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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Regional countries mull over the possibility of joint military action

As previously reported here, Rwanda, Burundi and the DR Congo met in Kigali last week to discuss the military situation in the eastern Congo. At the end of the meeting, they alleged that a new coalition of rebel groups had formed in the Kivus region, including such unlikely allies such as the FPLC, Mai-Mai Sheka, FDLR, Mai-Mai Yakutumba and FDLR-Soki.

The most controversial allegation to come from the meeting was that two Rwandan dissidents, Col. Patrick Karegeya and Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, are allegedly involved in this new rebel coalition.
While sources from the eastern Congo  certainly confirm sporadic collaboration between the FPLC, Mai-Mai Sheka and the FDLR, the links among the other armed groups and the involvement of the two former Rwandan officers are less clear.

Some sources familiar with the closed-door meeting suggest that the three countries were not just sharing information. Allegedly, new joint military operations on Congolese soil are being discussed. Congo Siasa reported a possible joint operation between the Congolese and Rwandan armies in November, but talk of such a plan subsided as tensions within the CNDP decreased; most importantly, the Congolese government decided not to move ex-CNDP units out of the Kivus, the CNDP political party joined the ruling AMP coalition and some ex-CNDP military ranks were confirmed. The massive recruitment drive that Gen. Bosco Ntaganda had carried out between September and December relented somewhat, although some forced recruitment continues.

Now, Congo Siasa has obtained a copy (available here) of an operational order outlining similar joint operations, dated December 20th, 2010. The document, whose authenticity I have not been able to confirm with the Congolese government but which comes from a reputable diplomatic source in Kinshasa, orders the North and South Kivu commanders to each put together a company of 120 well-trained soldiers by January 6th. Each company is supposed to consist of 40 per cent former soldiers from CNDP and PARECO armed groups, with the rest coming from the regular army. The purpose of the mission: carry out joint military operations. No further details are provided.

It is not clear whether the plan will actually be carried out, and whether this document was indeed signed by Amani Leo commander Gen. Amuli. A military source familiar with the substance of the Kigali confirmed that joint military operations were on the agenda.

The surprising part of this development is that military operations will certainly not be advantageous for President Kabila's public image. It was during the last joint operations that Vital Kamerhe fell out with the president over the deployment of Rwandan troops on Congolese soil. Even if these new deployments - that appear to be quite small, at least on the Congolese side - are kept relatively secret, this is a very delicate subject for the Congolese government during this pre-electoral period.

It is also unclear why a new operation would be launched now. The most obvious reason is that the Rwandan government appears genuinely concerned about a coalition between Gen. Kayumba and rebel groups in the eastern Congo. An international official in South Africa reported to Congo Siasa recently that the South African government was preparing a meeting between Gen. Kayumba and other Rwandan diaspora figures late last year; it is not clear whether the meeting actually took place. Last week, the Rwandan government tried and sentenced Gen. Kayumba and three of his colleagues to long prison sentences in absentia.

It is highly unlikely that the South African government would agree to extradite the former Rwandan officials. The government in Pretoria is still furious over the attempted assassination of Kayumba last year on its soil, allegedly by Rwandan agents. Their ambassador to Kigali was recalled last August and, to the best of my knowledge, has not returned.

Burundi, whose minister of defense participated in the Kigali meeting but is not mentioned in the operational order, is also increasingly concerned about attacks on police, allegedly linked to the re-arming of the FNL rebellion, which is reported to have bases along the border with the Congo on the Rukoko plains.

What would an operation entail? Again, there is little clarity. A diplomat I spoke to in Kinshasa speculated that the governments want to target a small breakaway group of ex-CNDP soldiers loyal to Nkunda and prevent any possible alliance with Gen. Kayumba from congealing.


Anonymous said...


Could you speak more on Al Shaabab here? Or whenever you get it? If it is indeed inserting itself in this region that would be truly an intriguing development with many reprecussions.

Congolese diaspora newsites ofcourse see this particular charge as classic, Kigali smoke and mirror gamesmenship but, again, if there is truth to their gainful presence in the region then this Al-Queda linked group could potentially upend quite a bit.

I don’t think anyone who cares about a free, prosperous, and equitable Congo wants Kabila to be able to claim he’s “fighting terrorism” as a means of currying favor in Washington. He could then use this to push various development to the region/improve the armed forces which could definitely work in his favor heading into November.

thanks, Christopher

Anonymous said...

"An international official in South Africa reported to Congo Siasa recently that the South African government was preparing a meeting between Gen. Kayumba and other Rwandan diaspora figures late last year"

Why on earth would the South African government do that? Are they interested in destabilizing Rwanda? If so, why?

If the Rwandan government can stare down the French government, what on earth makes these elements in the South African government think that anyone in Rwanda will bat an eyelid at the prospect of them? Because they haven't stuffed up what they've inherited? (And everyone's still holding their breath.) Congratulations! IMPRESSIVE!

"It is highly unlikely that the South African government would agree to extradite the former Rwandan officials."

Why not? Why did the South African vice-president and South Africa's chief of intelligence visit Kayumba in hospital? Why is he so important to them?

Don't these South African officials have thatched roofs?

Silly Billies.

"What would an operation entail?"

Er, kicking the bag guys' asses? You should have been long around to know what it entails. Pay attention, already!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. It makes interesting reading. I wonder if I could expand a little on your statement, ‘military operations will certainly not be advantageous for President Kabila's public image’ and I understand that this is in reference to the previous fallout between Kamerhe and Kabila.

My thoughts are that Kabila may have an opportunity here. If he has identified ‘a rogue group,’ operating in the Kivu’s and then provides the solution to it surely it would stand to gain him some sort of recognition. It is unclear as to whether the Kivu’s remain an electoral stronghold for him. In any case he could use this opportunity to garner lost, or consolidate existing support. If played correctly, Kabila could use this to raise his public image both within the country and in the eyes of the rest of the world. His only issue is making sure that, whatever he has planned happens close enough to the elections for it to remain in people’s minds, but not so far in advance that this group whomever they may be, do not re-appear prior to the elections.

It calls to mind Mr Museveni and ADF-Nalu. This group seem to periodically be ‘dealt with’ and then a year later spring up again. I can’t help feeling that this suits Mr M very well. Every so often it brings him to the limelight, he gets recognition for fighting ‘terrorism’ and the respect and support of the international community as well as, financing to continue Uganda’s struggle against the bad guys. What possible reason could he want to find a permanent solution to this group's activities.

Just some thoughts….

Anonymous said...

Indeed. I absolutely agree that Kabila could- if it's Al Shaabaab all the time- use this to his considerable advantage. Having lived through 8 years of Bush and how he used terror to do so many unspeakable things, I have no doubt Kabila will do the same and that would severely harm anyone's ability to get rid of him in November.

He wouldn't need to steal an election if he finds a bogeymen to help his campaign. It is one thing to be terrorized by rebels. It is very much another to be terrorized by rebels working with international terrorists.


Anonymous said...

@ Bryce,

I don't think that it needs to be specifically Al-Shabaab. There is potential regardless of who the group is. I don't really believe that Al-shabaab are particularly concerned with the Congo. Apart from Uganda last year, they haven't ventured off Somalian soil.

On another note, Kabila wouldn't need to steal an election, if he followed through on his promises. We can but live in hope, but the pessimist in me makes that very difficult.

Anonymous said...

"Why on earth would the South African government do that? Are they interested in destabilizing Rwanda? If so, why?

Well one possible explanation is pride. Why does Museveni resent what progress Rwanda has made? Because back in 1994 Museveni regarded Kagame like his child but since then his "child" has grown up to outshine him.

Why does Nyamwasa resent Kagame being President of Rwanda and making him give up the land he seized? Because Nyamwasa went to university and considers himself superior to Kagame. In Nyamwasa's mind it was always the idea that he would take over in time and "eat".

South Africa consider themselves the big boys on the block. The boys who can sort out or direct Wonga Coups. But at home what progress have they made in helping the poor South Africans? In reducing corruption? Not much have they? And Kagame's Rwanda leads others to ask the question why? If little Rwanda can do what they have done why not others?

So Nyamwasa, Museveni and SA have a common interest.

Rwandan govt ministers get about $1,000 per month plus a housing allowance. Kenyan ministers for example would expect pay, bribes, cars, houses, staff and the power to give big and little jobs to friends and family. They describe Rwandan ministers as "volunteers".

So there is also self-interest. Leaders of some other countries don't mind if their people remain poor but they do not want to be regarded as "volunteers".

Anonymous said...

Perfect analysis, onedeadbudgie.

Now the next question is, Why do some NGOs so hate Kagame's Rwanda?

And those other wazungu like that Ehrlinder fella (who's for some reason gone quiet all of a sudden, eh? LOL) and some eccentric academics, for that matter.

Maybe it's simply the frisson of being contrarian. Or maybe it's a muzungu power-trip thing. "Just with one flick of my finger," some of them tell themselves, "I can bring all the result of all this pain, struggle and hard work tumbling down. Because I'm a muzungu. I can do that." (See Ehrlinger's possibly siliencing realization that perhaps, no, he can't do that.)

Studying the human condition is a never-ending source of fascination. I suppose that's what good literature is about, with its astute and faithful reflection of the complexities of human nature and what drives it: its virtues and vices, pride and ambition, wisdom and folly, greed and lasciviousness, malice and magnanimity, and so on and on.

What drives someone like Nyamwasa? What drives him that he's prepared to join with FDLR and somehow try and undo the result of all that blood, soil, sweat and tears of which he was a part? Can an ego really be THAT big? What drives Ehrlinder and the other bizarre revisionists? Surely they couldn't really believe what they say?

And what drives the ultimate Powers That Be whose thumb up or thumb down can determine the fate of countless millions, whose individual hopes and dreams and struggles and successes mean nothing to these plutocrats. The City of London and Wall Street have reached the mathematical end-point of their fractional-reserve-banking Ponzi scheme, their derivatives casino economy rising to a theoretical fictitious-paper value of nearly two quadrillion dollars. Problem is, the global economy is only worth 60 trillion dollars. And yet these parasites insist on their pound of flesh. PAY, they demand! Cut this! Cut that! But PAY! Even though it's impossible to pay -- PAY!!! It's not only little Africans they pick on. Now they're rather more openly turning on their own ... or at least the hoi polloi who happen to reside in close geographic proximity to themselves and have hitherto enjoyed a rather acceptable and enviable middle-class lifestyle.

And in the middle of all this are poor little countries like Rwanda trying their darndest to get by, to walk with their heads a little higher, to no longer have their kids featuring in commercials with flies all over their faces plucking on the heartstrings of middle-class wazungu asking them to sponsor them. There's plucky little Rwanda utterly determined to struggle against all the odds.

And yet there's Nyamwasa putting out his foot to trip things up. There's Ehrlinder who's motivated by who-knows-what. There's the NGOs baying for a return to bloodshed and chaos (inscrutable human condition, remember -- don't try and spend too much time trying to understand them) as part of their humanitarian concern. There's the Great Game, of which Rwanda is only a small (though determined) player, the arrival of China in Africa being the real reason behind the choppy seas Rwanda is currently bobbing up and down in.

Oh, well. As the French say, C'est la vie! You can only march on.

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