARECO alliance affiliated with dissident RPF leaders in exile. It is too soon to tell whether there is really such an alliance, but the Rwandans have hinted that they are worried. The reports of a possible presence of Rwandan troops in North Kivu and Rwandan security officials in and around Goma would strengthen this theory.

This coalition between CNDP-PARECO - which their leaders say is political, not military - should be seen in this light. Apparently the threat of being sent out of the Kivus has been so pronounced that the CNDP have even been patching up their internal differences, with reports of Bosco now re-taking the helm of all former Nkunda officers and orchestrating this rapprochement with PARECO, a mostly Hutu armed group. Bosco, of course, has his own hide to save, with indications that he is being relieved of his command with the Congolese army and that he might have to start worrying that the ICC warrant might finally be executed. However, given the amount of blood that has been split between these groups and how bitter their enmity is, it is difficult to believe that this coalition could last for very long.

It will be very difficult for any serious insurrection to succeed as long as the Kigali-Kinshasa alliance holds, but there are worries that this could undermine stability in the run-up to elections next year, polarizing the province. Also, Uganda is still a wild card - they might decide to provide a little support to a new rebellion, just to keep leverage on Rwanda (and Congo), but it is unlikely that Museveni would take any major risks before elections in his own country next year.

In the meantime, the Congolese army seems to have back-peddled a bit. Today, on Radio Okapi, the commander of the North Kivu military region said they are not going to deploy whole units belonging to certain groups out of the province, but that they might instead consider re-deploying individuals.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How many women have been raped in the Congo?

How many women have been raped in the eastern Congo? We have no exact figure, and we all know how difficult it is to get good data. Rape survivors are afraid to tell and many are in remote areas, where no records are kept of the violence.

According to one UN estimate that I first saw in 2008, 200,000 women have been raped since 1998. Last week, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo told the UN Security Council that 15,000 women had been raped in the East of the country alone in 2009. The UN Population Fund came out with a figure of 17,507 for the whole country for the same period.

I am pretty sure that the UNFPA figures come from records provided through a central data bank, into which health centers, NGOs and UN agencies feed data. One of the problems I have heard is that "sexual violence" as recorded in health centers includes a relatively wide spectrum of violence, including domestic abuse.

Other researchers have adopted a different methodology, carrying out surveys in which they ask a randomized sample of men women a bunch of health related questions, including about sexual violence. One such survey, a Demographic and Health Survey carried out in 2007, surveyed around 10,000 women throughout the Congo. They asked women between 18-49 about being forced to have sex with a man:
10% said that the first time they had had sex it was forced; 16% said that as some point in their life they had been forced to have sex; and 4% said that they had been forced to have sex in the previous 12 months.
Interestingly, the variation between provinces defies expectations. The highest rate of forced sex was in North Kivu (25% said they had had forced sex as some point), but the second and forth highest rates were Equateur and Bandundu, respectively (19% and 18%), provinces where there has not been nearly as high levels of armed conflict as in the Kivus.

One problem is that the study asked about forced sexual relations in general, not the rape you observe during armed conflict. Unfortunately, many women in the Congo suffer this kind of domestic abuse. As terrible as it is, conjugal rape is different from military rape.

Another, more recent study (2010) carried out by American researchers and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association focused on the Kivus and Ituri. Researchers interviewed around a thousand men and women. They found that a shocking 39.7% of the women had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime and an amazing 23.6% of men.

There were other counter-intuitive findings: of the women who had experienced sexual violence in conflict settings (74.3% of total), over 40% had experienced it at the hands of women with no men present.

This begs the question: How did the researchers, who have done similar studies in West Africa and Darfur, define sexual violence? Was it any kind of sexual intimidation or harassment, or was it actual rape? I will try to get the full data they collected and report back.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Arresting Callixte: Does it Matter?

Yes, it does.

I have gone on the record saying that Callixte's arrest is probably not going to have a huge impact on FDLR demobilizations from the field. My reasoning was the following: Callixte, along with the rest of the political leadership, was appointed by the FDLR military leadership in order to gain greater legitimacy long after the group had developed its military structures in the field. While they influenced military operations, they were no Joseph Kony or Jonas Savimbi. Arresting them will hurt the group's morale, but will not seriously damage the military chain of command. Even the morale may not be so important: Most soldiers have long since given up the hope of returning victoriously to Rwanda and are interested more in survival than in ideology.

Take, for example, the arrest of FDLR president Ignace Murwanashyaka and vice-president Straton Musoni in Germany in November 2009. It has been a year since putting them in the clink and most experts in the field seem to think it is the military campaign against the FDLR that has led to the 30-50% reduction in troops, not these arrests.

Of course, we may never know. One could argue, for example, that the arrest of Ignace and Straton affected leadership dynamics within the military, allowing the divisions between northerners and southerners to fester further.

So why do I think the arrest is a good thing?

First, because it sets an important precedent: For years, armed groups in the Congo have been relying on Diaspora members for propaganda, diplomacy and financing. For groups like the CNDP and the FDLR, this was very important - they maintained outreach coordinators in several foreign cities. Mai-Mai groups have antennae in Tanzania, while Ituri armed groups are often present in Kampala. These armchair rebel leaders deny knowing about the crimes their troops commit, while lobbying for them and looking for finances. Shutting these networks down is a good thing if the group are as abusive as the FDLR.

Secondly, this is an important legal precedent, although I'm not entirely sure if this is the right tactic. The prosecutor won the arrest warrant based on Article 25 (3) (d) of the Rome Statute, the so-called "common purpose" argument:
a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person: In any other way contributes to the commission or attempted commission of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose. Such contribution shall be intentional and shall either:
    (i) Be made with the aim of furthering the criminal activity or criminal purpose of the group, where such activity or purpose involves the commission of a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; or

    (ii) Be made in the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the crime;

This is the first time the court issues a warrant based solely on the common purpose argument. Some legal experts think this is a bridge too far, as no other international tribunal has argued such an expansive mode of liability before. It could be good, as it would be a serious deterrent for any sort of support to abusive armed groups, including financing or perhaps even propaganda, but is could also be too wide a net that will bog the court down in long legal battles.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Vote of No-Confidence for Kabila

Bloomberg ran the following story today: "Barclays Capital Says CongoMaximum Risk’ Investment," quoting a daily briefing put out by the UK bank.

The bank considers the Congo to be "the most significant risk...for the metals and mining sector," following the repossession of large copper and oil concessions from multinational corporations. The briefing also includes the following line: "Perhaps most worrying is that US State Department officials consider President Kabila to be at his most unpredictable, which does not bode well."

Indeed. The legal squabbles with First Quantum and Tullow were somewhat compensated by the $12 billion in debt relief and the relatively good economic indicators, but the Barclays briefing suggests that the government's behavior will have long term effects on international investment.

What Use is Banning the Tin Trade?

Not much, according to Professor of Economics R.T. Naylor from McGill University. This is what he argues about trying to suppress a profitable trade through prohibition:

Never in history has there been a black market defeated from the supply side. From prohibition to prostitution, from gambling to recreational drugs, the story is the same. Supply-side controls act, much like price supports in agriculture, to encourage production and increase profits. At best a few intermediaries get knocked out of business. But as long as demand persists, the market is served more or less as before.

That is from his 2004 book, Wages of Crime, an attack on the notion that the world is being taken over by underground criminal networks worth billions of dollars - the biggest profits in fraudulent activity is being made, he argues, by banks, speculators and big corporations. Not always thoroughly argued or backed up with convincing proof, but a suggestive take on the world of transnational crime.

As for the eastern Congo, I would probably say he is right: We are not going to get far by banning tin exports. But if we can adjust the incentive structure in the international markets to promote more accountability, then the mineral trade could become a foot in the door of institutional reform in the Kivus. In the best case scenario.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bosco is up to no good

Following in a very timely fashion, Human Rights Watch put out a call for Bosco Ntaganda's arrest today, just a day after another ICC-indictee, Callixte Mbarushimana, was nabbed in Paris.

I recommend reading HRW's press statement - it includes a lot of information on tensions within the CNDP. They report that Bosco may have been involved in the assassination of 8 people this year, most of them CNDP members he has fallen out with.

Taken in the context of reports from the UN (who heard it straight from the mouth of the Congolese army commander) that Bosco has been suspended from his position in the army and rumors that he no longer has the backing of high-ranking officials in Kigali and Kinshasa, HRW could be pushing on an open door. Let's hope so.

(In this context, also see Reuters' nice interview from last week with the man himself, who insists that he is still the deputy commander of Amani Leo, much to MONUSCO's chagrin.)

The AMP conclave: Another step towards 2011 elections

For those who didn't know it: The election season is definitely upon us, even though we are still 13 months away from the polls. After the PPRD's summit in Kisangani in August, it was the presidential AMP coalition's turn to meet at the president's ranch in Kingakati this weekend. The president and his entourage are intent on preserving their broad-based coalition, so they took this opportunity to discuss electoral strategy, constitutional revision and the composition of the national electoral commission (CENI).

As Alex Engwete points out in his nice posting, the conclave took place amid a lot of mudslinging between Kabila's camp and prominent former allies such as Kudura Kasongo (former presidential spokesperson turned TV presenter - see here for the bizarre transformation of one of the most hardline Kabila enforcers to a critic) and Vital Kamerhe.

The result of the meeting was to resolutely seal (of course) the unity of the AMP coalition and to confirm that there would only be one presidential candidate: Joseph Kabila. This is important insofar as several of the coalition members had proposed their own candidate for the 2006 polls, such as Mbusa Nyamwisi (RCD-ML), and the last thing Kabila needs at the moment is for more people to enter the race, which could prevent him from winning the all-important first round of elections in 2011.

The meeting also brought up the issue of constitutional revision. According to Kinshasa newspapers (and here), they recommended 8 articles of the current constitution for revision:
  • Article 226, which calls for the creation of 26 provinces out of the current 11 (Kinshasa + 10) within 36 months of the installation of the elected institutions. Note that they do not want to call into question the creation of new provinces (the so-called "découpage), as that would be unconstitutional, they just want to change the deadline for doing so (the last one lapsed in May 2010). So this is a sly way of buying more time;
  • Article 71, which says that the second round of presidential elections has to be held within 15 days of the first round of elections. I agree, this provision never made much sense, as it takes at least that long just to print the new ballots and distribute them - last time they had two months;
  • Article 149: I haven't seen exactly what they want to change about this, but this could be dangerous, as article cements the independence of the courts. Any change to this would be unconstitutional;
  • Articles 197&198: These articles regulate the functioning of provincial parliaments, which have been extremely unruly for the past four years - the newspapers in Kinshasa suggest that they want to change "the management of crises in the provincial institutions." Hmmm.
  • Also: Articles 126 & 110. You can read all of them in the constitution here.
Almost as notable as what they brought up were the clauses that they have not recommended for changing (if we can rely on the Kinshasa papers): presidential term limits, which would have Kabila out of office after another five year term; and the proportional representation electoral system, which the presidency has wanted to change to have a more manageable parliament.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The FDLR weakens

We have all been so busy lamenting the atrocities committed by the FDLR that we have missed some of the good news. Yes, not only that the Vice President Callixte Mbarushimana was arrested in Paris yesterday on an ICC warrant. But also that the rebels suffered their largest military defection in over a year when the head of one of their battalions, Lt. Col. Elie Mutarambwira (aka Safari), defected with the help of MONUSCO. (Ok, it happened almost a month ago, but the press never really picked it up).

Things have not been going smoothly for the FDLR. They have been badly battered by the various operations launched against them by the Congolese army, MONUSCO and the Rwandan army since January 2009. Around 2,300 have been demobilized by MONUSCO since then and certainly at least several hundred more have been killed, perhaps many more. UN officials estimate that between 3,000 and 3,500 remain in the Kivus, down from 5,000-7,000 in 2008, although estimates are always difficult, especially since we don't know how many new recruits are coming in.

Defectors report deep divisions in the ranks of the FDLR between the northerners and southerners - the same divisions that tore Habyarimana's government apart, as well. The FDLR now spend a lot of their time organizing new alliances with Congolese armed groups to help strengthen them. They have struck up alliances with the Mai-Mai Cheka, Mai-Mai Kalingiti, Mai-Mai Kifuafua, Mai-Mai Aochi, Mai-Mai Populaire and Mai-Mai Kirikicho. I don't even know all these new groups.

At the same time, a splinter group of FDLR, ex-CNDP and Mai-Mai called FPLC has been reported in Mwenga territory, South Kivu. They allegedly decapitated a Congolese army officer on September 17th and left a note on his body, demanding negotiations with the Congolese government.

For those who really care, here are the positions for the FDLR in North Kivu:
  • UN sources also indicate that FDLR Commander Gen. Mudacamura is located at Kahembe (Walikale), while FDLR Commissar of Defence Gen Poete Ropike is located at Mashake (east of Ntoto). Each has a detachment of soldiers with him.
  • Someka Battalion, formerly commanded by the repatriated Lt Col Safari, is now led by Major Solomindende Simba aka Ruhinda in Rutare, Virunga National Park.
  • Concorde Battalion is based in Mukoberwa forest, western Masisi, and is led by Col. Sadiki Soleil.
  • Sabena Battalion is based in Bukonde in the northern Masisi forest and led by Col. Limuko

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A New(ish) FDLR Leadership

The FDLR met a few weeks ago in the forests of the eastern Congo to decide on a new leadership. No great surprises here: Gen. Gaston Iyamuremye (aka Gaston Rumuli), who had been serving as interim president since the arrest of Ignace Murwanashyaka in Germany in 2009, was confirmed at president. The vice-president is Callixte Mbarushimana, the controversial former Executive Secretary of the movement, based in Paris.

This re-shuffle does not change the military leadership of the movement, which is led by Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura and his deputy Gen. Stanislas Nzeyimana (aka Bigaruka), based in North and South Kivu, respectively.

Gen. Rumuli, as he is known, is sixty-two years old now and is originally from Ruhengeri, in the north of Rwanda. He was the commander of a logistics battalion during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, although his exact involvement in the genocide not known. He worked his way up through the ranks of the FDLR in the Congo from brigade commander to G5 (head of mobilization and propaganda) to minister of defense and now president. His wife Josée lives in Rulindo, Rwanda, where she is a teacher. They have two daughters, who are also in Rwanda.

The fact that the FDLR would appoint a military man based in the eastern Congo as the head of their civilian wing is significant. That wing was created in 2000 to give the group more international legitimacy and to network with the Diaspora and diplomats. It will obviously be difficult for Gen. Rumuli, as he is known, to field press calls and attend meetings with the Diaspora if he is based in the eastern Congo. It will also be more difficult for him to be arrested. This suggests that the military leadership is taking back control of the movement and emphasizing the military struggle - not too surprising, as they have become increasingly known for the serial abuses against the local Congolese population.

Nonetheless, the group has maintained some high-profile leaders in the Diaspora, in particular the firebrand Callixte Mbarumshimana. Hopefully, this will give the French authorities more reason to prosecute him, especially as he has been known to get involved directly in military operations, as was recently evident when he intervened to halt a UN operation to return thousands of Rwandan Hutu civilians to Rwanda.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Congo-Burundi tensions

I'm just getting up to speed with a recent Burundi-Congo unofficial security meeting that took place about three weeks ago. On September 10th, seven Burundian soldiers were handed over to the Burundian authorities by a Congolese delegation that included the governor of South Kivu, Marcellin Cisambo, and Amani Leo deputy commander Col. Delphin Kahimbi. In return, the Burundian government handed over three Congolese soldiers.

The Burundian rebels apparently all belonged to the MSD party, which during the recent elections was led by Alexis Sinduhije. It is important to point out that Sinduhije has denounced violence and that, according to analysts in Burundi, may not control many of the more radical elements in his party, some of whom include Tutsi youth close to the former sans echec militia. According to diplomats who interviewed the captured soldiers, they were on their way to join the FRF Banyamulenge militia in the High Plateau of South Kivu. They also said that they were not the first group to have crossed the border.

Since Pierre Nkurunziza won reelection in June this year and his government has cracked down on the opposition. Some members of the FNL rebellion have returned to the bush, while their leader Agathon Rwasa is often reported to be in the eastern Congo.

Several meetings had taken place in the run-up to this meeting, not all of them cordial. Burundian government officials accused the Congolese of complicity in FNL and MSD crossings into the Congo. There have been several attacks of civilian vehicles in the Rusizi Plain, across the border from Burundi, in past weeks, allegedly carried out by FNL crossing from Burundi.

Relations between Congo and Burundi have been somewhat strained due to this, as well as the fact that President Kabila still has connections to a dissident faction of the ruling CNDD-FDD led by Hussein Rajabu, who is in jail in Bujumbura. Kabila did not attend Nkurunziza's inauguration and Burundi was one of the countries named in the recent UN mapping report for human rights abuses. However, the FNL are allegedly linking up with the FDLR in the Kivus, which is probably not in Kabila's immediate interest, and Nkurunziza is a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who in turn is close to Kabila these days. My guess is that any Congo-FNL-MSD collaboration will be more of an opportunistic, local nature for the moment.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Some mining news

Just a mention:
  • There are now some news reports that the export ban of minerals will be lifted by October 15;
  • Eleven African countries have now adopted the certification system of minerals proposed by the International Conference for the Great Lakes - they are supposed to implement the system within the next year. This is good news, although the system relies on each country carrying out the certification themselves - in the Congo, this will be the ministry of mines and ITRI, a tin industry body. They have several pilot projects just starting up, but they are relatively few and to my knowledge just indicate the origin of the minerals, not whether military are present in the mine or along the trade routes.
  • The OECG conference on drafting guidelines for companies involved in the Congo minerals trade just finished in Nairobi. Let's see what they came up with.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mapping Released and Welcomed by DRC Government

The UN mapping report is out! (available here) Not a whole lot has changed. After a legal review, the allegations of genocide have been couched in more cautious terms, and various arguments are considered for why it may not have been genocide after all. This version also includes comments from the Congolese government, and other governments have been offered to post their responses on the UN High Commission's website.

Perhaps the more important development is this Op-Ed written by the DRC ambassador to the UN Atoki Ileka on the Huffington Post, which has also been sent to the press as the Congo's official response to the report. In it, he welcomes the report, saying it is "detailed and credible," before focusing on what must come next. He suggests that President Kabila has always wanted an international tribunal, but that international and Congolese experts should convene in Kinshasa to study the different options. That sounds like an invitation for the UN to organize a conference.

Strangely, Ileka does say that this is his "personal opinion" - how can one write an Op-Ed as DRC ambassador and then say it's his personal opinion? That might just be the government protecting itself - apparently President Kabila personally tasked Ileka to write the response, so we can be optimistic that this is the official response.

However, at the same time, Ileka says: "In addition to seeking justice for the victims of the terrible crimes, we also seek to improve diplomatic and brotherly relations with all our neighboring countries for a lasting peace."

How will they balance this push for justice with their "brotherly relations" with Rwanda?

Kabila just finished a tour of the East during which he met with President Kagame several times. However, apparently the Rwandan government lobbied Kinshasa hard to denounce the report. Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo was calling the Congolese delegation to the UN General Assembly to put out a joint statement, but (according to people in the delegation) they let the phone ring.

It will be a fine line to walk between brotherly relations and justice.