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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mystery surrounds killing of M23 officer

The killing of M23 Major Anicet Musana on Sunday in Rutshuru sent shock waves through the region, coming on the same day as the signing of the Addis Ababa agreement. What exactly happened, however, is shrouded in mystery.

What do we know? Musana was drinking in a local bar in Rutshuru town when he became victim of a targeted attack––reports from the UN and M23 say that he was hit with an RPG, killing him instantly.

The blogosphere lit up immediately, with most Congolese papers as well as the UN radio reporting that the killing was an internal M23 clash, the result of long-standing tensions between Bosco and Makenga. The M23's official version was that this had been an FDLR attack, as the Rwandan rebels took advantage of the M23's internal squabbling to stage a daring raid.

However, it is increasingly likely that the assassination was carried out by Musana's M23 colleagues. First of all, it was an assassination––it doesn't appear that the FDLR pillaged or took anything of great importance, and in the past they have been more interested in sneaking through M23 lines into Rwanda than picking a fight. Testimonies by M23 soldiers, MONUSCO officials, and ex-CNDP officers in the Congolese army also bear this out.

But this still leaves many questions open: Was it Makenga's or Bosco's people who carried out the deed? Musana was a close associate of "General" Baudouin Ngaruye, a Bosco ally who had been promoted last November to even out the Makenga-Bosco balance within the M23 High Command. This might lead us to conclude that it was Makenga's people (and some M23 insiders back this hypothesis), but others point to how close Musana was to Laurent Nkunda, Makenga's mentor, and suggest that Baudouin had gotten wind of possible treason.

Rumors are swirling, and some sources seem particularly eager to get their version of the story across, which should give us some pause. In the meantime, Makenga has withdrawn to Tshanzu, close to the border with Uganda and Rwanda, and Bosco is said to be around Runyoni, not far away from Tshanzu––another bizarre development––with competing banter about a manhunt for one or the other in which the Rwandans may or not be playing a role.

Clear as Masisi mud.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

NGO policy brief on framework agreement

This is a press release with a link to a policy brief signed by 46 Congolese and international NGOs in occasion of the signing of the framework agreement in Addis, to which I contributed. 

Version française ci-dessous
Groups say agreement is not enough and outline concrete steps that need to be taken
Reiterate call for UN, US and EU to appoint Special Envoys and greater regional involvement
(Goma/Washington/Kinshasa, February 24, 2013)
A group of prominent Congolese and international NGOs today called on countries in the Great Lakes region, along with their international partners, to ensure that the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in Addis Ababa is given the political backing necessary to bring an end to war in the eastern Congo.
In a published policy response, the groups welcomed the Framework Agreement as an opportunity for a new kind of decisive engagement in a conflict that has persisted for two decades and ravaged the lives of millions of Congolese.
However, they also suggest that the Agreement will be hollow without specific additional measures, including the appointment of a high-profile UN Special Envoy with the power to mediate on both a domestic and regional level; the inclusion of Congolese civil society and Kinshasa’s main bilateral and multilateral donor partners in the proposed national oversight mechanism; and the tying of donor aid to clear and agreed benchmarks and genuine collaboration between government, donors, and civil society.
The groups also called for the creation of a donor fund to support projects aimed at deepening regional economic integration to emphasize the benefits of regional stability; UN-mediated negotiations with armed groups that avoid the impunity characteristic of past deals; and substantial donor engagement to promote demobilization of rebel soldiers and regional economic integration.
“We need a new approach, a peace process based on the principles of justice,”says Raphael Wakenge, Coordinator of the Congolese Initiative for Justice and Peace (ICJP).  “Past peace deals have often closed their eyes toward impunity, allowing war criminals to be integrated into the army, police and security services. This has undermined the legitimacy of the peace process and the reputation of the security services, including the judiciary.”
The Framework Agreement is based on two main points: bringing an end to foreign backing of Congolese rebellion movements, and fostering the comprehensive reform of state institutions such as the national army, police and judicial sectors. The groups today called on the facilitators and the eleven state signatories of the Framework to make sure that there are clear benchmarks in order to carry out these goals. They further suggested that donors should tie their aid to progress in the peace process. 
“The Framework Agreement is a strong promise to the Congolese people, but past peace processes have stumbled due to a lack of transparency, weak international engagement and the absence of a comprehensive process,” says Federico Borello, Great Lakes Director for Humanity United. “This time, it is imperative to tackle once and for all the Congo’s root problems of impunity, regional interference, and state weakness. Without them, our best chance for peace will fail.”
In addition, the groups also called on the international community to show steadfast commitment that goes beyond the technocratic approach of recent years. In addition to calling for a UN Special Envoy, the groups called on the United States and the European Union to name special envoys to support the process, and on the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGLR) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to continue providing support to the process. They also called for a donor conference to commit the resources necessary to promote cross-border economic collaboration and deep-rooted reform of Congolese institutions.
“There has not been a solid peace process in the Congo since 2006, despite the escalation of violence since then,” says Jason Stearns, Usalama Project director for the Rift Valley Institute. “The Framework Agreement provides hope, but it will require substantial political and financial capital to overcome entrenched interests.”
The groups releasing the policy paper today included:
Action Aid, Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT), Action Humanitaire et de Développement Intégral (AHDI), Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), Africa Faith and Justice Network, Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP asbl), Atma Foundation, Bureau d'Etude et d'Accompagnement des Relations Internationales en RDC (BEARIC), Centre des Etudes et de Formation Populaire pour les Droits de l'Homme CEFOP/DH, Centre pour la Paix et les Droits de l'Homme- Peace and Human Rights Center (CPDH – PHRC), Christian Aid, Collectif des Organisations des Droits Humains et de la Démocratie au Congo (CDHD), Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Conciliation Resources, CordAid, Danish Refugee Council, Dynamique Synergie des Femmes, Enough Project, Eurac, Falling Whistles, Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises (FFC), Forum de la Femme Ménagère (FORFEM), Groupe Justice et Libération, Humanity United, IFDP, International Refugee Rights Initiative, Invisible Children, Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Jesuit Refugee Service, Jewish World Watch, Justice Plus, Ligue des Electeurs (L.E), Ligue pour la Cohabitation Pacifique et de Prévention des Conflits (LCPC), MDF, Norwegian Refugee Council, Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et de Justice (RRSSJ), Resolve, SERACOB, Société Civile du Territoire de Nyiragongo et le point focal du COJESKI Nyiragongo, Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (Sofepadi), Solidarité pour la Promotion sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), The Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect, Union des Jeunes Congolais pour la Paix et le Developpement Intégral (UJCPDI), Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), Youth Program for the Development of Africa (YPDA)
A copy of the groups’ recommendations is attached and can be found at –
For more information in English,
please contact:
Nina Blackwell | Humanity United
Jonathan Hutson | Enough Project
Pour de plus amples renseignements,  veuillez contacter:
Jason Stearns | Rift Valley Institute
English | Français | Swahili
+254 787899568
Les groupes considèrent que l’accord n’est pas suffisant et proposent des mesures concrètes à prendre
Ils réitèrent leur demande à l’ONU, aux États-Unis et à l’UE de nommer des Envoyés spéciaux et d’accroître l’implication régionale
(Goma/Washington/Kinshasa, le 24 février 2013)
Un groupe d'ONG congolaises et internationales bien connues a appelé aujourd'hui les pays de la région des Grands Lacs, ainsi que leurs partenaires internationaux, à garantir que l'accord-cadre pour la paix, la sécurité et la coopération signé à Addis Abeba recevra l'appui politique nécessaire pour mettre un terme à la guerre dans l'est de la RDC.
Dans un document d’orientation publié ce jour les groupes ont fait part de leur accueil favorable à l'accord-cadre comme une occasion d’instaurer un nouveau type d'engagement décisif dans un conflit qui perdure depuis deux décennies et a ravagé les vies de millions de Congolais.
Cependant, ils suggèrent également que l’accord sera vain sans des mesures spécifiques supplémentaires, notamment la nomination d’un ancien chef d’État en qualité d’Envoyé spécial des Nations Unies habilité à servir de médiateur au niveau national et régional ; l’intégration de la société civile congolaise et des principaux partenaires donateurs bilatéraux et multilatéraux de Kinshasa dans le mécanisme de surveillance national ; l’introduction d’une politique de conditionnalité basée sur des critères clairs et convenus et sur une collaboration véritable entre le gouvernement, les donateurs et la société civile.
Les groupes exigent également la création d’un fonds par la communauté internationale pour soutenir des projets visant à renforcer l’intégration économique régionale pour mettre l’accent sur les avantages de la stabilité régionale, l’introduction de mesures positives que les pays voisins doivent adopter pour démontrer leur engagement en faveur de la fin du conflit, des négociations réalistes avec les groupes armés pour éviter l’impunité judiciaire qui a caractérisé les accords passés, et un engagement significatif des donateurs pour favoriser la démobilisation des soldats rebelles et l’intégration économique régionale.
« Nous avons besoin d’une approche nouvelle, d’un processus de paix basé sur les principes de justice », déclare Raphael Wakenge, coordinateur de l’Initiative congolaise pour la justice et la paix (ICJP). « Les accords de paix précédents ont souvent fermé les yeux sur l’impunité, permettant aux criminels de guerre d’être intégrés dans les services de l’armée, la police et la sécurité. Cela a compromis la légitimité du processus de paix et la réputation des services de sécurité, y compris du système judiciaire. »
L’accord-cadre est basé sur deux points principaux : mettre fin au soutien étranger aux mouvements de rébellion congolaise et favoriser la réforme globale des institutions étatiques telles que les secteurs de l’armée nationale, la police et la justice. Les groupes ont appelé aujourd’hui les facilitateurs et les onze États signataires de l’accord-cadre à s’assurer de l’existence de critères clairs afin d’atteindre ces objectifs. Ils suggèrent, de plus, aux donateurs de subordonner leur aide à la progression dans le processus de paix.
« L’accord-cadre est une promesse forte faite au peuple congolais, mais les processus de paix antérieurs ont échoué en raison du manque de transparence, du faible engagement international et de l’absence de processus global », explique Federico Borello, directeur pour la région des Grands Lacs chez Humanity United. « Cette fois-ci, il est impératif de s’attaquer une bonne fois pour toutes aux problèmes profonds du Congo que sont l’impunité, l’interférence régionale et la faiblesse de l’État. Sans cela, nous passerons à côté de notre meilleure chance de paix. »
De plus, les groupes ont exhorté la communauté internationale à faire preuve d’un soutien constant allant au-delà de l’approche technocratique des dernières années. Outre la demande d’un Envoyé spécial des Nations Unies, les groupes ont appelé les États-Unis et l’Union européenne à nommer des Envoyés spéciaux pour soutenir le processus et ont demandé à l’Union africaine, la Conférence internationale sur la région des Grands Lacs (CIRGL) et la Communauté de développement de l’Afrique australe (SADC) de continuer d’apporter leur soutien au processus. Ils ont aussi préconisé l’organisation d’une conférence de donateurs pour engager les ressources nécessaires afin de promouvoir la collaboration économique transfrontalière et la réforme en profondeur des institutions congolaises.
« Il n’y a pas eu de processus de paix solide au Congo depuis 2006, malgré l’escalade de la violence depuis lors », précise Jason Stearns, directeur du projet Usalama pour le Rift Valley Institute. « L’accord-cadre apporte de l’espoir, mais il exige un capital politique et financier considérable pour surmonter les intérêts bien enracinés. »
Les groupes ayant publié le document d’orientation aujourd’hui incluent :
Action Aid, Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT), Action Humanitaire et de Développement Intégral (AHDI), Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), Africa Faith and Justice Network, Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP asbl), Atma Foundation, Bureau d'Etude et d'Accompagnement des Relations Internationales en RDC (BEARIC), Centre des Etudes et de Formation Populaire pour les Droits de l'Homme CEFOP/DH, Centre pour la Paix et les Droits de l'Homme- Peace and Human Rights Center (CPDH – PHRC), Christian Aid, Collectif des Organisations des Droits Humains et de la Démocratie au Congo (CDHD), Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Conciliation Resources, CordAid, Danish Refugee Council, Dynamique Synergie des Femmes, Enough Project, Eurac, Falling Whistles, Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises (FFC), Forum de la Femme Ménagère (FORFEM), Groupe Justice et Libération, Humanity United, IFDP, International Refugee Rights Initiative, Invisible Children, Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Jesuit Refugee Service, Jewish World Watch, Justice Plus, Ligue des Electeurs (L.E), Ligue pour la Cohabitation Pacifique et de Prévention des Conflits (LCPC), MDF, Norwegian Refugee Council, Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et de Justice (RRSSJ), Resolve, SERACOB, Société Civile du Territoire de Nyiragongo et le point focal du COJESKI Nyiragongo, Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (Sofepadi), Solidarité pour la Promotion sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), The Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect, Union des Jeunes Congolais pour la Paix et le Developpement Intégral (UJCPDI), Voix des sans Voix (VSV), Youth Program for the Development of Africa (YPDA)
Un exemplaire des recommandations des groupes est disponible à l’adresse –

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Framework Agreement: More questions than answers

If all goes well, eleven heads of state (or their delegates) will gather in Addis Ababa to sign the snazzily-titled: "Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region" (PSCFDRCR?)

What can we expect for this framework? An early copy I have seen suggests that it provides more questions than answers, although it does raise hope and expectations. (The copy is here.)

The two-and-a-half page deal rests on two pillars: Reforming the Congolese state, and ending regional meddling in the Congo. It then creates two oversight mechanism to make sure the eleven signatories take these imperatives seriously, with four organizations (UN, AU, ICLGR, SADC) as guarantors. As such, it marks an improvement in engagement in the conflict: there is a recognition that violence in the Kivus is deeply linked to national and regional developments, and it allows for neutral arbiters to hold the signatories accountable. Perhaps most importantly, we now have the formal involvement of the UN and a bunch of other eminent organizations in an official deal, which should mean there will be follow-up at the highest level.

So is this a peace process? I have often complained that, while violence has escalated over the past years in the Kivus, the last genuine peace process––with comprehensive peace deal, a strong mediation, and good donor coordination in support––ended in 2006. So are we back in a peace process?

Not really. Or more precisely: we don't know yet. The agreement is more a statement of principles than a concrete action plan. And some of the principles seem to make that action plan difficult. For example, the oversight mechanism for Congolese state reform that in early drafts of the agreement included civil society and donors is now only made up of the Congolese government––donors merely provide support to the government, and civil society is not mentioned at all. So will a Congolese government that has hitherto been reluctant to reform its institutions be able to oversee itself?

On the regional mechanism, as well, details are lacking. It merely says: "A regional oversight mechanism involving these leaders of the region...shall be established to meet regularly and review progress in the implementation of the regional commitments outlined above, with due regard for the national sovereignty of the States concerned." No mention of how we are supposed to know whether Rwanda or Uganda are providing aid to the M23, or if the Congo has renewed ties with the FDLR, for example. 

One of the gaping silences of the agreement is on armed groups, the reason this august assembly was called in the first place. What of the ICGLR talks in Kampala with the M23? What about other armed groups? No mention of whether the Congolese government will engage in talks, or whether the UN or anyone else should mediate––leaving in suspense the ailing Kampala negotiations. The document does mention deferentially the ICGLR on several occasions, probably as an indication that this new process will not automatically supplant existing ones.

Finally, the facilitation, which was initially supposed to be given to the United Nations, through the offices of a new special envoy, has now been converted into four guarantors: the AU, ICLGR, SADC, and the UN. It is unclear from this deal who among these four will take the lead. If the proof of this process is in the pudding, will too many cooks spoil the recipe?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Splits deepen within the M23

This blog post has been changed from its original version to remove the mention of a trip by Makenga and Bosco to Kigali; further research confirms that it probably never happened. 

Reports from various sources––the UN peacekeeping mission, M23 insiders, and the Congolese army––this afternoon suggest that the rift between Bosco Ntaganda and Sultani Makenga is deepening. Details are still vague, but it is clear that the long-standing tensions have escalated.

To recap: the two have been at loggerheads since the arrest of Laurent Nkunda in January 2009 by the Rwandan army and the subsequent nomination of Bosco Ntaganda as the head of the CNDP forces. Makenga was close to Nkunda, and never got along with Bosco, who built a clique around the officers who had served with him in Ituri––Innocent Zimurinda, Innocent Kaina (India Queen), adding to them Baudoin Ngaruye. They were known as the "Kimbelembele," (Forward-Forward) while Makenga's pro-Nkunda faction are the "Kifuafua." (Chest Out) Their styles are also different: Makenga is cautious and discrete, while Bosco is known to be thuggish, calling for hits against officers he suspects of being disloyal and organizing bank heists in broad daylight in Goma.

These tensions grew after the M23 took Goma. The movement was growing in prominence, and Bosco wanted to be sure to control it––two of his allies are in the political wing, President Jean-Marie Runiga and Executive Secretary Francois Rucogoza. His people were also able to win the promotion of Baudoin Ngaruye to the chief-of-staff position of the M23.

But Bosco's faction has grew nervous about the peace talks, feeling that they would be sidelined if there were a deal. Both Zimurinda and Bosco are on the UN sanctions list, Bosco is wanted by the ICC and has a $5 million award on his head, while India Queen is allegedly responsible for the killing of UN peacekeepers in Ituri. Makenga does not (yet) have any legal issues to contend with.

The departure from Goma also apparently caused friction, as Makenga confiscated a lot of the pillaged goods and punished some of the most deviant officers. Meanwhile, Makenga is said to be angered by the increasingly strict conditions of Nkunda's detention––while he was active during the early days of the M23 rebellion, he reportedly is difficult to reach these days.

Whatever the problem––and it is difficult to be sure, given distortions from all sides––these splits will almost certainly have an impact on the peace talks, both those in Kampala, as well as any potential talks in the context of the Framework Agreement. It could play out in various ways––if Bosco feels cornered, he might try to launch operations to pre-empt a peace deal that could cost him his head; there have already been reports of this possibility. And the Congolese could try to play both sides against each other (although the reported plan of issuing arrest warrants against both factions, including against Makenga and Ngaruye, would suggest otherwise).

À suivre.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The UN framework agreement––A serious peace process?

The recent escalation of violence in the eastern Congo demanded new thinking––after all, this is the last in a long series of such surges in violence since the end of the UN-led peace process in 2006. While there have been many mini-peace processes since then, they have been characterized by backdoor deals, opacity, and and lack of follow-up.

The main response from the broader diplomatic and donor community has been the Framework Agreement, an effort led by the United Nations out of New York. The secretary-general launched the preparatory process through a trip by his Chief of Staff Susana Malcorra to the region in November, after which a two page paper was put together by the political affairs and peacekeeping staff in New York. Over the following months several drafts were exchanged with heads of state in the region, in particular Presidents Kagame and Kabila. The agreement was supposed to be signed at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January, but a diplomatic fracas between the United Nations and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) over the dispatch of a new intervention force threw a spanner in the works.

That squabble appears to have been overcome now––the SADC countries have apparently agreed to integrate a peacekeeping force of 2,500–3,000 into the UN mission, but with a souped-up mandate focused on the area of worst violence in the Kivus.

As for the Framework Agreement, it is a very vague document, still around two pages long, that consists of the three broad parts:

  • preventing regional countries from interfering in each other's affairs
  • encouraging the reform of weak Congolese institutions
  • fostering greater donor coordination and engagement
The agreement is supposed to be signed by eleven countries in the region and overseen by a UN Special Envoy, hence the "11+1" title. The agreement still needs a lot of fleshing out, and the critical pieces are the twin oversight mechanisms highlighted in the final section, which will be responsible for making sure the desired reforms actually become reality. 

The first of these mechanisms is for the region––how will it make sure neighboring countries cease meddling the Congo and the Congolese government shies away from backing the FDLR? Will it beef up the Joint Verification Teams used by the ICGLR or will it go further to demand proactive action by the DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda? How will donors, who are already beginning to disburse their funds (the Germans have unblocked their aid to Rwanda, others may soon follow), tie their aid to this process?

The other critical implement is a national oversight mechanism for institutional reforms in the Congo. There is a realization that the decrepit army and police, weak local administration, and dysfunctional justice sector have aided in entrenching the conflict in the Kivus. The donor-backed plan to revamp these institutions––the Congolese part is STAREC, the donor component ISSSS––is being revisited after three years and few results. While this revision will push for much-needed accountability and involvement of local communities, it will also require greater buy-in and coordination from the government and donors in Kinshasa. 

At the moment, that is where the problem lies––the original framework text spoke of an oversight mechanism chaired by President Kabila but including all major donors and regional partners. In the new version of the document, these foreign partners merely support an oversight mechanism staffed and chaired by the government. While the language is still vague, this implies that the government would be overseeing itself, an arrangement that doesn't exactly promise accountability and transparency.

The agreement is due to be signed by the end of the month. At the moment, the Algerian diplomat Said Djinnit––currently the UN Special Envoy to West Africa––is the person most often mentioned as a potential UN Special Envoy, but donor attention has wavered substantially since November with Syria, North Korea, and Mali competing for attention. 

The Framework Agreement is promising. But a lot still needs to happen to make it a reality, and to overcome entrenched interests and inertia in both reforming the Congolese state and bringing an end to foreign interference in the Kivus. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

US bounty could foment M23 splits

The US government recently placed a bounty on the head of General Bosco Ntaganda, an influential figure within the M23, potentially deepening splits within the young rebellion. 

The statement by the White House to renew the Reward for Justice program, made on January 15, flew under the radar. In the statement, President Obama did not mention any individuals, but said "This includes individuals such as Joseph Kony and other leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), as well as certain commanders of M23 and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)." According to officials in the State Department, this includes a $5 million reward for Bosco Ntaganda, FDLR commander Sylvestre Mudacumura, and the three top LRA commanders. 

There have long been splits within the M23, between the pro-Bosco wing, led by "General" Baudouin Ngaruye, and the pro-Nkunda wing, led by "General" Sultani Makenga, respectively called the Kimbelembele and the Kifuafua. The reward on Bosco's head could intensify this discord, although the fact that the Congolese army considers both Makenga and Bosco as war criminals could forge cohesion, especially if fighting kicks off again. 

The Kampala impasse

After their holiday break, talks between M23 and the Congolese government restarted in Kampala almost a month ago, on January 14. As argued here before, the two sides came the talks with radically different visions of what should be discussed, with the M23 insisted on discussing matters far beyond the narrow issues of violence in Rutshuru and Masisi. After weeks of negotiations, the two sides finally signed the first part of a deal on Wednesday, an evaluation of the March 23, 2009 agreement.

You can read the evaluation here - it is broken down into parts of the March 23 deal that have been accomplished, partially implemented, and not yet carried out. It's a real smorgasbord, with 21 distinct parts of the agreement that have been poorly or not at all implemented. Some of the issues that the government has not implemented: local community policing, and a mixed ex-CNDP/FARDC police to secure areas for refugee return; the creation of a ministry for local affairs, security, and reconciliation; the release of all political prisoners. The facilitation recommended setting up a commission to investigate the status of political prisoners and whether abuse of ex-CNDP soldiers took place.

However, this part of the deal, while important, is largely window-dressing––for the government, it's the next part of the peace deal, relating to the integration of the M23, that is crucial. It has now proposed to the Ugandan facilitation that it is willing to reintegrate the all M23 soldiers below the rank of major into the national army (they have to be physically fit and Congolese citizens). These soldiers would be taken to training centers and redeployed throughout the country.

Commanders who are wanted under national or international arrests warrants would be arrested. This includes the "Big Five": Bosco Ntaganda, Sultani Makenga, Innocent Zimurinda, Baudouin Ngaruye, and Innocent Kaina. (The last four do not have arrests warrants yet, but the Congolese are preparing them.) These are probably the five most powerful commanders in the M23. The remaining officers over the rank of major could receive a demobilization package and the be reintegrated into civilian life.

Obviously, the M23 will not be very open to this deal, which the Ugandans reportedly relayed to them yesterday. The Ugandans will apparently also confirm that they do not have the mandate to discuss the issues that the M23 are most interested in––political demands relating to the structure of the state, electoral and security sector reform.

En bref, it look like the talks will not be able to overcome the profound differences that have been obvious since the two delegations first arrived in Kampala. The Congolese foreign minister has now returned to Kinshasa and has said that the two delegations should be reduced to six members each. In private, Congolese diplomats suggest that, if the M23 do not agree with their offer, they will rely on the Neutral International Force to force them into submission. This force, following a dispute between SADC and the United Nations over its command, is likely to be deployed in the coming months with Tanzanian, Zimbabwean, Malawian and South Africa troops.

If fighting resumes, the are worrying signs that there could be an increased "militia-ization" of the conflict. The Congolese army has begun supporting some armed groups in Masisi and Rutshuru, and there have been persistent reports of contacts with the FDLR. And the M23 has long wanted to broaden its base and networks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is the post-electoral crisis over?

This post has been edited since it was first published.

In retrospect, it is alarming how few repercussions there were for the extremely flawed Congolese elections of November 2011. Diplomats condemned the irregularities, sometimes vociferously, but soon inertia and donor discord set in, and they were reluctant to do much more. What could we do? Is the refrain I heard from several embassies in Kinshasa, pointing to the reluctance to use more heavy-handed tactics, such as aid suspension, and to funding a re-run of the costly elections. Eventually, they chose not to contest the elections but to try to use Kabila's perceived weakness to press for changes: the redesign of the electoral commission, the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, and security sector reform.

By March 2012 donor attention was already beginning drift, and––in the face of repression––civil society and the political opposition had been unable to pressure the government through street protest. But it was perhaps the M23 mutiny in early April that book-ended the post-electoral crisis. On the one hand it signaled Kabila's readiness to carry out one donor demand, the arrest of Ntaganda (although this was only a small factor in the emergence of the M23), on the other it formed a distraction to the electoral crisis. The M23 had intended to strike Kabila when he was weak, and take advantage of the rampant opposition against him internationally and domestically––ironically, they accomplished the opposite, making him appear the victim and deviating donor attention.

Kabila formed a government, convened a raucous parliament in which he held a firm majority, and overcame opposition to hold the Francophonie summit in Kinshasa in October 2012. While he stumbled in two key governor elections–Province Orientale and Bas-Congo––and was forced to reform the electoral commission, the electoral crisis seemed to be behind him. (Read here why the proposed electoral reform, which gives the presidency of the commission to the civil society, does not go far enough).

Over the past several months, however, civil society has come up with several initiatives to revive the debate around elections, as well as other issues––in particular, the assassination of Floribert Chebeya, the de facto house arrest of Etienne Tshisekedi. The three main initiatives are led by AETA (coalition of NGOs working on elections), Les Amis de Nelson Mandela (bringing together human rights groups), and the Forum National. 

This latter initiative is perhaps also the most ambitious one, including the major opposition parties (UDPS, UNC, MLC) are participating in its meetings, as well as several parties from the ruling coalition (AFDC and ECT). Its leaders insist they are not interested in a new power-sharing agreement, but that they want to promote crucial institutional reforms, make sure the next rounds of elections are held, and that the crisis in the East is brought to an end. They have received some encouragement (but are not financed or guided by) from international NGOs such as NDI, Carter Center and ILC. Yesterday, a meeting took place trying to federate or unite these initiatives.

However, the Forum faces stiff challenges. President Kabila, who called for national consultations to promote national cohesion in a December speech is unlikely to want to engage with this body on these broad terms of reference (you can find an outline of the Forum's ambitions here), and will say that the place for discussing these matters is in the constitutionally mandate institutions.

The second challenge will be to forge cohesion among a fractious civil society and opposition. Different participants have different agendas––at a meeting this week, UDPS delegates called President Kabila's entire legitimacy into question, while most other parties have agreed as a matter of pragmatism no longer to call his election into question. There have also been clashes between different opposition groupings––there are now two Forces acquises aux changement (FAC), one led by Lisanga Bonganga, the other by Martin Fayulu.

Below is an interview I did on earlier this week with Nickson Kambale, the moderator of the national preparatory committee of the Forum National, who describes the mandate and ambitions of the group.

Here is the interview: