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, August 26, 2012

The Congolese strategy against the M23: A stick and another stick (no carrot)

The truce between the M23 and the Congolese army has held now for almost a month - both sides have silenced their guns while negotiations have stumbled from Addis Ababa to Khartoum, Kampala and finally to Goma.

Despite the reprive, however, the talks have not brought much hope, and chances for a break-through remain slim. The Congolese government’s main strategy seems to reside in donor pressure on Rwanda and the military defeat of the M23 – neither of which, standing alone, is likely to be sufficient to bring an end to this debacle.

Let’s review this approach.

The Congolese government continues to refuse to talk with the M23 mutineers, a position that has been bolstered by Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders’ recent statements on his trip to the Congo. (“Integrating those who are indisciplined, that means integrating indiscipline itself.”) In private, Congolese army commanders still insist on a military solution, and have continued sending troops to the Kivus over the past months. This means that the main diplomatic efforts have been between countries in the region, and have focused on the creation of a neutral military force.

The contours of this force were sketched out in the recent meetings of regional army commanders in Goma. It should be made up of 4,000 African troops, have a UN and AU mandate, be charged to eradicate the M23 and the FDLR, and be “operationalized” within three months of the next meeting of the ICGLR head of state in September. The force would be deployed over a vast area – the Rusizi Plain, Beni-Ruwenzori, Masisi-Walikale, and Rutshuru.

However, there are good reasons not to question whether this force will be set up. Primarily: who will staff the force, and who will pay for it. The latest deal between the countries would exclude Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and the DR Congo from the mission. While the Congolese say in private they have over a dozen countries lined up who are ready to send troops, there has been little public expressions of interest, and it is difficult to imagine who would want to send their soldiers into risky counterinsurgency operations in the Congo.

The Congolese have suggested that MONUSCO could be converted into this force – despite the clause in the Goma deal saying the troops would be African (most MONUSCO troops in the Kivus are South Asian). And there have been some encouraging mumurs from some diplomats, but it is highly unlikely that the UN or its troop-contributing countries would accept an aggressive peace-imposition mandate.

As for footing the bill – none of the donors I have spoken with seem very eager. They are already spending $1,4 billion each year on MONUSCO.

At the same time, the M23 has taken advantage of the break in fighting to train new troops and to structure their movement. One of their main challenges has always been their lack of soldiers – they started their group in May with around 200-400 men, and have since been able to expand their numbers to perhaps 1,500. But many of these troops are newcomers and have been thrown into battle after just a week or two of training. Defectors speak of suffering so many casualties in the battle for Bunagana in early July, for example, that new recruits – bakurutu in their terminology – were sent to the frontlines, many with only rudimentary knowledge of fighting.

So they have accelerated their training wing, first in Tshanzu, where the CNDP also had a training camp back in 2008, and in Rumangabo since the M23 took over the Congolese military camp there in July. This past week, there was news of a graduation ceremony there for several hundred new recruits.

In sum, the neutral force is unlikely to be the solution to the current mess, and could provide the M23 with a much-needed break in fighting.

As for the second prong of the Congolese strategy, international pressure on Rwanda, it will probably be part of the solution, but is not a silver bullet. Pressure is most effective when you can measure results, and it is difficult to figure out whether Rwanda has stopped providing support to the M23.

In addition, donors are also reluctant to play politics with aid, especially in a country such as Rwanda, which is known for its efficient use of donor money.

A first litmus test will be donors’ decisions regarding their aid money. Various donors – the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and the African Development Bank – have suspended aid while they evaluate the situation. Some of these countries are now due to make their decision whether to continue to suspend, to disburse or to cut their aid altogether.

The UK, for example, has promised Rwanda a decision by the end of the month, while other donors, such as the AfDB and Sweden, as well as Belgium and the European Union, are due to make decisions in September. Germany has already said it will link its decision to the final report of the UN Group of Experts, which will be submitted in October.

(Another interesting development will be any changes to Rwanda's credit rating - Fitch is coming out with a new appraisal in mid-September, and Standard & Poor's will be out before the end of the year. Both currently give Rwanda a B with a stable, positive outlook.)

In any case, pressure would be most productive if one could specify concrete steps that Rwanda could take, rather than trying to measure the absence of support to the M23. En bref, donors want Kigali to be seen as part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. In 2009, for example, Kigali acted against the CNDP, arresting Nkunda and forcing the CNDP to integrate into the national army. It is difficult to imagine a similar deal now, in part also because the Congolese government does not appear ready to compromise.

This is perhaps now the most important task – trying to figure out what political compromise can form the fulcrum of international pressure and diplomatic activity. Should it be the reintegration of the M23 into the Congolese army, perhaps deploying commanders elsewhere in the country, while arresting others? Should it be a more comprehensive peace process, that would address political as well as military issues (refugee return, decentralization, etc.) and would include other groups in addition to the M23? Or should it be the focus on the deployment of a military force, either to hunt down the FDLR and M23, or to observe the Congolese-Rwandan border?

For now, these questions are moot, as the Congolese government refuses to consider any political compromise. In the end, military offensives and pressure on Rwanda may be part of a comprehensive political strategy. But only a part.


blaise said...

Mrs Braeckman had an interesting paper:Les parents pauvres de l’armée
She is basically explaining the composition of the actual Fardc : from the force publique moving with their families to the 2009 agreement and the 2001 "peace accord" mixing Fac to rebels groups.
I believe that we need to rethink our idea of a national army,invest on army management.
For the short term,it's should be obvious now that regimentation was a poor idea.We should not leave vacuum so that armed groups will fill them.It's counter intuitive from the idea of counter insurgency: boots on the ground.The army should organize a better support network for the troops:secure their families,away from the front,assure they are fed and well take care off,etc
In a mid term,we should think abt what 2 do with the m23:amnesty should be rule out, some lenience can be apply maybe,they may have to accept being scatter around the country in exchange for better protection of their keens in particular but the whole population in general.The army can still demobilize militia,create a structure of reserve forces,help demobilize reinsert in society like Monuc=sco is doing in Ituri.
In the long term, we should have objective criteria to be enroll and promote in the army.Catch up seminaries can help but promotion should be based on merit.
The bottom line is that, we have so much that we will be the envy of the world,today it's coltan,tmrw it will be water access.We should think about an army who will not only be effective during wars but useful during peace.(rescue options,rebuilding,etc)
We have to think forward not solely put all our eggs in the blaming/sanctions basket

Unknown said...

"In addition, donors are also reluctant to play politics with aid, especially in a country such as Rwanda, which is known for its efficient use of donor mid-September, and Standard & Poor's will be out before the end of the year. Both currently give Rwanda a B with a stable, positive outlook.)," Jason, expert on GL.
The West like to associate themselves with efficient, competent people, aid will be unfrozen before end of the year.
And people dont forget that Rwanda is one of the largest troop contributor to peace keeping missions around the world.
In Darfur, where the mission is led by lt-Gen. patrick Nyamvumba, and much of the troops come from Rwanda, you cant hear any peace breaches unlike when the force was led by Nigeria Gen. Martin LutherAgwar.RDF are active peace keepers not the Nepalese, Indians, Pakistans and Uruguays who are in MONUSCO to get allowances from UN only. So, donors will have no option but to unfreeze aid. They need Rwanda to contnue setting example of how donor money can make a difference and they need RDF to pacify the world.

As for the war and all militias, I feel sorry. But it is up to Congo, fix your country, build a strong army that will deter the enemy.
M23 is part of congolese problem. Instead of fighting it, better talk to it. And ten refugees should return, peace be guaranteed and no more wars.
Rwanda will be served better with stable DRC, and it knows that. All natural resources on its western frontier, Kivu gas, gorilla tourism, fertile land, etc. So, Congo should soften its hard stance, lest will achieve nothing.

Eole said...

@James Serudonyori

You seem right but you deliberately overlook the fact that Rwanda's soldiers are embedded within M23 and even within FARDC where they create chaos and suffering.
You also deliberately overlook the fact that all these militias are getting help from Rwanda and Uganda. Who is arming Tcheka Ntaberi? Rwanda.
Who is arming the Raia Mutomboki? Rwanda.
Who is providing young and fresh troops for FDLR? Rwanda.
You also seem to forget that Kabila himself has been member of Rwandan Army under the command of James Kabarebe.
And what about General Kijege in Kinshasa?
I still recall that back in 1998, while James Kabarebe was Head of the "Congolese Army", Rwanda still denied any involvement in Congo.
The déjà vu is on display once again.
You are mocking congolese with your so polished sentences claiming Rwanda innocence. said...

Both of you have a point.

In sum I would say, no matter who supports M23 or other armed groups, the armed forces of the DRC account for some 105.000 soldiers, and they are responsible for military security on the territory. If they cannot cope with a minor mutiny of deserters, this is either because their government wants the trouble to continue, or because the armed forces are useless.

You may choose between lack of political will and ineptitude.....or is it both?

Colored Opinions said...

Kigali is trying to weaken Kabila while instilling fear in the Rwandan population. The elections weakened Kabila and Kigali is obviously hoping to weaken it even further by forcing negotiations. If Kinshasa is forced to except negotiations with M23, Kigali will have reached it's goal.

I don't see how that outcome stabilizes the region. It will increase the hatred against Rwanda and western donors among Congolese. In my perception that makes it a highly unlikely outcome.

A concrete step Kigali could take is to stop it's propaganda campaign claiming the m23 is fighting a just cause. Two main elements in that campaign are: 1 the colonial borders are worthless, 2 there is a genocide going on in eastern Congo. That narrative should change in Kigali. If donors continue their aid while this narrative isn't eradicated, I don't see any future for peace in the region.

On the Congolese side focusing on local elections would be more usefull then all the talk about the need of a strong army. A strong army in the hands of an autocratic leader makes no sense whatsoever.

This war is first of all a propaganda war, m23 victories on the battlefield mean nothing without the praise and support by Rwanda's and Uganda's newspapers, bloggers and politicians.

Rich said...

Jason -

Why do we seem happy turning round in circle?

Remember we are where we are based on a credible interim report put together by the GoE; right? As it can be predicted, rwanda has and will always deny its meddling in eastern DRC. By the way rwanda has done the same denial or so for the last 14 years if not more!

Now, based on the GoE upcoming final report, if external support to M23 is upheld then the right thing to do will then be, to continue pressure through aid and any other realistic means until an nth GoE report will state otherwise (no external support to armed groups). Meanwhile donors can appoint & adjoin their own experts to work with the GoE & regional structures in order to evaluate good intentions on the ground in a less controversial way.

If rwanda continues to deny supporting M23, it should come clean by allowing neutral experts to assess the situation. In the same way, if the GoE report is said credible then the int'l has the duty to act upon its findings and sanction any entity violating the sanction regime simple as.

Talking about DRC mess in this case is, in my opinion, irrelevant since it is clear that there is external support. Let’s rid the country from the external excuse, first, before shifting focus at what is wrong from the inside. Some have suggested local elections and improving the occurrence of democratic events as a way to further dilute the rigged political culture in this country.

Blaming DRC internal problems when the GoE has confirmed external support (Rwanda) to armed groups (M23) is like condemning a prostitute who has been raped.

Final point, I completely agree with Vincent Harris when he says, the victimhood narrative from kigali needs to change since there are many banyarwanda success stories in DRC and that RDF has been allowed on DRC soil many times, to the big damn of Congolese sovereignty, to deal with any potential threat. There are more than 400 minority ethnic groups in DRC can one imagine what will happen if they all result to take up arms to claim their rights? This double standard is self-defeating and should not be encouraged.


Unknown said...

Rich, thanx for that inspired metaphor of “the unlawfulness of rape even against a prostitute” vis-à-vis this strange logic of “It is fine for Kagame militias to cause mayhem in Congo because its army is weak”. It is just too frustrating that this kind of redundant and circular manner of reasoning is rehashed “ad nauseam” on this blog by the same people. Maybe your imagery will help because it now seems to me that rational reasoning is just a bridge too far for some.

Second, about the maiden rebuttal by Rwanda regarding the GoE report at the UN SC today, let’s say that it is impossible for Rwanda to refute not just the overwhelming evidence but the indisputable reality of their active involvement in the violence in the Kivus. More than that, too much of the UN’s credibility is at stake here; would UN not believe itself (GoE evidence)? Would UN not believe its eyes and ears in the DRC (MONUSCO evidence)? Would UN not see that the suffering of millions of innocent Congolese in the Kivus is now beyond measure? What would be the way forward (peace in the DRC as they declare publicly to work for) , if by some impossibility it didn’t?

P.S.: It is pathetic and so sad for some Africans to rejoice in being the perpetual “efficient” users of Western aid instead of creating conditions of peace and prosperity in their own regions so that Africans (Rwandans and Congolese) can also start giving not just taking from the world! Too sad!

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