Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Friday, March 30, 2012

Adieu, Bosco?

Gen. Bosco Ntaganda spends a lot of his time looking over his shoulder these days. The army commander, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court for abuses in Ituri as chief of staff of Thomas Lubanga' UPC, is still deputy commander of Amani Leo operations in the eastern Congo. He was put in that position in early 2009, after the arrest of Laurent Nkunda, and has explicitly been cited by Rwandan and (some) Congolese officials as "the lynchpin of stability" in the region.

How can someone who has been accused of so many human rights abuses, in Ituri and the Kivus, against the civilians population but also against his own commander, be seen thus? Bosco was given the command of the ex-CNDP troops after Nkunda left, and is seen as crucial part of the deal that saw Kinshasa and Kigali make peace, semi-integrate CNDP troops into the Congolese army, and jointly attack the FDLR.

But this might be changing.

Last week, two top Nkunda commanders - Colonels Innocent Kabundi and Richard Bisamaza - departed for Kinshasa, possibly to take up positions in the West of the country. This kind of deployment outside of the Kivus has long been anathema to the CNDP, who know that they will lose their strength (and their protection rackets) if redeployed. In addition, Bisamaza and Kabundi were once seen as Bosco loyalists, and Bosco reportedly ordered them not to fly to Kinshasa. But they refused. (Some also say that Nkunda's younger brother, Seko, was part of the Kinshasa trip).

The Bosco wing of the CNDP suddenly began to express its discontent with its current lot, despite the high profile, lucrative positions they currently occupy within military operations. A letter, allegedly signed by Bosco himself, was sent to MONUSCO in Goma on March 24, saying the CNDP wanted to return to peace talks. And a delegation of Tutsi community leaders in North Kivu met yesterday with MONUSCO in Goma, expressing its disapproval of Bosco's ICC arrest warrant and warning against his arrest. Why all this noise if Bosco has nothing to worry about?

Finally, diplomats appear to be taking advantage of the post-electoral turmoil to push some policy points. The compromise with Kabila's government seems to be: we have accepted the fraudulent elections, but if you want international legitimacy, carry out some quick-and-easy reforms. Arresting Bosco is part of this, and on my recent trip to Kinshasa his name was on the lips of many diplomats.  (This blog by Tony Gambino and Lisa Shannon in the NYT contributed to this push.)

It doesn't hurt that many Congolese army officers and security officials barely conceal their dislike for the general - the former commander of North Kivu operations, Col. Bobo Kakudji, used to be liberal in his criticism of Bosco, so much that he was moved out of the region. Another colonel told me: "We have shed our blood for Kabila, we have remained loyal throughout the years - today we stay at home watching TV, and Bosco, the biggest traitor, is given a high ranking post!"

So the times may be changing for Bosco. He reportedly does not move around Goma without a large, muscular escort. The myth that he is a stabilizing force is slowly being discredited, and his is becoming an embarrassment, even to his friends in the Rwandan army next door (the UN Group of Experts report from December cites his complicity in minerals smuggling with the Rwandan government, which is intent on proving the conflict-free credentials of its supply chains). Those relations are crucial, and some Congolese army officers say that it will be easier for the Rwandans to arrest him, as they did with Nkunda, as that will ensure that the other ex-CNDP officers will stay in line. 


Anonymous said...

Could the new grenades attacks in kigali be related to this?

Anonymous said...

Bosco a long with his former boss Laurent Nkunda are protected by Kabila and Kagame. As long as Kabila is in power, Bosco is going nowhere. he is roaming freely in Goma. The UN military mission know and see him. To change the dynamics, people who support these killers must be sanctioned as well. they are guilty by association.

Anand said...

Hey Jason - Thanks for the post. Couple of questions. "...the Rwandan government, which is intent on proving the conflict-free credentials of its supply chains)..." Do you feel the Rwandan government is sincere in this effort, or is this the official line, in order to show "the West" that they are trying to be compliant. What does arresting Bosco mean? Does it mean the same as arresting Nkunda? Because I am not sure how to characterize Nkunda's detainment. Seems like maybe Kinshasa and Kigali want to control the action by having Generals in the field that they can manipulate and control themselves. But they don't seem to have as much control as they think they do, so Bosco types "go rogue" for lack of a better term. Would his replacement(s) follow the same path? I am not trying to imply that taking Bosco out of the picture is a bad thing. But seems like the same "systems" will be in place in the Kivus. Also, do you think an attempt to arrest Bosco could lead to an escalation in conflicts?

Anonymous said...

When will the Bosco 2012 video be out?

blaise said...

lmao, that's awesome, bosco's video!!!!
@ Anand,
I'm not answering for Jason(who asked me anyway,lol), I just think it's an interesting question you are asking here: the sincerity of Rwanda.
I don't know exactly what's going on inside Kagame's regime but from their actions I conclude that this regime will do whatever it's necessary to survive, even sacrifice it's own people. We have to give them credit for their organization and goal oriented approaches. They are ruthless and has an outstretch arm.
From what I understand, one of their weakness is that for now they depend on foreign aids. They try to build an image of respectability. So, anytime the regime is associate to something that may taint their image, they will take their distance even that means sacrificing some soldiers.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Blaise. If Bosco becomes too much of a problem, Kagame will get rid of him and replace him with someone else just like he replaced Nkunda with Bosco when the new US administration came to power to show goodwill. Kagame recently arrested 2 or 3 high ranking military commanders of his army in relation with the minerals..... this is in my opinion is a preemptive move to show the international community that he is doing something about the issue.... Now Kagame can go to his Westerns backter or to the African Union and say: I have dome more than anybody in the region to solve the issue, I have arrested 3 high ranking officials, what has Kabila done nothing, so leave me alone as I am trying to do my best.

Anand said...

Blaise - Thanks for the comments. I am inclined to agree with your analysis (and the Anonymous poster after you). It seems that, again, we are confronted with treating symptoms of a larger problem. Not to say that it is not hugely significant if Bosco is arrested, surely it is. But as you say, we still must question the motivations of those in greater power. And as pointed out above, many actions are taken to "show" good will, even if they are really based on self interest. Motivation is everything in solving social and political issues. If a government's motivations are questionable, then the motivations of those applying pressure must be pure. In the case of the International community (governments of the West specifically) I would not say this is the case. Those in advocacy might have a pure agenda, but policy makers often don't. It's a tough issue. All the more reason the Congolese must find unity and leadership from within the country to create change.

ghulam sarwar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

We still have a lot time for Rwanda, Ouganda and Burundi to stop their military intervention in the DRC. They have support from their backers so called international community and their poppet government in Kinshasa also taking advantage of weakness of our population today. For how long Kagame and Museveni think this situation would continu to go on? The DRC is like an elephant slipping and will wake up some day. When the DRC will wake up what will become of Rwanda and Tutsi in the grand lake region? The so called international community will go do business with Kinshasa where they interest are not Kigali and Rwanda will be thru out like hat potato.

Anonymous said...

i find myself agreeing entirely with Blaise and Anand (surprise surprise).

it is ofcourse an important development that this faustian bargain has (supposedly) been struck. And should it lead to the arrest of Bosco than the new Amani operations -taken together-would indeed seem more strategic than what many of us believed when Jason first posted.

but the fact remains that the underlying problems of state collapse, impunity, and repression- the status quo that is- are not being addressed.

will Bosco and Nkunda face justice? will this lead to a sting where others do as well? will this all be followed by efforts to reduce land conflict/implement land reform? are we about to see an effort to clarifying citizenship for the hutu and tutsi and a mass educational effort to get buy in from native congolese?

i doubt all of this is coming and it is beyond farcical for so criminal a government to be engaging in finally bringing the criminals to justice.

i guess for me I continue to believe that the forces of “good” in the Congo should focus, very hard, on campaigning for the provincial and local elections. If the “opposition” in the Congo can gain a majority of Senators via a campaign that is coordinated and focused and raises the hopes of the Congolese we may finally start to see some real change in the Congo. Or, atleast, an effective check against this tyrannical and corrupt regime. I get the feeling that the opposition is holding out for the West to save them.

do others?

well, its pretty clear a white night (pun very much intended) isn’t coming so, at the very least, they should use any opening donors are providing via this bargain to get on with the campaigning. I also hope they use their small but potentially forceful minority in the Assembly to frustrate the will of this regime.

this all requires coming to an agreement, however, about the role and goal of the opposition in this period.

and given the sheer difficulty all opposition forces face in a tyrannical regime, I doubt this will happen as well. (tyrannies thrive on engendering a sense of fear and distrust so as to divide the population and encourage sectarianism so as to remain in power)

but, alas, we can always have hope, right?

i dunno folks. i’m starting to err on the side of those who advocate that what some (not all but some) african “states” need is less democracy and instead really good state-builders.

this government can’t educate its children, protect its people from diseases and crime and internal threats, build functioning roads, fund its own government, adjudicate its laws, create an effective national market, keep inflation low. just basic things, you know?

i just feel things like rights, freedom, etc don’t really matter when what we really need is an Effective State that gets the basics right and an internal system to deal with disagreements/ideological differences.

getting to a functioning democracy in the congo is just waayyyyy to challenging and, in my mind, perhaps not necessary at this stage in its development.



Anonymous said...

Incredibly interesting post, Jose.

It begs the following question:

What do the Congolese want? A functioning state with its relevant institutions? Or a functioning democracy(with its relevant institutions)?

I (nor any observer) can answer this question but its fairly clear to outside observers that doing both is proving to be a real and almost impossible challenge for elites in Kinshasa- not to mention donors. Nor, I'd argue, do the latter have much leverage over a regime that has effectively figured out how to divide them and cultivate other development partners (China, South Korea, India, South Africa etc) as a means of increasing their leverage over Western donors.

Ofcourse, the cynic in me simply believes elites in Kinshasa broadly aren't concerned with these questions but rather staying in power, keeping outside interests at bay, and official state theft.

But at the same time, as Mali clearly informs us of, if the fundamental basics of human life are not taken care of it is that much more likely a polity will be highly unstable, tyrannical and throw cold water on notions of liberal democracy.

Personally, I think an interesting way to gain favor with the regimen(for those interested) and, perhaps, encourage it to engage more justly with the Congolese is to facilitate a discussion within the regime about bringing donor budget support to a close.

Such a conversation, I believe, would really focus the regime on figuring out what it would take to not only liberate itself but ensure its ultimate legitimacy and legacy.

- D

blaise said...

@ Jose,
I totally agree with you. I think we need a simple system of accountability in Congo than the system actually in place. I think traditional's powers was more consensual than our more modern system.
As you said , the opposition focus should have been in the provincials in the first place( less expensive than the presidential, less possibility of fraud). I believe that the true power is exercise close to your constituents, specially in a dysfunctional state like Congo.
It's seems that the opposition is expecting the West to change the outcome of the election. I think, instead, they should realize that JK has the army and they don't have anything to counter that. But, they have this advantage that there was an international outcry regarding the election. Since JK is in the defensive now and, like Jason said, the West is asking for Bosco, why did the opposition doesn't ask for the dissolution of the CENI's bureau and his replacement by a more independent one? It will be in exchange for a kind of legitimization of JK (it's the reality on the ground anyway) and social peace.
Just imagine if the opposition control those provincials assemblies and the several governors mansions. It won't be great power but power still. Jk saw this problem that why he made those changes.( dismissing a governor).
The opposition should ask for a really separation of powers to weakened JK remaining power.
The opposition has been crying fool for many decades now, maybe it's time for them to be more crafty and show some alternative here.

Anonymous said...

Not to be part of the peanut gallery here but I agree in entirety with Anand, Blaise, and Jose.

It does appear certain elements in the opposition are hoping for donors/the West to invalidate these elections.

Well, it ain't happening.

Thus, it does make sense to come up with an appropriate legislatively strategy, make sure ET is released and the opposition can meet in freedom, ensure CENI is entirely reformed, and focus real hard a capturing provincial assemblies and- hopefully- the Senate.

I honestly believe everything else- the repression, remaining electoral disputes, organizing mass resistance, etc- should be dropped. I realize this is hard medicine for ET supporters but the simple facts are that NOONE is clear who won and NOONE wants to fund a redo.

If all this is true and this "Faustian bargain" has been struck than this is a real opening and the opposition should aggressively grab it.

Perhaps now is the time for the combined forces of good (oppo political parties, civil society, the Catholic Church, etc) to formalize some "coordinating committee" or something to speak as ONE voice and work out ONE legislative and provincial elective strategy.

I know, I'm dreaming right?! Well, a girl can dream.

At the very least some unity in message and focus would give these forces some legitimacy in the eyes of the bargainers (donors) and build some social capital as well. (and, to be clear, I completely recognize these "forces of good" may in fact be simply interested in power for its own sake)

Note to Jason: Could we get some info on what's going on amongst the opposition/civil society? Its really helpful to get info on the powers that be but, well, some info on them would be nice once and awhile.


Anand said...

Sounds like a lot of us are in agreement about the motivations of the DRC and regional governments, and the need for home-grown, Congolese reform. Mel has expressed that perhaps the time is now for the various elements of the society to unify in message and focus. I agree completely. I wonder if anyone knows of any up and coming leaders who could front such a movement. I often hear from Congolese that the lack of viable leaders is a central problem. It would be interesting to try to break down what factors have led to transformational leaders in other societies. Great discussion y'all. Given the topic of Jason's post, I would also like to express that many Congolese work very hard, and at great personal risk, to accumulate evidence against human rights violators. And many fight long and hard for the smallest modicum of reparation or justice for survivors. Such work often goes unrecognized and unheralded, but it is truly invaluable and for lack of a stronger word, heroic.

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