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

Monday, April 30, 2012

As fighting in Kivus intensifies, deeper problems linger

The weekend saw a confusing situation develop in North Kivu, with serious fighting breaking out for the first time between Bosco's troops in Masisi and the Congolese army. The "mutineers," as Bosco's forces are now being called, took the upper hand and took the towns of Mweso, Mushaki and Karuba, and were even threatening the lakeside town of Sake, the gateway to Goma. Meanwhile, the Congolese army appeared disorganized and confused; the deputy regional commander, Col. Jonas Padiri, was stuck with several other senior officers for almost a whole day before he could get back to Sake.

In the meantime, troops loyal to Commander Sheka Ntaberi, a Mai-Mai commander in Walikale, have also taken control of several towns in central Walikale, as Congolese army troops have retreated from the area. The price of food items is going up dramatically in Goma, as it is cut off from important hinterlands, and thousands of people are fleeing from the violence. Rumors abound, often contradicting each other - some say that Rwandan troops have infiltrated to prop up Bosco, others conjecture that Bosco has struck a cynical alliance with the FDLR.

But behind the bluster, a deeper story is playing out. While the trigger of the conflict was Bosco's fear of being arrested and taken to the Hague, it is unlikely that he would have been able to mobilize this many troops without some help. Indeed, in the early days of his mutiny, he appeared to have faltered, as many of his ex-CNDP comrades failed to go along with him. Again and again, commanders mutinied only to see most of their troops re-defect back to the government.

Then, however, something appeared to change. The main mutineers - Cols. India Queen, Saddam, Zaire, Baudouin, Butoni, Zimurinda - converged on the Masisi highlands, their home turf. Some tactical mistakes were made by the Congolese army, such as giving Col. Baudouin, a Bosco loyalist, a truck full of ammunition and tens of thousands of dollars for supplies, only to see him reject his new assignment and head back to join Bosco, arms and all.

But there is a deeper problem, one that goes beyond just tactical mistakes and disorganization. Both Rwanda and the ex-CNDP cadres can suffer to see Bosco go - after all, many have personal quibbles with him. But they cannot suffer to see the CNDP networks and power dismantled. And this is what was lurking on the horizon as Kabila brought in loyalist troops ("special forces"), arrested prominent ex-CNDP allies, and redeployed a few ex-CNDP commanders outside of the Kivus. Now, even ex-CNDP commanders who had previously been hostile to Bosco are openly dismissive of the offensive against him and express sympathy for his cause. In sum, the foundation of the 2009 peace deal between Kigali, Kinshasa and the CNDP is being shaken.

We are likely in for some more fighting before the situation becomes any clearer. For now, Gen. Gabriel Amisi (Commander of Land Forces) and Gen. Didier Etumba (Commander of the Army) have arrived back in Goma to oversee the operations themselves. Let's see what will happen.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The new Congolese government

This posting has been slightly changed after readers picked up some mistakes (last update, Monday afternoon). Feel free to submit corrections.

As Congo Siasa readers will know, the new cabinet was officially announced yesterday, comprising 2 deputy prime ministers, 25 ministers and 11 vice-ministers. In general, it seems that Kabila and his new prime minister do not feel the need for compromise, neither with members of their own party, nor with the opposition. This make for a leaner, slightly more technocratic cabinet than previous ones.

I have pasted the cabinet below. Here are my first impressions:
  • Where is the opposition? While Prime Minister Matata had suggested that he was open to including the opposition in his cabinet, and after many diplomats had pushed Kabila to be conciliatory with the opposition, it seems like it all made little difference. Perhaps the president realized that the opposition is relatively weak and divided, so he does not need to reach out to them for the moment. The exception seem to be Jean-Paul Nemoyato (now minister of economy) and a member of Gilbert Kiakwama's CDC party, which used to be in staunch opposition to Kabila. Francois Mwamba's ADR, who is not considered to be in the opposition, also got one ministry (Musungayi, minister of industry).
  • Few big names: Very few heads of political parties made their way into government. For example, the head of the MSR party, Pierre Lumbi, which did well in elections, is nowhere to be seen. Instead his party, which is the third largest in the presidential coalition, is represented by a minister (civil service and agriculture) and a vice-minister (decentralization). Olivier Kamitatu is also absent, but his ARC party has at least one ministry (social and humanitarian affairs). On the other hand, some of the most powerful positions have gone to people who have been relatively unknown politically. For example, both deputy prime ministers are technocrats, with Daniel Mukoko having been UNDP's governance advisor for many years (before working as a technocrat in government), and Alexandre Luba having worked for the national security council.
  • The cabinet has shrunk: From 48 to 38 positions. This, along with the absence of opposition members and heavyweights, seems to contradict the impression that Kabila has emerged weakened from the elections. Rather, it seems like he doesn't feel the need to give too many concessions, either to his own allies or to the opposition.
  • Ministries were not really distributed according to the parties' weight in parliament - the PPRD seems to have gotten the lion's share, but the second strongest party PPPD only got one ministry. In contrast, some parties with only a one seat, like the PR and PA, got important ministries. Rwakabuba's UDCN party does not have a single seat but she obtained a vice-ministry.
  • So who got what? Here's what I can glean, but I am missing some officials who are unknown to me:
    • PPRD: 8 (Kasweshi, Munga, Sadok, Maker, Muyej, Atama, Mumba, and Tunda wa Kasende)
    • MSR: 3 (Vahamwiti, Kibala, Ngokoso)
    • PALU: 2 (Mukoko, Kabwelulu)
    • PPPD: 1 (Mbuinga) 
    • CCU: 1 (Mende)
    • ULDC: 1 (Tshibanda) 
    • ADR: 1 (Musungayi)
    • NAD: 1 (Inagosi)
    • ADH: 1 (Magbengu)
    • UNAFEC: 1 (Sakina)
    • ECT: 1 (Numbi)
    • UCP: 1 (Vunabandi)
    • UDCO: 1 (Banza Mukalay)
    • AFDC: 1 (Bahati Lukwebo)
    • PDC: (N'sa Mputu)
    • CDC: 1 (Nemoyato)
    • PR: 1 (Kalumba)
    • PA: 1 (Kin-Kiey)
    • UDCN: 1 (Rwakabuba)
    • ARC: 1 (Nawej)
  • Provincial distribution:
    • Katanga: 8
    • Province Orientale: 4
    • South Kivu:4
    • Kasai-Oriental: 3
    • North Kivu: 3
    • Bandundu: 2
    • Maniema: 2
    • Bas-Congo: 2
    • Equateur: 2
    • Kasai-Occidental:1?
  • Finally, as this will be important for the East, there are several prominent Hutu and Tutsi - Celestin Vunabandi is Hutu from Rutshuru and close to Eugene Serufuli, Sadok Biganza is a Munyamulenge from South Kivu, and (I think) Maguy Rwakabuba is a Tutsi from Rutshuru.
Here is the list:

Ministers (see here for Congo Independent's bios):

1. Vice Premier Ministre du Budget : Daniel Mukoko Samba (Kongo, Bas-Congo)
2. Vice Premier Ministre de la Defense Nationale : Alexandre Luba Tamu (Lubakat, Katanga)
3. Ministre d’Affaires Etrangères, Coopération Internationale, Francophonie : Raymond Tshibanda (Luba, Kasai-Oriental)
4. Minsitres des Affaires Intérieures, Sécurité, Décentralisation : Richard Muyej (Ruund, Katanga)
5. Ministre de la Justice et des Droits de l’Homme : Wivine Mumba (Katanga)
6. Ministres des Medias et relations avec parlement : Lambert Mende (Tetela, Kasai-Oriental)
7. Plan, suivi de la révolution de la modernité : Celestin Vunabandi (Hutu, North Kivu)
8. Portefeuille : Louise Munga (Katanga)
9. Eco/Commerce : Jean-Paul Nemoyato (Province Orientale)
10. Aménagement du territoire, urbanisme, habitat, TP/AT : Fridolin Kasweshi (Lubakat, Katanga)
11. Hydrocarbures : Crispin Atama (Province Orientale)
12. Industrie et PME : Remy Musungayi (Luba, Kasai-Occidental)
13. PTT, NTIC : Kin-Kiey Mulumba (Yansi, Bandundu)
14. Emploi, Travail et Prévoyance Sociale : Modeste Bahati Lukwebo (Shi, South Kivu)
15. Sante : Felix Kabange Numbi (Lubakat, Katanga)
16. ESURS : Chelo Lotsima(Province Orientale)
17. EPSP : Maker Mwangu (Kasai-Occidental)
18. Agriculture : Jean-Chrysostome Vahamwiti (Nande, North Kivu)
19. Affaires foncières : Robert Mbuinga Bila (Bas-Congo)
20. Affaires Sociales : Charles Nawej (Ruund, Katanga)
21. Genre, famille : Genevieve Inagosi (Province Orientale)
22. Fonction Publique : Jean-Claude Kibala (Rega, South Kivu)
23. Sport, Jeunesse: Banza Mukalay (Lubakat, Katanga)
24. Transport et voies de communications : Justin Kalumba (Maniema)
25. Environnement, Conservation de la nature et Tourisme : Louis Bavon Mputu (Equateur)
26. Mines : Martin Kabwelulu (Katanga)
27. Ressources hydrauliques et electricite : Bruno Kasanji Kalala (Luba, Kasai)

Deputy ministers

28. Vices Ministres Affaires Etrangères : Tunda Wa Kasende (Kasai-Oriental)
29. Coopération Internationale : Dismas Mangbengbu (Equateur)
30. Décentralisation et Affaires Coutumières : Egide Ngokoso (Bandundu)
31. Droits Humains : Mme Sakina Binti (Maniema)
32. Plan : Sadok Biganza (Munyamulenge, South Kivu)
33. Finances : Roger Shulungu (Kasai)
34. Budget : Mme Abuyuwe Vita
35. EPSP : Maggy Rwakabuba (Tutsi, North Kivu)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Supreme Court passes verdict on legislative vote

The Congolese Supreme Court issued a verdict on some of the legislative election disputes yesterday. I have posted a list of the decisions here. In general, the court went against some weighty interests, including by invalidating the two brothers of election commissioner Ngoy Mulunda (other members of the presidential majority took their places), as well as heavyweights like Jean-Jacques Mutuale (MLC), Anzuluni Bembe (opposition, former Mobutu strongman), Colette Tshomba (former deputy minister), Jean-Claude Baende (majority, governor of Equateur) and Jerome Kamate (opposition, former deputy minister).

The list comprises 32 invalidations of elected MPs; most of the disputes were among members of the ruling coalition. If I am counting correctly, three opposition MPs lost their seats to the ruling coalition, while the opposite does not seem to have occurred.

At the same time, the Supreme Court called for the remaining results from the rest of the country to be released, reversing the election commission's cancellation of the legislative vote everywhere except for Masisi, where a new vote will need to be held.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Bosco-led mutiny sputters on

While Bosco Ntaganda's mutiny seems to have largely backfired, with many of the troops re-defecting back to the government, and over a dozen senior officers now under arrest, it is not yet over. While the names and positions of the commanders may seem confusing, the gist of it is this: A hard core of ex-CNDP (and some ex-PARECO) around Bosco has not been dissuaded, and the assassination of a two high-ranking loyalist officers has soured relations further with the national army.

Defections toward Bosco

Over the weekend, several additional officers deserted army ranks to join Bosco in his Masisi fiefdom, including Col Bauduoin Ngaruye. Col Baudouin (ex-CNDP, Masisi) had been the sector commander in Masisi and is known as a staunch Bosco loyalist. Nonetheless, as the mutiny sputtered out, he had come to Goma and had agreed to be redeployed to South Kivu - the army had even given him a new stockpile of ammunition. Then, as he was driving on the road to Bukavu, he took a right instead of following the lake, and ended up joining Bosco - ammunition and all - in Masisi.

In addition, the ex-CNDP former 811th regiment commander Col Innocent Zimurinda (ex-CNDP, Masisi) finally also defected after having been stuck in Goma. He is now also reported to be back in Masisi, although most of his troops - which were based in Kitchanga, northern Masisi - have joined the loyalists and one of his battalion commanders, Col Kashawara, is under arrest. A battalion commander from southern Masisi, Col Mutoni (ex-CNDP), has also joined Bosco with some troops.

Meanwhile, a key player behind the scenes of the mutiny, Col Sultani Makenga (ex-CNDP, Rutshuru) - who used to hold the deputy command position for South Kivu operations - is also the center of some speculation. He is back in Goma, allegedly after having traded insults with his commanding officer Col Delphin Kahimbi. However, his bodyguards took the road along the lake and were ambushed in Nyabibwe. Some are now saying that the ambush was intended for Makenga himself. Makenga is one of the most influential figures in the ex-CNDP leadership.

Assassination of army loyalists

Meanwhile on Sunday,  two prominent loyalist commanders were killed during an ambush on the border between Walikale and Masisi territories: Col Chuma Balumisa and Col Kamatimba Pilipili. The two were conducting operations aganst Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi, a local Mai-Mai commander, who is now considered as the culprit. However, some officials with the Congolese army and UN see connections with the Bosco mutiny. While Sheka had previously been allied with the FDLR, on November 20 last year he helped carry out the assassination of Col Sadiki Soleil, a senior FDLR officer, allegedly in coordination with ex-CNDP and perhaps Rwandan officers. He does not have many troops left under his command, and several Congolese army officers told me he did not have either the interest or strength to carry out such an ambush alone.

In addition, according again to Congolese army officers, some of the ex-CNDP troops who were in Chuma's entourage were not hurt in the ambush and may have even defected to Sheka afterwards.

Some (just some) ex-CNDP troops leave the Kivus

For some years, a key obstacle to army reform has been the reluctance of some Kivu-based armed groups - the CNDP and FRF in particular - to be deployed outside of their home region. This is why the announcement that up to 1,000 troops were being sent to the West of the country on Monday came as welcome news to many.

But the joy was perhaps premature - when details came into the Congo Siasa newsroom (that spacious, bustling suite), it appears that only 50 ex-CNDP troops were part of the 800 soldiers who left. It included three senior ex-CNDP officers: Col Mulomba (Hutu, Kalehe), Col Santos (Mugogwe, Masisi), Col Shimita Hassan (Mugogwe, Masisi).

In the meantime, the trial of 14 mutineers will begin in South Kivu in the coming days. That province, as compared with its northern neighbor, is relatively calm at the moment.

What can we make of these developments? That the mutiny is not yet over. If new officers are defecting to join the mutineers, either Bosco must not be as isolated as he seems (again, the Congolese army is pointing fingers at Kigali) or the new mutineers must feel that the prosecutions left them with no choice, as they would too have been arrested or been left without a support network, as many of their allies are now being tried.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An update on the desertions

A previous version of this posting erroneously identified Lt. Col. Zairois as "Zaire." The former is an ex-CNDP commander from Masisi, the latter is an ex-PARECO commander from Rutshuru. It is Zairois who re-defected from the army.

A quick update on the desertions that began around March 31:
  • Bosco Ntaganda is increasingly isolated in his ranch in Bunyole, Masisi (just north of Mushaki). There were two regiments loyal to Bosco in Masisi, that of Col. Innocent Zimurinda, and that of Col. Mugisha Muhimuzi, in addition to the sector command of Col. Baudouin Ngaruye. Zimurinda has been "blocked" in Goma since the beginning, and over 900 of his troops have reportedly left their positions to join loyalist troops in Nyanzale (Rutshuru territory). Bosco's protection company has also defected, under Lt Col Ndizeye, who has also gone to Nyanzale. This is in addition to the defection some time ago of Bosco's own protection officer Lt Col Kennedy. Estimates of Bosco's remaining troops in Masisi range between 400 and 600.
  • In South Kivu, the rebellion died a quick, if not complete death, with most of the mutineers now in government custody. Col. Bernard Byamungu (ex-CNDP) surrendered to the Congolese army on Monday in Kaziba, along with Col. Nsabimana (ex-PARECO) and 125 soldiers. Col. Innocent Gafisha, also a former CNDP command, had previously surrendered. However, Col. Saddam "Ringo" and Lt. Col. Zairois (aka Eric Ngabo), fled back into the bush after they had surrendered to the army.
  • The Rwandan government has played a key role in stabilizing the situation and pressuring defectors to return to the army. According to several sources within the Congolese army and diplomatic corps, on Sunday, April 8 several ex-CNDP officers were invited across the border to Gisenyi and attended a meeting with Rwandan and Congolese officials. Some ex-CNDP sources suggest that these officers (apparently including Cols. Makenga and Muhindo) received orders to make sure their former comrades return. Other officers were reportedly called by Rwandan officials, sealing the fate of the failed rebellion.
  • A disciplinary commission composed almost entirely of rwandophone officers has been set up by the government to try to mutineers. It is currently sitting in Goma and hearing the cases one-by-one.

A new Congolese army?

President Kabila, during his visit to Goma, announced an end to the Amani Leo military structure, under whose aegis military operations had been conducted over the past two years. This stirred confusion, and rumors percolated through the region following the decision.

(Also refer to a report released on Monday by a group of Congolese and international NGOs on security sector reform - it can be found here.)

To dispel some misunderstandings: No, military operations themselves are not coming to a halt. Operations against the FDLR and other "residual" or "refractory" armed groups (the official lingo) are ongoing.

What will happen to all the officers who are absorbed into the Amani Leo structures? This is a good question. These structures allowed for hundreds of former members of armed groups, as well as loyalist army commanders, to get jobs. According to the army spokesman, the officers who are currently in the Amani Leo command will be placed "dispo," shorthand for "à la disposition de la hierarchie militaire." This word is the Congolese' officers' bane, as it means you don't get any of the privileges of being deployed in military operations. In addition to the Amani Leo command, the ten military sectors in North and South Kivu will be dissolved, as they are only temporary structures.

Instead, there will be three (some say four) defense zones (zones de défense).  The Kivus will be grouped together with Province Orientale into one zone. According to Col. Sylvain Ekenge, the army's spokesperson in the East, these new structures should provide more than enough positions to accommodate the officers who were previously in the Amani Leo structures.

Within these zones, there will be three kinds of troops: "Forces couverture," the regular infantry units, currently formed into regiments in the Kivus; "forces réaction rapide," special forces units; and "forces principales de défense," the artillery and other mechanized units.

All of these reforms are supposed to take three years and are guided by the law on the Congolese armed forces passed last year. Other reforms have already taken place, including the census of Congolese soldiers (there are now around 103,000 who have been identified, of whom at least 30,000 are in the Kivus); the launching of various training centers (the officer's academy at Kananga is operational again, as is the engineering school in Likasi and a various Belgian, French, US and South African ad-hoc camps); and reform of the payment system, with the help of the European assistance mission EUSEC.

Still, FARDC abuses remain at extremely high levels and many of the army's officers and deeply involved in racketeering and embezzlement. It is therefore not just a question of re-organization (especially if parallel chains of command will persist anyway), but of what happens within that new organization. Military justice and discipline is probably the most important part of this equation, but the financial management of the army goes hand in hand with that. As long as the average soldier makes $60 a month (and a Lieutenant-general a paltry $110) and the food, lodging and medicine is insufficient; and as long as bigwigs in the army make twenty-fold that each month in racketeering; and as long as hundreds of abuses each month go unpunished (although there are some slight improvements in this regard), it will be difficult to speak of success.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Further blows to the democratic process

On Thursday, the national assembly elected its new leadership, placing Aubin Minaku at its head. However, the process was controversial, as the opposition is claiming that the majority manipulated the vote and discarded the candidates it had proposed.

According to the assembly's by-laws, the seats in the various offices of the assembly are distributed in proportion to the strength of the political coalitions. Since the opposition has around one third of the 500 seats in the assembly, they were given two of the seven positions in the office: the second vice president and the deputy reporter. These positions were supposed to be given to the two strongest opposition parties: the UDPS and MLC, who had nominated Samy Badibanga and Angelique Milemba, respectively. These candidates were backed by the other main opposition parties, as well.

However, the majority substituted the opposition candidates for two other MPs of their picking: Timothée Kimbo (UDPS) and Tshimanga Bwana (ADR). Both are in theory in the opposition - or at least not officially part of the majority - but are not recognized as legitimate candidates by the rest of the opposition.

In a meeting with opposition MPs, Aubin Minaku himself lamented the process, but said that he had no say in how things had unfolded. Some MPs speculate that members of the ruling party who oppose Minaku arranged the coup so that Minaku's legitimacy and relations with the opposition would be compromised, while others just thing this is a sign of the hardline position of the ruling majority. The mood within the opposition was so bad that in their denunciation, they accused Kabila of being a traitor; some MPs didn't even want to refer to him as the president, just the "autorité morale du pays."

Either way, this is a bad sign of how the ruling party intends to deal with the opposition. After the flawed elections, some thought that Kabila would be anxious to secure his legitimacy by reaching out to the opposition and encouraging them to participate in the democratic process. Far from it.

In the meantime, the opposition is suffering a crisis of its own, with Etienne Tshisekedi officially invalidating the seats of 33 of its 42 MPs who decided to participate in the national assembly, despite their leader's call for a boycott. Also, Christian Badibangi, another opposition heavyweight, broke ranks with the rest of the opposition by endorsing the election of the assembly's new leaders.

Guest blog: Beyond Kony2012 (Fr/En)

Nicolas Tillon works with Conciliation Resources, a peacebuilding organisation working with people affected by violent conflict.

Ernest Sugule Kangoyangala is the director of SAIPED, a civil society organization based in Dungu, DR Congo. He is the focal point of the Regional Civil Society Task Force, a platform of civil society organisations from the LRA affected region. They produce a quarterly newsletter: “Voice of peace.”


The Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony became this month a symbol of mass mobilisation and good will. The campaign Kony2012 has raised awareness on the issue in an unprecedented way. Behind its creative but superficial tone, the video offered a platform of expression for civil society activists and scholars, from the region and elsewhere to react to the video and give a more accurate account of a situation that has been largely ignored for the past 25 years.

The advocacy campaign and more importantly the African Union and the United Nations recent joint declaration to launch a regional (military) strategy poses some challenges to peace prospects and to the protection of civilians in the region.

In this article we argue that any strategy to address the LRA conflict should focus on civilian protection, build on the work done by civil society actors in the region and learn from the past, particularly successful DDR programmes.


The LRA has been active in Northern Uganda and more recently in central Africa (South Sudan, CAR, DRC) for 25 years. Over this period, the people, religious institutions and local civil society organisations have tried to prevent violence, support victims, and advise governments and international agencies on how to address the issue.

While social media have contributed to spread awareness about the lives of people affected by the conflict, they unfortunately do not contribute to finding sustainable solutions to address the violence and reduce the suffering of affected populations. They may even further the suffering and the continuum of violence.

What will happen if the military intervention does not succeed? What will happen if there is another massacre and mass kidnapping? There is concern among people in countries affected by the LRA that the lives of innocent children, women and men will continue to be jeopardized by LRA retaliations if there is not a proper plan for civilian protection.

While to most military response seems the only real option, it has failed to achieve any success in defeating the LRA over the past 25 years and is likely to fail again if its leaders do not learn from the past. These lessons include:

1.    The LRA is using guerrilla warfare tactics; they avoid confrontation and live in proximity with populations from whom they extract resources (food, equipment, labour force, combatants). LRA factions are mainly composed of forcibly recruited child soldiers, and include twice as many civilians (women, young children) as combatants, living side-by-side. A military offensive attacking LRA groups cannot discriminate between combatants and non-combatants and therefore can only result in loss of lives of innocent victims.  

2.    The LRA is known to retaliate against soft targets when under-pressure. The massacres, which followed the Uganda led joint military intervention “Operation Lightening Thunder” in 2008-2009, are a reminder of this. Protecting civilians against attacks, abductions, killings, and looting needs to be the primary goal of any military presence.

3.    The armies in the region have poor human rights records and are feared by the people. The current military intervention relying on the deployment of national armies can only lead to further violence if no mechanisms are in place to include protection measures. To whom are regional forces answerable to for any wrongdoing?

4.    Western intervention is often perceived as the magic bullet but cannot resolve the conflict. The US army was part of the planning of “Operation Lightening Thunder”, which resulted in violent reprisals from the LRA. An efficient army and State presence are needed in order to guarantee people’s protection, border management and long-term stability in the region. Cognisant of the challenges posed by army reform in DRC and in the region, international presence should be focus on accompanying changes from within and involve community representatives in monitoring civilian protection.

5.    The decisions made by western policy-makers affect hundreds of thousands of people in three different countries in areas neglected by their own government. Who are these policy makers accountable to? Facebook users? Western citizens? The governments of the countries affected? Or the very people who are victim of the violence? Unfortunately, the latter live in areas abandoned by their governments; they do not have access to the Internet, social medias or newspapers and are voiceless in decisions, which primarily affect them. Grass roots organisations such as religious institutions, local leaders, civil society organisations should be involved in design, implementation and monitoring of humanitarian, development and political strategies which affect the population.


There is no quick solution to any conflict, unfortunately. Well-designed videos and slick communication campaigns cannot replace locally owned and sustainable solutions. The coherence of any strategy to address the LRA issue needs to incorporate not only the security dimension but also the political, development and humanitarian, and protection challenges. It is not only about what needs to be done but how to do it.

1.    Put political pressure on the governments affected by the conflict, not only on Western governments. The LRA affected areas are located far away from the capital of DR Congo, CAR and South Sudan. These governments have other priorities and do not take appropriate measures to address the issue. Any intervention driven by outside actors will not make headway if not inclusive of national and local authorities.

2.    The voice of the people affected by conflict, particularly women, matters and should be listened to and included in the design, implementation and monitoring of any strategy. Western countries have democratically elected governments, why not respecting these fundamentals overseas? Local organisations, committees and religious platforms do exist: Engage with them.

3.    Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programmes are one of the few success stories in reducing the military capacity of the militia and rehabilitation of its victims. The UN and other organisations from civil society have been instrumental in driving these projects. During military operations, the LRA tightens its security therefore making it risky for anyone to escape. Military operations may threaten the efficiency of DDR initiatives by giving middle rang commander no hope apart from fighting to the end. However, military presence and safe reception facilities, not military operations, are likely to encourage defection and reinsertion of abductees. 

4.    Talking is not a crime. Between 2006 and 2008, peace talks took place in Juba but failed to stop the violence. Does this mean peace talks are doomed to fail? The military option also failed but is still dominating the agenda. Peace talks are never a one-off discussion; they take place over years, go through different phases but eventually, ending a conflict through talks is more sustainable and prevent the loss of innocent lives.


The recent launch of a 5000 strong African Union-authorised mission to hunt down Kony, and the sensational Kony2012 campaign has brought unexpected attention to the LRA conflict. Beyond the urgent need to do something, the question is HOW and WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for the consequences of an intervention?

In this article we argue that there is a need for a more comprehensive, coherent and coordinated intervention to end the LRA. Any intervention must be inclusive of protection measures, built on the work done by local actors and learn lessons from the past.

The military approach used in the past 25 years has provoked suffering and displacement on a massive scale. Over 400,000 people over three countries have been displaced since the launch of operation lightening thunder in December 2008. The primary function of a military presence in the region should be to protect civilians from abductions, looting, human rights abuses and any strategy needs to incorporate tools to monitor progress and engage with the population.

Doors should be left open for possible dialogue with the LRA to assess the level of disengagement of mid-level commanders, increase the impact of DDR programme, encourage the safe return of abductees into their communities and pave the way to addressing the long term impact of the violence. 


Nicolas Tillon travaille pour Conciliation Resources, une organisation de consolidation de la paix travaillant avec les personnes victimes de conflits armées. CR travaille dans la zone affectée pas la LRA depuis 15 ans.

Ernest Sugule Kangoyangala est le Coordonnateur National de la SAIPED, une organisation de la société civile basée à Dungu, République démocratique du Congo. Il est le point focal de la Regional Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), une plate-forme des organisations de la société civile travaillant dans les pays affectées par la LRA. Ils produisent un bulletin trimestriel: ". Voix de la paix"


L’ Armée de Resistance du Seigneur (LRA en Anglais) et son chef Joseph Kony sont récemment devenus un symbole de mobilisation de masse et de bonne volonté. La campagne Kony2012 a sensibilisé un public large sur la problématique de la LRA, d'une manière sans précédent. Derrière son ton créatif, mais superficiel, la vidéo a offert une plate-forme d'expression aux militants de la société civile et universitaires, de la région et d'ailleurs qui ont réagi à la vidéo et donné un aperçu plus profond d’une situation qui a été largement ignorée au cours des 25 dernières années.

La campagne de sensibilisation et, plus particulièrement la récente décision de l'Union Africaine et des Nations Unies de lancer une stratégie (militaire) régionale pose des défis aux perspectives de paix et à la protection des civils dans la région.

Dans cet article, nous soutenons que toute stratégie visant à mettre fin au conflit avec la LRA doit se concentrer sur la protection des civils, s'appuyer sur le travail accompli par les acteurs de la société civile dans la région et retienne les leçons du passé, particulièrement les succès des programmes de Demobilisation Désarmement et Réinsertion (DDR).


La LRA est active dans le nord de l'Ouganda (jusqu’en 2005) et plus récemment en Afrique centrale (Sud Soudan, République Centrafricaine, RD Congo) depuis 25 ans. Au cours de cette période, les leaders communautaires, les institutions religieuses et les organisations locales de la société civile ont essayé de prévenir la violence, soutenir les victimes, et conseiller les gouvernements et les organismes internationaux sur la manière de résoudre ce confit.

Bien que les « médias sociaux » aient contribué à sensibiliser le public sur le quotidien des personnes vivant ce conflit, ils n’ont malheureusement pas contribué à trouver des solutions durables pour lutter contre la violence et réduire la souffrance des populations affectées. Il se pourrait même qu’ils contribuent à augmenter la souffrance des populations et les dynamiques de violence.

Que se passera t’il si l'intervention militaire ne réussit pas? Que se passera t’il s’il y a un autre massacre et des enlèvements en masse? Qui sera responsable ? Les personnes qui vivent dans les pays touchés par la LRA craignent une augmentation de la violence et des représailles de la LRA si un plan  de contingence approprié pour la protection des civils n’est pas mis en place.

Alors que pour la plupart, une réponse militaire semble être la seule véritable option, cette stratégie n’a pas permis de réduire la capacité de la LRA ni de réduire la violence subite par les populations au cours des 25 dernières années et est susceptible d'échouer à nouveau si les dirigeants des Nations Unies, de l’Union Africaine et des pays de la région ne tirent pas les leçons du passé. Dont voici les principaux points:

1.    La LRA utilise des tactiques de guérilla, ils évitent la confrontation directe et vivent en proximité des populations dont ils extraient des ressources (nourriture, équipement, main-d’œuvre, combattants). Les factions de la LRA sont principalement composées d'enfants soldats recrutés de force, et comprennent deux fois plus des civils (femmes, jeunes enfants) que de combattants, vivant côte à côte. Une offensive militaire ciblant la LRA ne peut pas distinguer entre combattants et non combattants, et ne peut qu’entraîner la mort de victimes innocentes.

2.    La LRA est connue pour exercer des représailles contre des cibles faciles lorsqu’elle est sous-pression. Les massacres qui ont suivi l’intervention militaire conjointe "Opération Coup de tonnerre» en 2008-2009, sont un rappel de ce phénomène. Protéger les civils contre les attaques, les enlèvements, les meurtres, et les pillages et doit être l'objectif principal de toute présence militaire.

3.    Les armées de la région sont impliquées dans des abus des droits de l’homme et sont craintes par la population des zones affectées par la LRA. L'intervention militaire conjointe s'appuyant sur le déploiement des armées nationales ne peut que conduire à de nouvelles violences si aucun mécanisme n’est mis en place pour y inclure des mesures de protection. À qui répondent les forces régionales pour leurs actes répréhensibles?

4.    Une intervention occidentale est souvent perçue comme la solution miracle, mais ne peut pas résoudre le conflit. L'armée américaine a fait partie de la planification de « l’Opération Coup de tonnerre» qui a abouti à de violentes représailles de la LRA. Une armée efficace et une présence de l'État sont nécessaires afin de garantir la protection des populations, le control des frontières et la stabilité de la région. Conscients des défis posés par une réforme de l’armée en RDC et dans la région, la présence internationale doit focaliser sur l’accompagnement de changements de l'intérieur et impliquer les représentants des communautés affectées pour évaluer l’impact de la stratégie et le niveau de protection des civils.

5.    Les décisions prises par les décideurs politiques occidentaux touchent des centaines de milliers de personnes dans trois pays différents, dans des zones négligées par leur propre gouvernement. Auprès de qui répondent ces preneurs de décisions? Les usagers de Facebook? Les citoyens occidentaux? Les gouvernements des pays touchés? Ou auprès de ceux qui sont victimes de la violence? Malheureusement, ces derniers vivent dans des zones abandonnées par leurs gouvernements, ils n'ont pas accès à l’internet, aux médias sociaux ou aux journaux et ne sont pas consultés pour des décisions qui les touchent principalement. Les organisations locales, telles que les institutions religieuses, les leaders locaux, les organisations de la société civile doivent être impliquées dans la conception, la mise en œuvre et le suivi de l'aide humanitaire, de développement et des stratégies politiques qui touchent la population.


Malheureusement il n'y a jamais de solution facile à un conflit. Un clip vidéo sensationnaliste et un message attractif ne peuvent pas remplacer des solutions adressant les dimensions multiples du problème et impliquant les acteurs locaux. La cohérence de toute stratégie visant à aborder la question de la LRA doit intégrer non seulement la dimension sécuritaire mais politique, les problématiques de développement et d’aide humanitaire, et les défis de protection. La question n’est pas tant sur ce qui doit être fait, mais comment le faire.

1.    Exercer une pression politique sur les gouvernements des pays touchés par le conflit, pas seulement sur les gouvernements occidentaux. Les zones touchées par le conflit avec la LRA sont localisées loin de leurs capitales respectives (Kinshasa, Bangui, Juba). Les gouvernements concernés ont d'autres priorités et ne prennent pas les mesures appropriées pour résoudre le problème. Toute intervention coordonnée par des acteurs extérieurs ne sera pas durable et adaptée si elle n’implique pas les autorités nationales et locales.

2.    L’opinion des populations touchées par le conflit, en particulier les femmes doit être écoutée et leurs préoccupations intégrées dans la conception, la mise en œuvre et le suivi de toute stratégie. Les pays occidentaux ont des gouvernements démocratiquement élus, pourquoi ne pas respecter ces principes fondamentaux à l'étranger? Les organisations locales, les comités et plates-formes religieuses existent: Engagez avec eux.

3.    Les programmes de DDR sont l'une des rares réussites qui ont permis de réduire la capacité militaire de la milice et de réhabiliter ses victimes. L’Organisations des Nations Unies et les acteurs de la société civile ont joué un rôle important dans la conduite de ces projets. Au cours d’opérations militaires, la LRA resserre sa sécurité rendant donc risqué pour quiconque de s'échapper. Les opérations militaires peuvent menacer l'efficacité des initiatives de DDR en ne donnant aux combattants aucune alternatives autre que la lutte jusqu’à la fin. Toutefois, une présence militaire préventive pour assurer la sécurité de la population ainsi que des installations de réception des victimes et anciens combattants sont susceptibles d'encourager la défection et la réinsertion des personnes enlevées.

4.    Parler n'est pas un crime. Entre 2006 et 2008, des pourparlers de paix ont eu lieu à Juba, mais n’ont pas réussi à faire cesser la violence. Est-ce que cela signifie que les pourparlers de paix sont voués à l'échec? L'option militaire a également échoué, mais continue de dominer l'ordre du jour. Les pourparlers de paix ne sont jamais une discussion ponctuelle; elles ont lieu sur plusieurs années, passent par différentes phases, mais finalement, résoudre un conflit par la négociation est plus durable et évite les pertes en vie humaine.


La récente déclaration du déploiement de 5000 soldats de la région par l'Union africaine et les Nations unies avec pour mission de traquer Kony, et la campagne  sensationnelle Kony2012 a attiré une attention inattendue au conflit avec la LRA. Au-delà de la nécessité urgente d ‘intervenir, la question est COMMENT et QUI est responsable des CONSEQUENCES d'une intervention?

Dans cet article, nous soutenons qu'il y a nécessité de développer une intervention plus globale, cohérente et coordonnée pour mettre fin à la LRA. Toute intervention doit être inclusive de mesures de protection des civils, construites sur le travail accompli par les acteurs locaux et retenir les leçons du passé.

L'approche militaire utilisée dans les 25 dernières années a provoqué des souffrances et des déplacements sur une grande échelle. Plus de 400.000 personnes dans plus de trois pays ont été déplacées depuis le lancement de l'opération Lightning Thunder en Décembre 2008. La fonction principale d'une présence militaire dans la région devrait être la protection  des civils contre les enlèvements, pillages, atteintes aux droits humains ; toute stratégie doit intégrer des outils pour mesurer les progrès réalisés et engager avec la population.

Les portes doivent être laissées ouvertes pour un dialogue possible avec la LRA pour évaluer le niveau de désengagement des officiers intermédiaires, accroître l'impact des programmes de DDR, encourager le retour en toute sécurité des personnes enlevées et ainsi ouvrir la voie pour adresser l'impact à long terme de la violence.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bold decisions

President Joseph Kabila held several meetings in Goma yesterday before traveling to Bukavu, with civil society as well as army officers. There have been conflicting accounts regarding his various statements , but what is clear is that he has decided to "suspend Amani Leo operations" in the Kivus. But what this means is unclear - according to some Congolese army officers, it means that the military structure of Amani Leo operations will be dismantled and the sectors and regiments will fall under the control of the 8th (North Kivu) and 10th (South Kivu) military regions. It is not clear whether military operations will end or will just fall under a different command.

Many army officers I spoke to are scratching their heads as to what this could mean. Amani Leo served to absorb many of the armed group officers who were integrated into the army in 2009, in particular the ex-CNDP and ex-PARECO commanders who are very prominent in Amani Leo. It is unclear where these officers will go if Amani Leo is dismantled, and some are worried that the malcontents may stir up trouble.

President Kabila's second decision, which made waves in the international press, is reportedly the call to arrest Bosco Ntaganda. But it is not entirely clear what exactly he said, and local journalists are currently transcribing his statement in Swahili. (The press quote is ambiguous: "I want to arrest Bosco Ntaganda because the whole population wants peace.") From what I understand, he did not call explicitly for Bosco to be arrested, but instead said that Bosco has committed many crimes and could be arrested by Congolese officials when the moment is right. I will try to post the transcript as soon as I get it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

As talks continue in Goma, the fate of Bosco is in the balance

After a series of meetings involving the Congolese government, Rwandan officials and ex-CNDP soldiers, there is still no clear idea of what compromise will be struck to end the stand-off between Bosco Ntaganda and Kinshasa. At least it seems that both sides have decided for the time being to talk their differences out instead of fighting.

While the results of the talks are still a matter of speculation, some information is seeping out.

The negotiations began in serious on Sunday, when Congolese government officials - represented by Kalev Mutond, the head of national intelligence - met with Rwandan counterparts in Gisenyi. The Rwandans were reportedly represented by their army leadership, including Gen. James Kabarebe (Minister of Defense) and Gen. Charles Kayonga (Chief of Staff of Armed Forces). They reportedly discussed the implementation of the March 2009 agreement, which had led to the integration of the CNDP and other armed groups.

Then, on Monday, the Congolese delegation was bolstered by the head of the land forces, Gen. Amisi, the head of Amani Leo operations, Gen. Amuli, as well as President Kabila himself. Talks continued late into the night at Cap Kivu hotel on the lake.

After reports of his disappearance from town, Gen. Bosco turned up again in Goma. Contrary to what was reported here previously, several reports from people close to the CNDP suggest that he had fled into Rwanda. 

From what information has leaked, it seems that Bosco will emerge weakened from this confrontation, if perhaps not in handcuffs. According to one version, his ally Col. Baudouin Ngaruye will switch positions with ex-CNDP Col. Innocent Kabundi, the former leaving the command of Bosco's Masisi stronghold and going to Kamituga in South Kivu. This would undermine Bosco's control over the central Masisi highlands, his traditional bastion.

Others suggest that Bosco will be forced to step down from his Amani Leo command position and retreat to Masisi, while someone else (Col. Sultani Makenga's name is often cited, although Kabila may like to see Col. Innocent Gahizi play this role) would take control of the ex-CNDP troops in the Congo.

No one has suggested that the strength of the ex-CNDP itself will be seriously questioned, although its allied ex-PARECO networks may fray. The Hutu armed group, from which many officers also defected in the last weeks, has seen at least one of its leading officers, Col. Kifaru, badly wounded in the fighting, and others surrender.

Meanwhile, the situation in South Kivu appears to have been brought more or less under control. At the beginning of the altercations, several leading army officers close to Bosco had defected, including Col. Bernard Byamungu (ex-CNDP), Col. Saddam Edmond (ex-PARECO) and Col. Nsabimana (ex-PARECO), along with 400-500 troops. Most of those troops have now rejoined the army, leaving those officers with just under a hundred troops in the high plateau overlooking the Rusizi Plain.

To the north of Goma, the ex-CNDP officers who had seized the border town of Bunagana over the weekend, were forced to flee into Uganda due to pressure from the Congolese (and some say Rwandan) army. Led by Col. Innocent Kaina, several officers were reportedly apprehended by the Ugandan security forces.

The logic of the 2009 peace deal seems to be holding for now. In other words, as long as the Congolese and Rwandan government can come to an agreement on the Kivus, the ex-CNDP forces will remain semi-integrated in the army. However, what the terms and form of this integration are, and whether Bosco will remain part of it, is yet to be seen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bosco misplays his cards

As President Kabila arrived in Goma yesterday, it appears that Bosco may have misplayed his hand. After asking troops loyal to his to defect from the army and to reinforce his personal guard last week, Bosco himself is reported to have to fled Goma on Friday night as Kinshasa deployed a battalion of Belgian-trained special forces to town.

Most reports place Bosco in central Masisi at the moment, between Kilolirwe and Mushaki.

At the same time, Col Innocent Kaina (aka India Queen), a close Bosco ally, briefly took control of the border town of Bunagana (located close to the junction of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda) on Sunday before being pushed out by Congolese troops under the command of Colonel Philemon Yav. Col Kaina was reportedly forced to flee to Uganda.

Tellingly, Yav was collaborating with Cpt Kennedy, formerly one of Bosco's closest supporters. As Kinshasa spends considerable efforts - and, allegedy, money - on rallying Bosco loyalists to its side, others have defected, as well, including Col Ndayisaba in Rutshuru. Col Innocent Zimurinda, who commands troops in Bosco's heartland of Masisi, is reported to be "stuck" in Goma with a small bodyguard.

The situation, however, is still volatile, with a considerable number of de-facto defectors outside of government control in South and North Kivu. But Bosco's strategy of grandstanding in order to prevent his arrest seems to have backfired for now.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fears of wide-spread violence as Bosco stand-off continues

The situation in the Kivus remains tense as the personal future of one military commander, Bosco Ntaganda, has escalated latent tensions within the poorly integrated Congolese army.

The stand-off appears to have begun last week, with Bosco Ntaganda publishing a memorandum and mobilizing civilians members of the local Tutsi community in Goma to meet with the United Nations, the Rwandan government. They also read a statement condemning Bosco's indictment by the ICC on various local radio stations. All of this, in turn, appears to have been triggered by sabre-rattling by the ICC and donors regarding Bosco, as well as by the departure of five ex-CNDP officers to a seminar in Kinshasa.

Bosco felt under pressure and took the offensive, telling Col. Felix Mugabo, the deputy commander (and his former chief bodyguard) of the 804th regiment based just to the north of Goma to reinforce his protection unit in Goma, and to send the rest of his troops further north to Katale. At the same time, ex-CNDP troops far to the west in the forests of Pinga withdrew to the highlands of Masisi, consolidating their strong position in ex-CNDP heartland.

This escalation in turn seems to have triggered a strong reaction from Kinshasa, although more so in South Kivu than around Goma. On Sunday, Congolese army troops confronted several ex-PARECO (a former majority Hutu armed group that integrated at the same time as the CNDP in 2009) commanders who are suspected to be close to Bosco. While circumstances are still murky, Congolese army troops appear to have attacked Col. Burimasu in in Lulimba (Fizi territory) and Col. Kifaru in Kabamba (Kalehe). There are reports that Col. Saddam and Col. Bernard Byamungu, who are also suspected to be close to Bosco, were attacked around Uvira yesterday and fled.

Other defections (as comments in the previous post suggest) have taken place from ex-CNDP units in Baraka and Uvira. 

In Kinshasa, some security officials appear to be chomping at the bit and feel that "enough is enough." Today, part of a battalion of special forces arrived in Goma from their training camp in Kindu (where the Belgian army had been training them). No one suggests, however, that Bosco is to be arrested, and the army spokesman in the East keep insisting that the troubles are over. The commander of the land force, Gen. Amisi, has been on a tour of the East, but it is unclear whether he is there to escalate or defuse tensions.

The ex-CNDP and ex-PARECO, for their part, insist this has nothing to do with Bosco, but rather with salaries and ranks - they say they are marginalized in the army, an allegation many other officers scoff at, given the prominence of these rwandophone officers in the current operations. 

That is unlikely at the moment. When I spoke with a Congolese colonel in Goma this afternoon he was worried that Bosco's troops in Masisi could attack Goma or Sake "to make a point." In any case, Bosco does not seem to control many of the ex-CNDP commanders, especially those like Col. Gahizi and Col. Kabundi who went to the Kinshasa seminar, and would be unlikely to succeed in a full-fledged rebellion. At the same time, he has been able to stitch together a formidable, if shaky, alliance of ex-PARECO and ex-CNDP commanders through co-option and intimidation over the past years, and he personally has a lot to lose.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tensions escalate in the Kivus

Following my last blog posting, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Bosco Ntaganda's position in Goma has been reinforced by a group of soldiers that was based with the former commander of his bodyguard unit,  Lt Col Mugabo, in Kibumba (just north of Goma). Goma town is full of rumors (or reports, depending on your ontological approach) of a new rebellion kicked off, led by Bosco, but that conclusion is still premature, as most of the ex-CNDP troops are still deployed in the field.

More worrying are a series of clashes between Congolese army officers and ex-PARECO units in South Kivu. The Hutu ex-PARECO officers are suspected of being in touch with Bosco and, in general, regular army officers resent them for their influence, affluence and power.

Yesterday, Col. Kifaru, a Hutu ex-PARECO officer who became notorious last year after his troops were accused of mass rape in Nakiele (Fizi territory), was allegedly ambushed in Kabamba (Kalehe territory) on his way from Goma to Bukavu. While the immediate area is controlled by Col. Biyoyo, an ex-CNDP commander, the local battalion commander is seen to be a Kinshasa loyalist. The CNDP and PARECO are now trying to figure out what happened and what the motive might have been. Col. Kifaru is himself reported to be badly injured.

But they are unlikely to see this as a local initiative by a disgruntled commander. The same morning, regular army commanders fell out with a ex-PARECO officer, Col. Burimasu, in Lulimba (Fizi Territory), reportedly over his weapons stockpile. Fighting ensued and Col. Burimasu is said to have fled.

Given that the attacks happened in South Kivu, fingers will be pointing as Col. Delphin Kahimbi and Gen. Patrick Masunzu, the commanding officers in the province.

We will have to wait and see what happens. Some see this as a push by Kinshasa to clamp down on the pernicious parallel chains of command in the Kivus. Now that elections are over, they are free to do so. Others see this as an escalation of local tensions between commanders. It is unclear how this will develop - as a Congolese friend once told me: "La guerre c'est comme la bière. Nous savons comment ça commence, mais personne ne sait comment ça se termine."