A cash for weapons operation began in North Kivu this past week. It is being led by an organization called PAREC, which is run by the Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, a close associate of President Kabila. The idea: bring us your weapons and we give you money - $50 for an AK-47. The operation was funded by the provincial government to the tune of $10,000.
It is was a highly orchestrated production, with Kabila's twin sister Janet in attendance, and two national MPs contributed several hundred dollars to the operation.
The result? In Kitchanga, the former capital of CNDP-held territory, only 14 weapons were handed over after local leaders had told them not to hand over their guns. The population there is heavily militarized after Governor Serufuli distributed thousands of weapons in 2001-2003 (although Gen Bosco declared that it was a huge success). In Goma, however, the population handed over 986 weapons in just 3 hours. But what kind of weapons: according to people who were there, barely a single AK-47. Instead, a lot of old, decrepit rifles, the kind that poachers use, barely functional. A lot of doubts that this was for real. "They needed to show something for the president's sister," one Congolese soldier who attended the ceremony told me. Others have suggested that this has been a way to pay off disgruntled CNDP officers after they failed to get positions in government. Nonetheless, some national newspapers (close to Kabila) hailed it a huge success and proof that peace had come to the eastern Congo.