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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Coalitions and Defections in a Context of Uncertainty – A Report from Ituri (Part I)

This is a guest blog by Henning Tamm, a doctoral candidate in International Relations at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, and a pre-doctoral fellow with the Program on Order, Conflict and Violence at Yale University.

While international media have focused their attention on North Kivu, a lot has happened in Ituri. This district, which used to be the most violent place in the Congo, has been relatively peaceful since 2007, with the notable exception of Cobra Matata’s Force de Résistance Patriotique d’Ituri (FRPI) group in southern Ituri.

However, since early this year, there have been defections from the army, a new rebel coalition, and even announcements that there will soon be a new rebel movement uniting elements from Haut-Uele and Ituri districts. In general, Bunia is awash with all kinds of rumors, some more plausible than others. This two-part guest post provides an overview of these developments.

On February 14, 2012, around the time of Dan Fahey’s update on events in Ituri, an army defection occurred in Marabo, around 40km west of Bunia. The leaders of this mutiny were officers from North Kivu, and several reliable sources confirm that there was a link between the Marabo mutiny and the M23 rebellion in North Kivu. In fact, there have been suggestions that the mutiny in Marabo was supposed to occur simultaneously with M23 machinations in North Kivu but had to be pushed forward due to a leak. The army commander in charge of operations in Ituri, Col. Fal Sikabwe, has openly accused its ringleader Col. Germain of collaborating with M23, although we should be careful not to exaggerate the links between events in Ituri and those in North Kivu.

The Marabo mutiny had consequences for an originally more local issue, that of Cobra Matata’s FRPI (Force de Résistance Patriotique d’Ituri). Cobra has been one of the key FRPI figures since its very beginnings around 2000. In 2002, having killed the FRPI’s first leader (“Col.” Kandro), Cobra became military chief of staff when Germain Katanga – currently on trial at the ICC – was named president of the group. Cobra was finally integrated into the Congolese army in 2007, but defected in mid-2010 and returned to Walendu Bindi collectivity, the FRPI’s stronghold in Irumu territory (southern Ituri). According to a community leader, Cobra himself gave three reasons for his defection: He didn’t obtain a proper position in the army, his housing conditions in Kinshasa were poor, and he did not receive his salary.

Although the FRPI gained some strength after Cobra’s return to the bush, it remained in the Tsey forest and only ventured out into other parts of Walendu Bindi for hit-and-run operations. “Col.” Mbadu Adirodu, who had been in charge of the FRPI after Cobra left in late 2007, moved into his position of second-in-command.

So how did the Marabo mutiny in February 2012 relate to the FRPI? Concerned by these army defections, General Gabriel Amisi (“Tango Four”) came to Bunia. He wanted to speed up the regimentation process, which he had initiated to restructure the army, and asked soldiers to regroup in several military centers. Cobra’s FRPI took advantage of the security vacuum created by these redeployments and took control of most of Walendu Bindi.

At the end of February, a delegation of local officials and community leaders met with Cobra in Bukiringi (Walendu Bindi). Cobra listed his conditions for reintegrating into the army to the officials, who said they would have to forward Cobra’s demands to the provincial level (Kisangani), from where they would be sent to the government in Kinshasa. Somebody present at this meeting suggested that Cobra’s demands were inspired by the (now infamous) agreement between the CNDP and the Congolese government of March 23, 2009 – among other things, Cobra demanded that he and his troops be integrated whilst remaining based in Ituri. At the time, Cobra claimed that his FRPI had 1,500 fighters – a figure that could not be confirmed and was considered exaggerated by observers.

For a long time, the Congolese government simply didn’t respond to Cobra’s demands. In the meantime, local community leaders organized food collections for FRPI troops so that they wouldn’t continue to prey on civilians. While this local arrangement worked relatively well, it is also indicative of a central authority that most (if not all) Iturians consider absent at best and exploitative at worst.

It was only after the M23 trouble had started in North Kivu that the Congolese government and the army command seemed to begin caring about the FRPI. By then, however, there were rumors about links between M23 and Cobra’s FRPI, and a new Ituri rebel coalition (COGAI, Coalition des Groupes Armés de l’Ituri) had formed. As one well-informed observer suggested, the government had wasted its chance to negotiate with Cobra from a position of relative strength.

The second part of this guest post will deal with COGAI and the context of uncertainty in which it has been created and is still evolving. It will also discuss a bold announcement, made last week by representatives of COGAI factions, that they are already working on a new politico-military movement that will span Haut-Uele and Ituri.

15 comments:

MUTAMBA KALONJI Andre said...

Hi hi today is NO COMMENT!where are you guyz?This writings certainly isn't interesting for you? Wanting or not this is the nowadays reality in Congo, countrywide.Wait for some days and you'll see BUNDU DIA CONGO in extreme west happening again.Every one has to come recognize that Kabila has been given his last chance 2 times in row but failed and his reign on Congolese people is over.Every one should help asap for a peaceful transition otherwise violence will spread every where.

MUTAMBA KALONJI Andre said...

Thank you very much Jason& co. I think for the very first time all your followers are satisfied as i can see only interesting reactions and only one positive comment.As you have always been telling all friends of the DRC and his people, at the end the Koffi Olomide proverb here down will prevail:"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
Thanks again.

James Serudonyori said...

Ah, so there is another rebellion not sponsored by Rwanda? Because everytime there is a rebellion, Rwanda takes the blame.
But the main reason is weak leadership that cannot provide for everyone. Just imagine, the community is collecting food to feed these rebels simply because the government cannot feed them despite the touted mineral riches, resources, etc, etc.....
Jason: I have seen that those who write on this blog are western 'experts' and students. Why cant you invite a guest columnist from Congo, or Rwanda to write a piece? Why is that you guys want to dominate the discussion on African affairs?

muana congo said...

Very funny or rather too sad! Anti-Congolese brigade root for more chaos and the suffering of our people. You have failed and you know it.
For starters, is there in this article on Ituri anything new that Congolese don’t know about or even that Jason himself has not analyzed yet on dynamics in Ituri? So what is your excitement about?

The TRUTH is this: Kagame’s criminal militia of CNDP-M23 and FDLR are the ONLY REAL THREAT to Congo and its people. Any other armed groups in Congo are just a by-product of this THREAT. All Congolese-led armed groups can lay down their arms in “one day”, because even if they might have grievances they don’t intend to harm their fellow Congolese. Many of them in fact declare resisting the invader. For example recently in Katanga, it took Gov. Moise Katumbi a single envoy for nearly 100 Mai-Mai to come out of the forest and lay down arms.

Everyone understands now: disarm Kagame-created militia of CNDP-M23 and FLDR, and there will be ipso facto peace in Congo!

James Serudonyori said...

Muana Congo: you can serve your country better by putting on a green FADC fatigue and go fight those you call criminals. And I am surprised by your blind hatred of Maj Gen. Paul Kagame. Is he the one who created FDLR? hahahahh. you make me laugh for sure. The problem of congo is not Kagame but congolese themselves like you.
Kagame was born in 1957 but before that Ngongo Luteta and Tipi Tip had abused Congo badly, dont mention King Leopold II. Then came CIA soon after independence. These forces set up conditions for future disabilisation of Congo.
Actually Kagame tried to help by removing Mobutu but then individuals he installed in subsequent are failing. He has decided to leave Congo to congolese. Sort out your mess, stop looking for scape goats.

muana congo said...

@ James Serudonyori

It is this characteristic weird way of reasoning by Kagame worshipers that baffles me. You hope from point to another, and never answer questions or address issues directly. This is indicative of mere propagandists with no arguments to defend. You were first to ask why people didn’t respond massively to the post about Ituri dynamics that we know about too well. I told you why, and showed that the real threat to Congo is Kagame’s militia of CNDP-M23 and FDLR . Instead of disputing the points I raise you attack my person.

Yes FDLR are a crouch (fond de commerce) for Kagame in the IC. You can hate Mr. Hege as you like, but read objectively the now undisputable GoE report, you will see how FDLR are recycled in Rwanda to go and create violence in Congo. Right now the supposed sworn enemies of M23 and FDLR are dwelling side-by-side in the Virunga park. Look, everyone understands the game now, it is over.

By the way, diverse Congolese should serve Congo diversely. Countering anti-Congo propaganda and “debunking Kagame fallacious myth” that has been peddled in the int’l media (CNN and co.), is also serving Congo. After the beginning of foreign aid freezes, so many people now realize just how the touted Kagame economic success was a sorry mirage artificially built by his int’l backers, while all Rwandan people live in the most of abject poverty.

Rich said...

James Serudonyori & mutamba kalonji -

I think it is time for you to realise that your PR, far from working in your favour is actually serving to further convince those condemning the behaviour of your regime to increase pressure.

as mwan congo nicely put it, the problem of DRC are well known and there is an ongoing and peaceful debate going to fix some of the problems in DRC. War is the last thing Congolese needed reason why M23 is the MOST UNPOPULAR political movement in the DRC.

I say this because the highly significant correlation between rebellions (afdl, rcd, cndp, m23; kabarebe, mutebusi, nkunda, tribert rugiro, bosco, makenga etc... in DRC and rwanda since as far back as 1996 is now preventing many people of good faith to even listen to your PR propaganda and rather call for more coordinated sanctions against the kagame regime.

rwanda needs to appoint officials to do its bidding in DRC instead of using thugs. Such strategy (using thugs) is self-defeating since it will end up backfiring in the long run.

Rich

James Serudonyori said...

Rich and co. You are insinuating that whoever that does not insult Kagame is his worshipper or part of his PR machinery?! Wrong. I think the truth has to come out in a sober way, otherwise most of you have been fed on anti-kagame propaganda. As u know, propaganda is like cocaine it confounds one's senses and cant think...
The issue of Congo is for Congolese. Build a strong army, nobody will attack you. Stop excuses and blame yourselves for incompetence. Countries that have emerged from conflicts have tended to be militarily strong. Like Uganda emerged from civil war in 1986 but in 1990 it was too strong and a force to reckon with in the region. In 1994 Rwanda emerged from conflict with strength to attack Congo and overthrow he dictator, Eritrea is too strong to be violated by tough neghbour Ethiopia.
Now instead of Congo building its army, it is busy seeking international sympathes, rejoicing aid cuts, etc. A country is not run like that.

Rich said...

James Serudonyori -

Congolese want and are rebuilding their country.

When outside destabilisation as the one sponsored by kagame and his regime is ended, DRC will be rebuilt even faster & enhance stability/prosperity in many countries in the region.

Rich

muana congo said...

Just two precisions:

(1)The “Kagame worshiper” moniker is supposed to be complimentary. This just means one whose’s senses and thinking capacity have been blunted by religious adoration of Kagame. So intoxicated, they frick out at the very mention of their “god of mille collines”. It is therefore futile reflecting with them on the nefarious role that Kagame plays in Congo and his negative responsibility in the destruction of peace and prosperity of all people of African Great Lakes region.

(2)This repetition is now overdone. People feel smart by stating the obvious, that Congo should build a dissuasive army to protect its people against all. Do Congolese disagree? And to be honest, Congolese and their friends (USA, EU, China and Africans) are engaged in this “army reform process”,though it may be slow and difficult. What we are talking about here is the “immediate and current priority” of stopping the displacements, inhumane suffering and unnecessary killings of thousands of innocent Congolese in the Kivus, as per god kagame’s will through the M23 militia and FDLR.

blaise said...

@ James
I always find funny some of your expressions like "jogging in Kinshasa","mid levels officers" and now " Kagame tried to help by removing Mobutu but then individuals he installed in subsequent are failing"
You should take your own advice and have a sober views of things.Reducing history in a few dazzling words doesn't do it justice.
From starter, Congo as it's problems like everybody else,it's size just make them look oversize compare to Rwanda.Check the Us and his hard time controlling it's borders with Mexico,for example to compare.
Another thing,ty for your help,feeling good to redo things over,sic:Mobutu was dying why did gnrl Kagame help himself and get rid of Fdlr,once for all?Instead,he armed a tribal militia and started another war after another.So now you are surprised that other militias seeks to arm themselves and fight.
Congo has it's problem,gnral Kagame helps open the pandora box.On Ituri, we should ask ourselves the question:what was Bosco,a tutsi,native of Rwanda,was doing in Ituri, as the right end of Lubanga.Are you guys(Rwanda and Uganda)fighting each other by using Hema and Lendu?Did you disarm them after your greedy appetite was satisfy?
If Rwanda is justifying the Fdlr as a existential threat,why Congolese should not worry about a tribal militia which as been supported historically by Rwanda?Do Rwanda and Uganda close their borders to discourage this rebellions? how come those rebels have new cars,get richer,etc?they get it from Fardc 2?

Rich said...

James -

It will be interesting to read your comment on the following video.

Extrait Chronique d'un genocide (la partie occultee): 1994-1996 les massacres commis par le FPR

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t-qX1t240g&feature=player_embedded#!

Rich

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