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, June 30, 2010

Donor hypocrisy

The Canadian government is now reported to be blocking the granting of almost $10 billion in debt relief to the Congo. Why? Because the Congolese government is canceling the mining concession of First Quantum, a Canadian company, reportedly to give it to another, unknown and somewhat mysterious company based out of the British Virgin Islands. This is a huge deal for the Congolese government, as debt relief would reduce interest payments from $920 million to $194 million, freeing up more than 15% of the country's budget.

This is distasteful. Not because we shouldn't be pressuring the Congolese government to better live up to its human rights and governance obligations - of course, we should. (Although the debt is odious, acquired largely by Mobutu). But over the past three years, we've have the killing of 300 people in Bas-Congo, a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Kivus that has led to thousands of deaths and more rapes, and the repression of opposition.

And all the Canadian government really cares about is the mining concession of one of their companies? They didn't want to use their leverage on any of these other issues?

For years, World Bank and IMF officials have told me that the only conditionality they can impose is based on economic and fiscal performance, not larger political issues. The First Quantum contract is related to economic performance, but doesn't mass conflict in the Kivus and the disrespect of the rule of law also impact the economy? More importantly, why do the financial institutions pretend like there is a strict line between the economy and politics. Haven't we seen that movie before under Mobutu? And wy must we ignore these most fundamental issues when it comes to the only real leverage we have on the Congolese government, namely our loans and grants?

Happy Birthday, Congo

Happy Birthday, Congo.

I have posted below Patrice Lumumba' independence speech that he read in from of parliament and King Baudouin on June 30th, 1960. Whatever one might think of Lumumba - I often find him to be more popular outside of the Congo - it was a great speech, given in response to King Baudouin's statement that the Congo had benefited from "the genius of Leopold." I think Louis Michel, the former Belgian foreign minister who recently said that Leopold had been "a visionary hero," would do well to read it.

You can read it here.

Gad Ngabo arrested

Numerous sources in Uganda indicate that Gad Ngabo, the leader of the FPLC rebellion that is based on the Ugandan-Congolese border around Ishasha, has been arrested in Kampala. Gad's troops have been fighting with ex-CNDP units in the Congolese army around Kitchanga over the past few weeks, and have been accused of ambushing aid convoys in Rutshuru territory.

My blog posting on Gad's background can be read here.

Gad also plays an important role in the increasingly confusing regional dynamics, as sources within the Rwandan government have suspected that Gad might be backed by Nkunda's former allies who are angry about their leader's arrest in Kigali. As these Nkunda supporters have also been accused by Kigali of being linked to the grenade attacks in Kigali, as well as to General Kayumba Nyamwasa - of South Africa failed assassination attempt fame - Gad's arrest would be significant.

The arrest could suggest that Uganda had decided to de-escalate tensions with Rwanda and help their former rivals cool down tempers before the elections there in August.In the past, Uganda has accused Rwanda of backing its opposition (Kizza Besigye), while Kigali thinks its neighbor has been too complacent towards its own opposition.

As a reminder, Rwanda had deployed troops to the Ugandan border in past days, although it is not clear if that was related in any way to Gad's arrest.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Worrying signs in Kigali

Jean-Leonard Rugambage, the editor of the Umuvugizi newspaper in Kigali, was gunned down in front of his home on Thursday. A man came up to his car as he was driving into his gate and shot him in the head and chest, killing him immediately. Umuvugizi has been banned in Rwanda for several months, but Rugambage had published an article online that morning, saying that the Rwandan government had ordered the assassination of General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.

As several newspapers have reminded us, violent crime is very rare in Kigali.

This is not the first attack on Umuvugizi. In 2007, another editor, Jean-Bosco Gasasira, was attacked and almost killed by a band of assailants after speaking out against harassment of the press. Gasasira is now in Uganda; he insists that the government killed his colleague.

The same day, the Rwandan government rounded up numerous opposition figures, including Bernard Ntaganda, the leader of the PS-Imberakuri, along with several other of his party's officials. There have been charges against Ntaganda related to an arson attack against the leader of a dissident faction of his party, Christine Mukabunani, although it isn't clear if this was the reason he was detained.

A number of officials from the FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire's party, were also detained on the same day after they had protested against the case charging their president with genocide denialism.

Most have been released again, although Ntaganda and several FDU officials remain in detention.

Meanwhile, sources in Burundi also indicate that several Rwandans in that country have been arrested by the intelligence services and extradited to Rwanda without following legal due process. This includes a certain Innocent Karuta. The sources suggest that they are accused of involvement in the grenade attacks in Kigali.

These are all very worrying signs just over a month away from the elections.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Update on Semadwinga's murder

More details of the killing of Denis Ntare Semadwinga are coming to light, although much is still unclear. Apparently 8-10 people (some say in uniform, other say in civilian clothes) came to his house in Gisenyi at around 8-9pm on June 20th. They blocked off the area and stabbed him to death.

Semadwinga was linked to a dissident faction of the CNDP that had written a letter denouncing the party's leadership back in May. The signatory of that statement, Patrice Habarurema, was arrested by Rwandan police shortly afterwards. Several other CNDP officials have been arrested by Rwandan authorities over the past few months, including Sheikh Idi Abbas, accused of being linked the the grenade attacks in Kigali. Family members who have asked the authorities about these arrests have not received much of a response from the Rwandan government.

Other strange things are happening in the Congo. A manager of one of Nkunda's ranches in Kitchanga was reportedly killed recently.

According to these same sources within the CNDP, members of the Rwandan security services seem to be more and more worried that they could be a link between Nkunda's supporters and General Kayumba in South Africa.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vital Kamerhe throws down the glove

Vital Kamerhe, the former president of the national assembly, has come out with a statement condemning Floribert Chebeya's death. That in itself was not unusual, but the tone was certainly remarkable, as well as some of the other points he made. Is Kamerhe trying to make a comeback? Even launch a presidential campaign?

He said that "his disappearance is a hard hit for the nascent Congolese democracy, as it aims to annihilate any dissenting voice and prevent the birth and reinforcement of civil society." But then he goes on to say that there have been many similar assassinations of late, and the government has not been able to establish the culprits and motives "in a clear way." He cites:
  • Msgr Kataliko, Msgr Munzihirwa and Msgr Mbogha
  • Sister Denise of the Murhese seminary
  • Mr. Mpozi, leader from South Kivu
  • Pascal Kabungulu, head of Heritiers de la Justice
  • Provincial MP Daniel Botheti from Kinshasa
  • The journalists Franck Ngyke, Serge Maheshe, Didace Namijimbo, Bapwa Mwama, Koko Chirhambiza
  • Faustin Kagaheshe, head of the Kiliba sugar factory
He also asks President Kabila, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations next week, to released political prisoners, including Gabriel Mokia, Pasteur Kutino and Martin Mukonkole. All of them are opponents of President Kabila, but none was ostensible arrested for their opposition (critics suggest the charges against them were false or trumped up.)

He then compares the lack of inquiry into the above assassinations to the massacre of students in Lubumbashi by Mobutu's security services in 1990, an incident which helped galvanize international opinion against Mobutu.

Fighting words, indeed. And this from a man who had been relatively quiet since he had been fired from his position as head of the national assembly in January 2009, after he had criticized the Rwandan Umoja Wetu operations. He had subsequently tried to create a dissident faction within Kabila's presidential AMP coalition, but failed and then spent much of his time traveling to Canada, South Africa and teaching at the university in Kinshasa. People in Kinshasa are asking: Is this frontal attack on Kabila an indication that Kamerhe may still have presidential ambitions for next year? As Kabila's confidence erodes, such statement by former allies much bite. This statement was more directly critical of the president than anything I have previously seen him say in public.

The reaction was swift. The inimitable Minister of Information Lambert Mende struck back yesterday, breaking an uncharacteristic period of silence (he had been in Morocco attending a conference).

Mende made some valid points. The deaths of Archbishops Munzihirwa, Kataliko an Mbogha had nothing to do with Joseph Kabila - the first was killed by Rwandan soldiers in 1996, the latter two died due to heart attacks (although there will always be speculation...). Mende also correctly points out that Kamerhe is asking on the one hand for Kabila to respect the independence of the judiciary and on the other for him to intervene to pardon political prisoners.

But, then Mende lays into Kamerhe in his trademark flowery prose: "Eager to add weight to the arguments of those who obstinately want to lynch President Kabila and his government...", "...he demands no more or less that for his country to renounce its sovereignty...inscribing itself at the highest level in a scheme of delegitimation of its own institutions."

Sounds better in French.

So the swords have been drawn. Let's see if Kamerhe will pursue his critique of Kabila.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dan Gertler: At it Again?

Israeli diamond tycoon Dan Gertler appears to be working his magic again. Various sources have reported his involvement in Caprikat, a British Virgin Island registered company that was reported to have taken oil blocks 1 and 2 in Lake Albert. At the same time, he is reportedly behind Highwinds, another British Virgin Islands based company, that is reportedly taking over the lucrative Kolwezi Tailings copper & cobalt concession that is being expropriated from Canadian company First Quantum.

Neither company has any reported expertise in mining or oil drilling. They both appear to be newly-founded companies.

In both cases, Gertler's alleged companies have stepped in to take over concessions whose worth is well-known and that are being claimed by other parties. In the case of Kolwezi, First Quantum says it has already sunk $700 million in the project, whose rich mineral deposits are well-known. In Lake Albert, the blocks are being claimed by two other parties already - Tullow Oil first had the rights for both blocks, one of which was sold on to Divine Inspiration, much to the alarm of Tullow. On the one hand, this makes the investments safe bets for Gertler, as at least he knows the value of the concessions. On the other hand, he will have to weather the international legal disputes that are currently unfolding. (First Quantum has gone to arbitration, while at the same time being sued by the Congolese state for $12 billion).

Gertler also recently bought the BIC bank from Congolese businessman Pascal Kinduelo (whose curious involvement in the Divine Inspiration deal was also documented here). And he has been rumored to be involved in several offshore oil concessions, as well, in the Atlantic off the Congolese coast.

Gertler was just 27 when he first became involved in the Congo in 2000, obtaining a monopoly of diamond exports (worth around $600 million) in return for $20 million. He had previously been involved in diamonds in Angola and he is the grandson of Moshe Schnitzer, the founder of the Israel Diamond Bourse. He is now one of the richest Israelis.

In 2007, one of the companies that Gertler helped found, Nikanor, went public on the London AIM stock exchange, raising a record $434 million. Again, it was a company with no previous record or expertise in mining that had been granted some of the Congo's richest copper and cobalt assets.

Gertler's success has been closely linked to his warm relations with the presidency. He was one of the only westerners to be invited to Kabila's wedding in 2006, and has very close links with Katumba Mwanke, the president's closest financial adviser.

For those interested in Middle East politics, Gertler, a devout Orthodox Jew, is also behind the Green Park and Green Mount companies that are helping to finance the building of new Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Why these new concessions, whom do they benefit? Not clear. The fact that they are registered in the British Virgin Islands will make it difficult to find out who is a shareholder. The investments are certainly risky, and the shenanigans with the existing contracts has certainly not helped boost investor confidence in the Congo - the World Bank's IFC, a partner in the First Quantum project, has suspended activity in the Congo for the time being. Risk insurance premiums have risen by 40% over the past 18 months due to contractual insecurity, a serious headache for investors.

Industry insiders, however, suggest that the last big round of mining concession acquisitions happened just before the last elections and helped the president raise funds for his expensive campaign. The next elections are in 2011.

Murder of Denis Ntare Semadwinga

According to various sources, Denis Semadwinga was assassinated at his home in Gisenyi (Rwanda) at 8pm last night.

Semadwinga was an influential and senior member of the Goma elite. A Tutsi from Rutshuru territory, he was Chief of Staff (directeur de cabinet) to RCD Governor Eugene Serufuli and then to Laurent Nkunda in the CNDP. Before that, he had been in charge of Mobutu's presidential archives and had been administrator of the Centre de Commerce International du Zaire (CCIZ).

He had continued to be active in the CNDP even after Nkunda was arrested. Some say it was his activism for the CNDP that led problems between him and the Rwandan government. Numerous CNDP officials have been arrested in Rwanda this year, and Rwandan security officials have privately blamed the grenade attacks on CNDP members in cahoots with Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Semadwinga's death is likely to exacerbate the tensions between Kigali and the Congolese Tutsi community, especially the Banyejomba and the pro-Nkunda soldiers. As much as people believe the Tutsi community is united, this would not be the first time such rifts have appeared. In the early day of the RCD rebellion, two mutinies broke out in Goma and Bukavu, led by Tutsi from North Kivu and Banyamulenge, respectively. In Goma, Congolese Tutsi commander Murekezi was shot and killed by Rwandan officers for insubordination. In Bukavu, they were able to negotiate with Cmdr Venant Bisogo (today leader of the FRF). No such luck several years later with Banyamulenge Cmdr Patrick Masunzu, who launched another mutiny.

The complaints have often been the same: that for all the sacrifices the Congolese Tutsi have made for the Rwandan government, their standing in the Congo has never been secured; indeed, their leaders have often been arrested, as was the case with Nkunda.

We will have to wait and see whether any information about Semadwinga's death comes out. Gisenyi is a very safe place; it is highly unlikely these were simple robbers. And the coincidence with the assassination attempt against General Kayumba in South Africa is striking.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Developments in the Kayumba shooting

It appears that a former Rwandan soldier has been taken into custody by South African police over the shooting of Kayumba Nyamwasa over the weekend. According to an article in the South Africa Times, the man detained was a former officer who had served under Kayumba.

Other sources within the South African government indicate that the man detained was Francis Gakwerere, the former head of Laurent Kabila's presidential guard in 1997, when Rwanda controlled parts of the security services in the capital. He is retired now, but continues to live in Kigali and is in the RPF. (The South African newspaper got it wrong: they said he was also in exile).

At the same time, Ugandan journalist Daniel Kalinaki saw Kayumba after he was shot. He gives an account of what happened here. According to him, the shooter was speaking in Swahili and was not known to Kayumba or his wife.

The man detained is obviously not the same person as the shooter, who was speaking in Swahili and was unknown to Kayumba and his wife. The police have not been able to find the shooter yet.

Other sources close to the South African police indicate they are making good progress in the case.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Kayumba shot in Jo'burg

Former Rwandan army chief Kayumba Nyamwasa was shot in Johannesburg this morning. According to his wife, it was an obvious assassination attempt. They were returning from shopping when a gunman opened fire on their car, wounding Kayumba in the stomach. The gunman didn't ask for money or steal anything. Kayumba is in critical condition in a hospital.

It is to soon to know for sure who the culprit was, but people will obviously blame Kigali. The Rwandan government was accused of such assassinations in the early years after the genocide - the killing of former interior minister Seth Sendashonga in front of the UN in Nairobi in 1998 is an example of this - but in recent years there have been no similar incidents to my knowledge. If the allegations are true, then this incident only highlights to what extent Kigali perceives Kayumba as a threat and is worried about dissent within the RPF. Security sources in Rwanda have linked Kayumba to the grenade attacks in Kigali, and have alleged that he is touch with ex-CNDP rebels in the eastern Congo.

Analysts have worried about the possibility of internal dissent within the RPF, perhaps exacerbated by Rwanda-Uganda tensions, causing regional instability as the various factions ally themselves with proxies in the Congo.

Assassinating a figure so high profile as Kayumba would be a very risky move for the RPF, if indeed it was them (they have denied any involvement). It would be seen as a serious diplomatic affront by the South African government, which is hosting the World Cup, and Rwanda's donors would also see this a dangerous development. It would mean that they were deeply concerned about Kayumba's activities, to the extent where they thought if he was left unhindered he might threaten the regime.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kadhalika: Chebeya, Mukonkole and Bosco

A few items of interest:
  • According to the Kinshasa L'Avenir newspaper, staff in various ministries have gone on strike with two key demands: (1) a "gratification" for the 50th anniversary celebrations, i.e. a bonus payment, and (2) that the "bareme de Mbudi," the salary scale agreed on by the government and unions 2004, be respected. The salary scale is widely seen as unrealistic, as it would entail large salary increases across the board, something the government cannot afford. The pro-government newspaper has interpreted this as an attempt to sabotage the independence celebrations on June 30th, as well as a way to circuitously derail the debt forgiveness package anticipated from the IMF soon.
  • Talking about independence celebrations, the family of Florivery Chebeya has decided not go along with the demands of the local human rights community, who wanted his burial to coincide with the June 30th celebrations. Instead, Chebeya will be buried in Kinshasa on June 26th. (See Alex Engwete for more on this.)
  • The national assembly celebrated the end of its spring session. They didn't achieve much, and their debates have been interrupted by several motions to impeach the prime minister, as well as by the "Affaire Mukonkole." In May, the opposition MP Martin Mukonkole was arrested by the police for an alleged car theft racket. This despite his parliamentary immunity (which would have to be lifted by the national assembly before the arrest) and procedural abuses by judicial authorities.
  • A tract has been making the rounds in some villages of North Kivu, allegedly signed by Bosco Taganda, announcing the creation of yet another rebel group, the MPLC . Good lord, Bosco, don't you have enough acronyms to your name already? After the creation of the FLEC last year (which apparently never took off), being head of a wing of the ex-CNDP wasn't enough - he had to have his own movement? Anyway, no one has confirmed whether the tract is the real thing, so let's hold off on updating our lists of rebel groups.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its price monitoring brief for May here.

Food prices have gone up between 50-70% in parts of the country over the past two years. In part, this has to do with inflation. The Congolese franc was at 647/USD in January 2009, but is now at around 950 FC/USD. Due to conflict, transport problems and the poor organization of agriculture in the country (no infrastructure, few large plantations, expensive credit no cash or fertilizer subsidies), the country amazingly imports over 30% of its cereals (rice, maize, millet). These imports are heavily affected by inflation.

As a consequences, FAO estimates that 500,000 children and 1 million women need urgent nutritional interventions. Amazing in a country with so much rainfall and fertile soils.

Integration of the CNDP

Some more nominations of local administrators in North Kivu have been made to further the integration of the CNDP. Here are the changes:
  • Nzaba Matabaro (Hutu), the former CNDP administrator of Nyanzale (75 km NW of Goma) became chef de poste of Chengero (90 km NE of Goma);
  • Salomon Nkundimana (Tutsi), the former chef de cité for CNDP in Bunagana (95 km NE of Goma) was made chef de poste at Ishasha (140 km N of Goma);
  • Jean-Louis Kulu Musubao (Nande), the former chef de cité for CNDP in Kiwanja (7 km N of Rutshuru) became chef de poste at Kibirizi (155 km NW of Goma).
  • Meanwhile, Léandre Munyarusisiro (Tutsi) was made chef de poste at Bishusha (approximately 85 km NW of Goma) where he had been the CNDP administrator.
These changes come several days after the CNDP also got the deputy administrator of Masisi position. In theory, these nominations should be followed by the dismantling of the parallel CNDP administration based in Mushaki, as well as the lifting of all parallel taxes and roadblocks. While some roadblocks have been lifted, CNDP agents continue to levy taxes in many places in Masisi.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why Kayumba left

Some interesting articles in Uganda's The Independent about General Kayumba's defection. They trace his falling out with Kagame to 2000, when he was chief of staff of the army and - according to RPF officers - organized a training course for himself in England without asking for Kagame's permission and in the middle of their counterinsurgency campaign against the FDLR. When he got back from England and was the head of the National Security Service, Kayumba allegedly began to recruit a power base amongst senior RPF officers, which he continued when he was named ambassador to India in 2004.

The author could not interview Kayumba for the article, but his version of events was apparently that Kagame had begun to monopolize power and had abandoned the ideals of the rebellion. In this interview, he states some of the reasons he left, which he expands on in this article.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What's up with Le Potentiel?

There was a time when le Potentiel was one of the most critical newspapers in the country. Founded in 1982, it was one of the most independent newspapers in the country, run by Modeste Mutinga. Building on this reputation, Mutinga went on to become the head of the High Media Authority (HAM) during the 2003-2006 transition.

For some reason, however, it seems that Le Potentiel (circulation ca. 4,000) has been losing its edge, it might even be seen to be cozying up the the government. Over the last week, it has published an article titled "Assassination of Floribert Chebeya: The 'crime d'etat' should be excluded," suggesting that it the government had no interest in killing Chebeya and therefore it couldn't have done it. They quoted an anonymous source in the ministry of interior who said that "this scenario is not being considered by any serious criminologist." They published a similar article a week earlier.

Then came a belligerent article denouncing an initiative by the opposition to launch a shadow government as "political infantilism" and a distraction. In the same edition, they hosted a question and answer to the director of the Cité du Fleuve, a mega construction project in the Congo river that members of the government are rumored to have interests in.

The firebombing of the Congolese ambassador's residence in London also provoked a strong reaction from the newspaper:
This attack being the umpteenth act of terrorism perpetrated against our diplomats, it’s fitting to pose questions about the ability of British authorities to protect foreign diplomats and particularly those from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It also included a warm endorsement of the Congolese ambassador in London.

All of these opinions are, of course, legitimate, although one might disagree. But they are opinions, not news articles. And they seem very sympathetic towards the government.

It should also be pointed out that Modeste Mutinga went from being the head of HAM to becoming a senator and joining the presidential AMP coalition. He frequently writes articles in his former newspaper, which has led much head-shaking amongst kinois, who lament the conflict of interest and the fact that he does not put them in an opinion section.

Let's hope that this is just a temporary fluke.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Losing certainty, losing clarity

For those of us who have to give presentations on recent Congolese history, we are often faced with a problem of labels. There was the period of democratization (1990-1993), the first Congo war or AFDL war (1996-1997), the second Congo war or RCD war (1998-2003) and then the transition (2003-2006).

But what about now? Are we in a post-conflict phase? Obviously not, as in some areas of the country (North & South Kivu) the conflict is as bad as ever. Nevertheless, as President Kabila often reminds us, 130 of the 145 territories in the country have been pacified (many of them never saw any conflict previously, either). So the country is not in a state of civil war, either.

We are in a bizarre, neither-fish-nor-fowl situation, not quite war, not quite peace.

One question I often ask myself: Why all these killings of human rights activists and journalists now? I lived in Bukavu between 2001 and 2004, and I remember that for those of us in civil society, the RCD troops and their Rwandan allies seemed brutally abusive; all we wanted was for them to leave. And yet, during those years, I can't remember a single one of the civil society activists in Bukavu being killed. The RCD would regularly arrest members of civil society and torture them terribly. But we would know that it was the RCD and we could take measures against them.

Since the peace deal in 2003, we have seen the assassinations of Pascal Kabungulu (Heritiers de la Justice), Serge Maheshe (Radio Okapi) and Didace Namujimbo (Radio Okapi) in Bukavu. Now in Kinshasa Floribert Chebeya (VSV) has been killed. For the first three, all efforts to try to figure out who the culprits were have been in vain - the investigations have been farcical, the trial plagued with irregularities and nobody has paid too much attention to the convictions, as they are not convincing. I fear that the same may be the case for Chebeya's murder, as well.

We have therefore moved into an era of uncertainty. In South Kivu, the problem used to be clear: The RCD must go, they were clearly the cause of most of the insecurity in Bukavu town and in many parts of South Kivu (not to minimize the violence carried out by the FDLR and Mai-Mai). Now, we don't even know who the culprits are. People are gunned down in the middle of the night for unknown reasons - it could be the initiative of a low-ranking officer or of the governor; it could be bandits wanting to kill for money or the presidential guard wanting to intimidate the opposition. Of course we always assume the darkest conspiracy, but we are almost never given the satisfaction of proof. Serge Maheshe's widow told me that she would never know who killed her husband, and had stopped wanting to know. She didn't want to have any more problems.

Part of this is because the Congo used to be a Manichean, black-and-white world, especially for people in the Kivus. Rwanda was bad, they needed to end their occupation. Now, power is much more diffuse and fragmented. There is the government, but it is difficult to know who is at the root of any given incident - it could be the presidency, acting through the special services of the police; then again, it could be a rogue brigade commander, acting on his own accord. Then, of course, there are the 20+ militia in the Kivus, most of which are acting in conjunction with business and political leaders. Who is to blame now? You can hate Kabila, and many do, but he may be more to blame for the lack of order than for the orders given to kill your journalist friend.

So what should we call this era? Inevitably, it will be called the Kabila years. But it may be better to resurrect a name from the early 1960s, when the state had descended into chaos, the government was weak and large parts of the country were outside of state control. La pagaille. Of course, many things were different then. But the key thing to highlight is the lack of certainty and moral clarity. If you need to get out of prison, pay a bribe; if your friend is killed, forget about knowing who did it; if your husband is always out drinking with other women, he is possessed by the devil. Kabila and Kagame made a deal - it was probably to split up the riches of the Congo between the two of them, but you will never know for sure.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More fissures in the Rwandan army?

Two items of interest:
  • The Rwandan government has arrested General Jean Bosco Kazura, the head of its football federation (the Rwandan government often names influential army commanders as the head of its football association). He had apparently gone off to South Africa for the World Cup without asking for proper authorization. He came back and was promptly arrested. I don't know much about Kazura's background, other than that he was the deputy commander of the AU force in Darfur, which means he spent quite a bit of time with General Karenzi Karake, who was also arrested recently. Kazura is a Rwandan Tutsi who grew up in exile in Burundi.
  • Diplomats have confirmed that the Rwandan army has sent up a communications listening post 25km north of Goma on the Congo-Rwanda border. The purpose (according to what Rwandan officers themselves told the diplomats) is to monitor communications of Rwandan officers who defected to join the FPLC of Gad Ngabo in the Congo.

New governors in South Kivu and Maniema

We have two new governors, both from Kabila's AMP coalition: Marcellin Cisambo for South Kivu and Pascal Tutu Salumu for Maniema. No real surprises, as the AMP dominates both provincial assemblies, who elect the governors. But the run-up to the elections revealed deep fissures in Kabila's camp - people were unhappy about the management of both provinces, and Kinshasa's imposition of candidates. This was especially the case for South Kivu, which has had three different AMP governors in three years. In Maniema, the only other candidate in the race protested that he had been receiving death threats and that President Kabila had accused him of "defying [the president.]

In any case, Kabila's recent tour of the East was coolly received by the local population. In a previous posting, I described his walking tour of Bukavu. This is how a diplomat described his time in Kindu, the capital of Maniema:

President Kabila arrived in Kindu begining of this afternoon to campaign for the AMP candidate for the elections of the the governor of Maniema to be held on Saturday. He was received at the airport by a small delegation composed of AMP officials from Kinshasa and some members of the provincial security committee. An unexpectedly small number of people were outside the airport and less on the road to salute him despite the fact that the whole town knew of his arrival since yesterday. He did not make any statement/speech on arrival but was taken straight to the Governor's office to meet with the provincial deputies. The latter had to suspend their campaign session to attend the meeting. We learned that gabanertorial candidate Tunda and his deputy were not allowed to enter into the conference room. They were excluded from the meeting. He called on the deputies to be disciplined and respect the hierarchy since there is no opposition in Maniema. The decision of the national leadership is to support the AMP candidate Tutu and his deputy Bikenge, thus requested the deputies to elect them. We also learned that he did not allow any question or comment from the provincial deputies. He had lunch with them before his departure. He spent less than three hours in Kindu.

Who killed Chebeya? Why?

The Congolese blogosphere is bubbling with talk about the death of Floribert Chebeya, the prominent human rights activist.

First, a short update on new developments. The Dutch doctors, who were allowed to participate in Chebeya's autopsy, came out with their preliminary conclusion: They can't rule out a violent murder, but they also haven't been able to detect "any signs of excessive violence." They will conduct further tests on sample they collected back in the Netherlands.

Also, human rights NGOs in Kinshasa insist that Chebeya's funeral take place on June 30th, the date of Congo's 50th anniversary celebrations. This demand will be seen by the government as undermining the festivities they have been planning for months.

Now, the most persistent rumor/information making the rounds is that Chebeya's murder is much more than just the silencing of a prominent human rights activist, but that it would have been part of a larger political battle amongst Kinshasa elites. One version of this is presented by Jean Paul Mopo Kobanda, a Congolese lecturer at the Univesity of Paris, who suggests that there was an assassination attempt against Kabila planned for May, and that John Numbi was thought to have been involved in this. The attempt never took place, but Kabila needed to deal with the conspirators - so Chebeya may have only been a way to get at Numbi and some others.

Possible? Perhaps. Apparently the Simba battalion, a specialized para-military units set up by Numbi that has been involved in repression in Bas-Congo, was immediately disbanded after Numbi's suspension. Was the presidency afraid that it was up to no good? There were also strange events over the past month that led some to believe that something was afoot: There was a alleged secession attempt foiled in Lubumbashi and Kamina, a shootout take place in downtown Kinshasa (Kintambo magasin) in May, and there have been rumors of new troubles in Bas-Congo.

Whatever was really happening, it seems that people in the presidency were pretty sure that something was afoot. Paranoia can fuel self-fulfilling prophecies.

Another sign has been Numbi's appointment of a defense team, before he has even been charged with any offense (he is only suspended for the moment). He has apparently named three high-powered lawyers: Mbu ne Letang (Bandundu, has practiced in Lubumbashi and is a leader of RCD-Goma), Me Nyabirungu (Hutu from Rutshuru, leading PPRD member), and Ngele Masudi (a hardliner Katangais and former Minister of Justice). Their credentials indicate that he is bracing himself for a political battle as much as a legal one.

Lastly, the government itself has been less than transparent with the investigation into the murder. Apparently, the prosecutor general does not control the investigation, but rather it is being run out of the presidency, by the National Security Adviser Pierre Lumbi. He has tasked General Mukuntu, on of his staff, to lead the investigation. Both Mukuntu and the prosecutor general have refused to meet with MONUC regarding the investigation and it isn't clear how many people have already been arrested, where they are being held and what crime they are being charged with.

As you can see, there is a lot of speculation at the moment. It is also possible that Chebeya's death was an accident, that there never was a coup plot, or that there were other motives and actors. But the information above, from reliable sources in the diplomatic community, indicates that all is not well in Kinshasa.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup, Rwandan shuffle and troop movements

Some news:
  • Joseph Kabila is on his way to South Africa to attend a few World Cup games (the Congolese team is not represented) and to meet with President Zuma. Kabila had some rocky times with the new president, having backed the Mbeki faction during the internal battle within the ANC last year.
  • After arresting some of its most senior army staff and having other flee into exile, the Rwandan government has promoted others. They include Emmanuel Ndahiro, the head of the National Security Service; Jill Rutaremara, the army spokesperson; and Richard Masozera, the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (yes, he is an army staff member) and former head of immigration. According to sources within the Rwandan security services, the arrest of General Karenzi Karake and General Muhire came after the former was named as the commander of an officers' training school and the latter as the head of the reserve force. They apparently perceived these nominations as demotions and protested. Other recent people who have been shuffled around are Lt Col Joseph Nzabamwita, the former head of external intelligence who is now apparently a commander in Gisenyi, and Francois Ngarambe, the former secretary-general of the RPF who is being sent as ambassador to China.
  • Confusing troop movements continue around Kilolirwe in Masisi territory, where ex-CNDP forces are reported to be engaging with FPLC forces belonging to Gad Ngabo.
  • Last, but never least, Raise Hope for Congo is a compilation album that was released this week. Mos Def, Staff Benda Bilili, Norah Jones and Ozomatli rock hard for the Congo.

What happened in Kingakati?

On May 29, President Kabila summoned the members of his ruling AMP coalition to his Kingakati ranch outside of Kinshasa. The reason: He wanted to know what he should make of a new, dissident faction within the AMP.

As mentioned here before, the new faction was called Liberal and Patriotic Center (CLP) and was led by four stalwarts of Congolese politics:
  • Jose Endundo, (Equateur) the minister of environment and one of the most important businessmen in the capital during Mobutu's times;
  • Mbusa Nyamwisi, (North Kivu) the minister of decentralization and the former head of the RCD-ML rebellion;
  • Olivier Kamitatu, (Bandundu) the minister of planning and he former #2 of the MLC rebellion;
  • Modeste Bahati, (South Kivu) the former treasurer of the national assembly.
Not only are the four powerful and well-known, but they just so happen be representative of the various corners of the country, in itself a red flag for opposition-watchers.

The CLP wrung their collective hands, saying that they were just complaining about the Prime Minister Muzito's pathetic management of the country. Muzito's PALU party has a fair share of ministries in government and some in Kabila's circle suggested that they were trying to kick PALU out of the presidential coalition and take their share of the pie. According to others, this was a move to prepare for next year's elections.

According to various sources, including people who participated in the meeting as well as diplomats, Kabila was furious. He compared the CLP to "the generals in Madagascar" who were involved on a coup d'etat. He went on to say: "If you were in the army, we would execute you. Fortunately, we don't execute people in the Congo anymore." More reasonably, he said that if they had problems with the AMP, they should not wash their dirty linen in public, but take it up internally.

The CLP quickly backed down. Within a few days, they sent Kabila a letter, saying they were abandoning their initiative. (For more on this, see Alex Engwete's blog and the RFI report.)

Next at the Kingakati meeting, Kabila dealt with the MPs from South Kivu. Their affront had been to write a letter to the Prime Minister, complaining about the violence in South Kivu and their marginalization on the national scene (worth reading to get an idea of how people in Bukavu feel). Kabila had some harsh words from them, as well, to the point where the MPs didn't stay on after the meeting for the customary cocktail.

Why is all of this important? Because, with Chebeya's death, Kabila probably reached his nadir. His quick suspension of General John Numbi is indicative of what many in Kinshasa are gossiping about these days: that some people around Kabila are deeply unhappy and may even be looking for alternatives. Around the same time as the meeting, a rumor began that a bunch of tracts had been dumped at Kabila's ranch, announcing his impending assassination. A friend in government suggested that Numbi's arrest had come at just the right time - the general had taken on too much influence and was a danger to Kabila.

I want to emphasize: these are RUMORS, and the Congo is the world capital of these. But the mood in Kinshasa is very bad.

Kabila is currently on a trip to the Kivus, his former electoral base. Instead of the thick crowds that flocked to see him in Bukavu several years ago, there was no public reception. Here is a description of his day by a local observer:
He arrived incognito on Sunday, June 6 around 1500. On Monday, the Rais (Kabila) walked around town during the morning, entering the Beauté supermarket and the Braf grocery, where he bought some cheese and chatted with the owner Kibala. He walked on foot from the governor's office to the Beauté (around 15 minutes). In the evening, he hosted a dinner for the provincial members of the AMP between 1830 and 2130. He used this occasion to express his support for Marcellin Chisambo as candidate for governor. On Tuesday, June 8 he left for Goma.

During this whole time in Bukavu, he was never surrounded by a crowd.

How we pine for those halcyon days of Nkunda

Some news out of Goma, where President Kabila has been visiting for the past few days. The provincial minister of the interior named a deputy administrator of the territory of Masisi this week. Alexandre Gatembe is a CNDP official and his nomination is supposed to help bring an end to the parallel administration of the territory by the CNDP. Some road blocks have been dismantled, but many others remain and it is obvious that certain tax collectors and military units report to the CNDP leadership.

Tensions within the CNDP have persisted. As described by my anonymous guest blogger her a few days ago, Gad Ngabo's FPLC seems to be on collision course with his former ally (and alleged cousin) Bosco Taganda. A large number of troops under the command of Colonel Emmanuel (ex-CNDP deserter) were massing in the area around Matanda (Masisi territory), apparently intent on attacking the ex-CNDP troops in the area. Also, over 100km away, in northern Rutshuru, FPLC troops have attacked Congolese army positions twice in the past week around Nyakakoma.

These are not the only problems within the ex-CNDP. On June 2/3, a firefight broke out among ex-CNDP troops in Burungu (Masisi, close to Kitchanga). According to some local source, up to 20 soldier were killed. It isn't clear what the cause of the altercation was: some say there was an argument over divvying up "surplus salary payments," others say that ex-CNDP Colonel Innocent Kabundi was unwilling to hand over his arms cache.

A reader asked me in the comment section the other day how to understand this falling out between Gad and Bosco, as well as other CNDP internal divisions. I honestly don't have my ear close enough to the ground to fully understand. Suffice it to say that the post-Nkunda CNDP has become a mess of internal rivalries and divisions. Neither Kigali or Kinshasa (or even Kampala) seems to be too troubled by this for the moment.

Roger Meece to Replace Alan Doss

Ban Ki-Moon announced yesterday that US diplomat Roger Meece would replace Alan Doss as the head of MONUC (soon to be MONUSCO). Meece was the US ambassador in Kinshasa between 2004-2007 and the Deputy Chief of Mission 1995-1998 (I if remember correctly he was the acting ambassador during the beginning of the 1998 war, when he organized the evacuation of embassy staff in Kinshasa). He was also US ambassador to Malawi from 2000-2003.

Meece is a graduate of Michigan State University and worked for many years in the peace corps (he did his own peace corps stint in Sierra Leone in the 1970s).

Meece has a different background than his three predecessors. Cameroonian Amos Namanga Ngongi was a top UN official who had a long career in World Food Program and other UN agencies before leading MONUC. William Swing was a US ambassador in South Africa, Liberia, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, Haiti and Kinshasa before leading the UN Mission in Western Sahara and then MONUC. Doss was a top UNDP official before helping to lead the UN missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.

Ngongi was criticized for not being a savvy diplomat and manager, and for allowing the Kisangani massacre in 2002, but was lauded for helping to seal the peace deal in Sun City in 2002/3. Swing was hailed for shepherding through the transition and holding elections, but attacked for not being forceful enough with Kabila on security sector reform and human rights abuses, as well as backing down on the protection of civilians in Bukavu in 2004. Doss had the misfortune of being named just as MONUC lost a of its clout, and he was criticized for not forging a more coherent and aggressive vision for how MONUC could stabilize the Kivus and protect civilians.

Meece does not have the UN experience of any of his predecessors - this will be his first job for the organization - and has never been in charge of such a large organization. He was generally liked as ambassador in Kinshasa, but he is bound to be reminded that it was under his watch that the Phelps Dodge (now Freeport McMoran) contract for the huge Tenke Fungurume mine was signed, a deal that the US government allegedly helped to facilitate (he denied this).

His nomination came as a bit of a surprise to some - former French UN ambassador Jean Maurice Ripert had been cited several times, and the nomination of a senior US official straight from the US Foreign Service will without doubt raise some eyebrows.

We wish him good luck.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

List of armed groups in the Kivus

Armed groups in the eastern Congo are like brooms in Disney's (Goethe) Sorcerer's Apprentice: They just seem to keep multiplying. This is my effort to come up with a decent list of armed groups in the Kivus.




Gen Bosco Taganda

Gen Laurent Nkunda

Philippe Gafishi

Col Sultan Makenga

3,000-4,000 integrated

1,000-2,000 unitegrated

Control the Masisi highlands between Ngungu and Mweso

Protect Tutsi community

Protect interests of local elites (land, cows, businesses)


Gen Sylvestre Mudacumura


Deployed in rural areas throughout rural South and North Kivu and Maniema.

Extract resources, maintain ideology overthrowing RPF but little hope


Gen Janvier Buingo

Comd Innocent Balume

Comd Innocent Dunga


Centered around Nyabiondo, western Masisi.

Protect local Hunde community, in particular against ex-CNDP troops.

Mai-Mai Cheka

Colonel Cheka


Based around Mubi and Njigala, Walikale

Benefit from taxation rackets and put pressure on mining companies workin in the Bisie mine.


Gen Ntasibanga



Lubero/Masisi territory


“Gen.” Gadi Ngabo


In Rutshuru territory and Uganda

Galvanize former CNDP officers, obtain backing from Uganda.


Tumai Byamungu, official in ministry of interior


No permanently located troops, mostly within FARDC

Mostly kadogo from the AFDL era, multi-ethnic

Mai-Mai Mongol

Bigembe Nturinkukiko

Felicien Miganda

Dieudonne Shobora


In southern Masisi

Composed of Hutu

Partially integrated into FARDC

Mai-Mai Kifuafua

Colonel Delphin Mbaende

Didier Bitaki

Colonel Akilimali


In southern Masisi territory

Partially integrated into FARDC

Mostly Hunde and Tembo

Mai-Mai Simba

Colonel Marhegane

100-200 (?)

Around Miti, Kabare territory

A split off from the former Mudundu 40 group


Gen Venant Bisogo

Gen Michel Rukunda


In Biabo forest, Fizi territory

Mai Mai Yakutumba

Col Yakutumba


Around Baraka, Fizi territory

Strong anti-Tutsi ideology

Collaboration with FDLR

Mostly from Bembe community

Raia Mutomboki

Political representative: Gilbert Ngongo of South Kivu provincial assembly


Shabunda territory

A self-defense group with little capacity that lies dormant most of the time

Jeshi la Uma


Shabunda territory

Mai Mai Zabuloni

Colonel Zabuloni (now in Bukavu, leadership struggle)


Rusizi plains, moyen plateau of Uvira territory

Little coherent ideology

Soldier mostly from Fuliro community

Mai Mai Kirikicho

Colonel Kirikicho

50-200 (?)

In high plateau of Kalehe territory, Bunyakiri

Declared over 1,300 combatants but none entered integration process

Poorly organized and disciplined

Mai Mai Nyakiriba

Colonel Nyakiriba


Around Kasika, Mwenga territory

Not very active

Mai Mai Kapopo

Colonel Kapopo


Around Miki, Mwenga territory

Not very active

Mai-Mai Kyatende

“General” Kyatende Dittman


Southern Shabunda

Kyatende was the manager of the Muungano soccer team in Bukavu and was married to a German women before he decided to start an armed rebellion in 2010.