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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Diplomatic dance, military advance

The M23 rebellion took control of Rutshuru town for the second time in three weeks yesterday, sending Congolese soldiers running. While the army ran out of supplies, allegations immediately also began trickling in of Rwandan - and even Ugandan - support to the rebels, which had allowed them to break through the MONUSCO and army defenses after a morning of heavy fighting.

Which begs the question: What has happened after on the international stage since the publication of the UN Group of Experts report, implicating Rwanda in support to the M23?

The main shift was initially led by the United States, a longtime friend of Rwanda. Following the publication of the UN report, the US denounced Rwandan involvement and, on July 21st, announced it was cutting $200,000 in military aid to Kigali, and would consider other cuts in aid, as well. Other reprimands have been less public: the canceling of a visit to Kigali by Gen. Hamm, the commander of Africom, as well as a visit by a delegation led by Deputy National Security Advisor, Michael Froman. In addition, the US government had put in several phone calls to Kigali, including one by an Undersecretary of State to President Kagame (it was supposed to be Secretary of State Clinton, but it didn't work out due to scheduling issues.) In early July, Special Advisor on the Great Lakes Barry Walkley visited Kigali himself and met with Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, denouncing Rwandan support to the M23.

While Bill Clinton was effusive in praise for Rwanda last week during a visit, as was Tony Blair, very few western embassies in the Rwandan capital still doubt that their hosts are supporting the M23. This week, there were reports from diplomats that the United Kingdom, which in general has been much less aggressive that the US, has delayed the disbursement of development funds for two months, while the African Development Bank is doing the same with $38.9 million in budgetary aid, and the Dutch government with $6.1 million. This is more than symbolic; while the funds may eventually be disbursed, the delays will seriously mess up budget flows.

Almost more important than aid is Rwanda's upcoming seat on the UN Security Council, which will give the country substantial diplomatic leverage. According to diplomats present at the African Union summit in Addis a few weeks ago, Kabila - who almost never attends these summits - had gone to the meeting planning to rally member states to strip Rwanda of this seat. He would have had to convince eastern and southern African states, but South Africa was apparently ready to back him, as were countries like Angola and Zimbabwe. However, at the summit, Kagame was able to convince Kabila to back away from such drastic measures and leave time for diplomacy. The two are scheduled to meet again in Kampala on August 6 and 7 to discuss the possibility of a neutral military force. Most diplomats I have spoken to, however, think such a force would take a long time to muster, giving time for a further escalation of the conflict. Rwanda will officially be elected to the Security Council during the UN General Assembly in September.

So a lot has happened on the diplomatic circuit. And yet, the pressure on Rwanda has not been able to stem the fighting. Besides the M23 advances, other armed groups are also stirring, including in the foothills of the Ruwenzori mountains (Beni territory), as well as in Ituri.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

US State Department's Statement on Rwanda

The US State Department has just released a statement, obtained by Reuters, on cutting military aid to Rwanda. It's a symbolic amount of $200,000, but I think this is the first time Washington has cut aid to Kigali for political reasons. 

Below is the entire statement, and you can see Rwanda's response here, saying they will discuss the report line-by-line with the UN Group of Experts in Kigali next week:

In light of information that Rwanda is supporting armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Department of State has decided it can no longer provide Foreign Military Financing (FMF) appropriated in the current fiscal year to Rwanda, considering a restriction imposed by the 2012 appropriation act.   

As a result, we will not obligate $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 FMF funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers.  These funds will be reallocated for programming in another country.

We will continue to provide assistance to Rwanda to enhance its capacity to support peacekeeping missions.

The Department continues to assess whether other steps should be taken in response to Rwanda’s actions with respect to the DRC. 

The United States government is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23.

The United States has been actively engaged at the highest levels to urge Rwanda to halt and prevent the provision of such support, which threatens to undermine stability in the region. 

Restraint, dialogue, and respect for each other’s sovereignty offer the best opportunity for Rwanda and the DRC, with the support of their partners, to resume the difficult work of bringing peace and security to the broader region.

We are encouraged by the ongoing high-level dialogue among the states of the Great Lakes region, and we join the Security Council in taking note with interest of the communiqué issued by the eleven member states of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on July 12. 

Developing a disciplined and unified army as part of a comprehensive security sector reform process remains critical to the stabilization of the DRC. 

We support efforts to bring to justice alleged human rights abusers among the mutineers, including Bosco Ntaganda, who is the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant. We are concerned by reports that the mutineers have forcibly recruited child soldiers. 

Hilary Fuller Renner 
Bureau of African Affairs 
U.S. Department of State

Who are the Raia Mutomboki?

While international media, including myself, have been poring over reports about the M23 rebellion, a far deadlier insurgency has been stewing in the lowland jungles a hundred kilometers to the west. There, along the border between North and South Kivu, a series of massacres has killed hundred of civilians since the end of last year in revenge attacks between FDLR and Raia Mutomboki militia. Between May 9 and 25 alone, the United Nations suggests that 98 civilians may have been killed.

Then, on Tuesday this week, the Raia took control of Walikale town, 150 km to the west of Goma, only to be kicked out several days later by the Congolese army. (See map below with very rough areas of influence of Raia Mutomboki)

Which begs the question: Why? And: Who is the new nebulous group, dubbed the “Outraged Citizens” in Swahili?

The Raia Mutomboki first appeared on the scene in 2005 in southern Shabunda territory, a good hundred and fifty kilometers south of the scene of the current fighting. The trigger was a massacre of 12 civilians by the FDLR in March 2005 in the jungle village of Kyoka, in Wakabango I (Shabunda). While FDLR abuses in this region were commonplace, this one, carried out with machetes, seemed to be one too many.

In response, an ad hoc local defence group formed, reportedly with the blessing of civil society and customary leaders in the area. While the group remained extremely localized, the name of Jean Musumbu was often cited. Musumbu comes from the BaTali clan of Rega community and is from southern Shabunda. He is reportedly a former officer for the Mai-Mai of General Padiri who integrated the Congolese army in 2003, but became disillusioned and defected back to his home turf. Some also suggest that he is a Kimbanguist minister and a witch doctor, who has experience concocting the magical dawa that makes soldiers invincible to bullets. In any case, his home town of Kabulongo in the Wakabango I chefferie became the epicenter of the Raia Mutomboki movement, which succeeded in driving FDLR out of the area. Youths from villages across Wakabango I came to see Musumbu to ask him for the dawa and to receive training. According to NGO and UN sources, these youths returned home to launch their own self-defense groups with the help of village chiefs, but no centralized structure emerged.

The fact that the movement initially remained extremely localized is crucial to understanding the group – it formed as a self-defense group focused on local grievances, and initially had few links to provincial politicians. Also, Rega society is segmentary, meaning that traditional political authority rarely stretches beyond several villages, and that within each grouping, initiation groups and secret societies play vital roles in regulating social behavior or protecting against outsiders. This further accentuated the decentralized nature of the movement.

Between 2005 and 2008, the Raia remained largely confined to southern Shabunda. They participated in the Goma peace conference in 2008, with two of their leaders, Devos Kagalaba – allegedly the military leader of the movements – and Salumu Kaseke, signing the Acte d’Engagement.

By this time, however, they were largely dormant. They had been relatively successful in driving out the FDLR of Wakabango I.

The second wave of mobilization came during the regimentation process in 2011, when the Congolese army began consolidating its units into regiments to undermine the influence of the ex-CNDP and eliminate ghost soldiers. In January 2011, Congolese army units left Bakisi, the northern chefferie of Shabunda, to merge with other units. Local leaders visited Bukavu to complain about the security vacuum that was quickly being filled by FDLR troops, but the governor told them to wait (although there are reports of the vice-governor, who was Rega himself, visiting Shabunda in February 2011 and telling the population to defend itself).

This is when the customary chiefs of Bakisi, along with demobilized Mai-Mai from the area, began mobilizing young men. It is not clear whether there were any links with the original Raia Mutomboki movement, some 100km to the south, but the chiefs began taking on that name and initiating the youths with dawa. Raia Mutomboki was more like a franchise, a contagious idea, than a centralized organization.

When the Congolese army redeployed to the area in late 2011, its units often collaborated with the Raia against the FDLR, taking advantage of the local militia’s knowledge of the forests there. However, tensions quickly rose between the two sides, especially due to the ex-CNDP troops within the Congolese army that were considered by many Raia as foreigners. The Congolese army clashed with the Raia on several occasions, leading to deaths on both sides.

As the Raia advanced and spread, its tactics became more brutal. They often attacked FDLR dependants, including women and children, mutilating them. FDLR soldiers and officers who deserted have told UN officials that the Raia Mutomboki were their biggest threat in the forests. Given these brutal tactics, it is not surprising that the fighting between Raia and the FDLR often devolves into tit-for-tat massacres of civilians. In late 2011, dozens of people were killed and several villages burned down in the northeast corner of Shabunda. In the first several days of 2012, over 50 people were reportedly killed by the FDLR around Luyuyu, in the same area.

In early 2012, the Raia jumped the dense Kahuzi-Biega national park and began appearing in the Bunyakiri area. Again, it is not clear how this movement occurred or who its instigators were, although there were reports of Rega militiamen appearing in the  largely Tembo-populated areas of Bunyakiri. Several new massacres took place; between March 1-4, Raia killed 32 civilians (mostly FDLR dependents) in Bunyakiri. Between May 7-15, the FDLR retaliated, killing 51 in Kamananga and Lumenje.

In May 2012, the Raia apparently entered a new phase, spreading into North Kivu. This movement may have been linked with the redeployment of Congolese army troops toward the Rutshuru frontline with M23, leaving another vacuum for the FDLR and Raia to fill. Groups linked to the Raia Mutomboki appeared in southern Masisi (largely Tembo) and southern Walikale (largely Kano/Rega). According to local NGOs and humanitarian groups, over a hundred people could have been killed in North Kivu since then in similar massacres. This time, in addition to FDLR dependents, the Raia have also been targeting Congolese Hutu populations, making local leaders worry about a return to the 1993 ethnic violence that consumed Masisi and Walikale.

The southern Masisi militia is also different than the other Raia groups. It appears to be made up of former Mai-Mai under the command of Col. Delphin Mbaenda – former Mai-Mai Kifuafua – who just renamed themselves. Meanwhile, very little is known about the group that took Walikale, other than that they are led by people from the Rega/Kano community, are armed with crude weapons, and say that they will go all the way to Bunagana to liberate the Congo from the M23.

That last bit contradicts some of the allegations making the rounds in Goma recently. Leaders of the Hutu community, in particular, have been saying that the Raia have linked up with M23 and may even be receiving arms and ammunition from them or from Rwanda. The connection had allegedly been made by members of another militia, the Front de défense du Congo (FDC), which has close connections with the M23 and Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, but is also has ties to the Nyanga and Tembo communities of southern Masisi.

These suspicions have not been confirmed, but it indicates what a nest of swirling rumors the region has become of late.

So who are the Raia Mutomboki? There are more questions than answers at the moment. In particular, whether the Raia’s sudden rise in power is due to outside support, and whether they are, as some say, beginning to create more centralized, hierarchical structures. While the M23 link has been suggested by some, and fiercely denied by others, many members of local political elites are sympathetic toward their cause. At a recent workshop we organized in Bukavu, several local politicians were loudly enthusiastic about the Raia, saying that they had achieved what the Congolese army had not (unfortunately with a lot of collateral damage). 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Congo Siasa Etiquette

Readers - I have had a very laissez-faire attitude towards comments on this blog, and I would like to keep it that way. Emotions, however, are running high, and some of the recent exchanges here have been pretty nasty. The last thing I would want is for this site to become a forum for insults or ethnic taunts. So please, stick to constructive and substantive feedback.

I have also made my email available so you can alert me to offensive comments: jason [dot] stearns [at] yale [dot] edu. I don't have time to read all of the comments - sometimes there are over a hundred for a post - so please help me elevate the discourse here.

Merci, asante, melesi, murakoze.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can a new military mission save the Kivus?

Last week, news came over the wire that all the countries of the Great Lakes region had agreed to send a neutral force to attack the M23 and FDLR rebels. Can it be? Are we entering into a new phase of the Congolese crisis?

Maybe, but we should reserve some healthy skepticism. 

First, a few words about the deal itself (it can be read here), which was the result of consultations among members of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The most important points are:

  • The ICGLR will work with the AU and the UN to create a neutral force "to eradicate M23, FDLR and all other Negative Forces in the Eastern DRC; 
  • The Congolese and Rwandan governments should operationalize the Joint Verification Mechanism and open it to other ICGLR member states;
  • The UN should help create a new (old) team of Special Envoys led (again) by Benjamin Mkapa and Olusegun Obasanjo;
  • The ICLGR will set up its own Group of Experts to compile a report (on what?) for the Conference. 

I will skip over some of these points, although some of them, like sending Obasanjo back to the region, have raised many eyebrows. One might also wonder why we need another Group of Experts - is it to fact-check the UN Group of Experts? (Hint: yes).

Of course, the most important decision was the creation of a new military mission. The details are supposed to be hammered out in a bilateral meeting in Uganda on August 7. 

The geo-politics is intriguing: It apparently took a lot of convincing to make the Rwandan government accept to give M23 the same "negative forces" status as the FDLR, and some say the Ugandan foreign minister helped pressure Rwanda into accepting this deal. The South Africans, who are now at the helm of the African Union and have their own axe to grind with Rwanda over the Kayumba Nyamwasa assassination attempt in their country, were also reportedly outspoken. 

In any case, it would indeed be a sight to behold if AU troops were deployed to hunt down M23 officers in the hills of Runyoni. But will this ever happen? 

Deploying such a mission will require political will and deep pockets, two factors that have been in relatively short supply with regards to these questions in the past. As a reminder, the region wanted MONUC to have the role of hunting down the FDLR in its initial mandate, but the UN Security Council demurred. As recent as 2005, an African Union force of 10,000 was tabled to pursue FDLR and other "negative forces" in the region, but it never materialized. 

Given this past, did the ICLGR bite off more than it can chew? Some Congolese diplomats I have spoken with worry that by asking too much, the ICGLR is setting itself up for failure. Why not pursue the more achievable goal of creating mixed patrols out of Congolese, Rwanda and UN troops along the Rwandan border, across which the alleged supply lines for the M23 pass? This could have been set up relatively quickly, whereas a neutral force could take months of not years to deploy, during which time the situation on the ground could change. Was this not a way, these diplomats asked, to win some time for the M23 to advance? 

In the meantime, the diplomatic dance has continued. US Special Advisor Barry Walkley visited Kigali two weeks ago and met with foreign minister Louise Mushikwabo; the message was reportedly stern, and the answer unsurprising. There have also been calls between Washington and Kigali, and the US has cut a symbolic amount of $200,000 in military support to Rwanda, and has canceled a couple high-levels trips to Kigali. However it is less clear whether the visit by British Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell to Kigali was similarly critical.

In the meantime, the situation is changing on the ground. According to several reports, a coalition of Mai-Mai and Raia Mutomboki took control of Walikale this morning. They suggest that Tsheka Ntaberi, a notorious Mai-Mai commander, figured in this coalition. This raises the possibility that the offensive is linked to the M23, as Tsheka has had tight links with Bosco Ntaganda and other ex-CNDP commanders in the past. Also, there are reports from both South Kivu and Ituri that M23 has been intensifying its outreach efforts to armed groups there, as already was documented in the UN Group of Experts report; it is not yet clear how successful these efforts have been.

So back to the initial question: Can a neutral force save the Kivus? Perhaps, although it would be a further militarization of an already militarized approach to the conflict in the region. But more to the point, it is far from sure than such a force will ever materialize. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guest Post: So how do we help the Congo? (Part III)

This is a response by Séverine Autesserre to my previous reaction to her Op-Ed in The New York Times.

 Jason, thanks for offering me a right of response. You and I have already had this debate at least a dozen times, in public and in private. But, as you have told me, it might be informative for the broader public to hear about it. So here is a brief answer.
The way you present my analysis in your post ‘So How Do we Help the Eastern Congo’ is oversimplified. My arguments are distorted, and your presentation misleads the readers. Since you respond to an argument that I did not make, your post is flawed.
For the sake of time, I will refer you and the readers to the intro to my 2010 book The Trouble with the Congo – on which, as you rightly state, the Op-Ed is based:
“The book does not argue that international interveners should have adopted a bottom-up approach to peacebuilding instead of their top-down strategy. Rather, it demonstrates that international actors should have used a bottom-up approach in addition to their top-down strategy. Just as a purely top-down intervention leads to unsustainable peace, […] an exclusively bottom-up strategy would only produce a very fragile and temporary settlement. […] My emphasis on micro-level tensions, and on the absolute need for bottom-up peacebuilding, should not be misunderstood as a dismissal of top-down causes of peace and violence. “ (p. 14)

So yes, explanations for the ongoing violence focused on the role of Rwanda and of elite leaders (such as in your analysis) are valid and they are well supported by events on the ground. I agree that top-down interventions can help assuage some of the ongoing sources of violence. However, the reverse is also true. You cannot sustainably resolve the national and international conflicts unless you resolve the underlying disputes at the local level. Just as top-down manipulation can jeopardize peace achieved at the local level, bottom-up conflicts, if left unresolved, will annihilate successes achieved at the macro level, as has happened multiple times in the past ten years.

Contrary to what you imply when you state that “hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into precisely the kinds of programs [I am] pushing for,” local conflict resolution is hardly a priority for international actors involved in Congo today. The international NGOs that used to support local conflict resolution in the past continue to do so, but in the Kivus they still number no more than a handful. The peacekeeping operation continues to focus on top-down causes of violence, and so do the diplomatic missions and most of the donors. Virtually all of these interveners still consider local violence, including land issues, only when it is related to top-down causes, notably the return of refugees from Rwanda – and, in my opinion, this is one of the central flaws of the STAREC program. In the past few years, there have been a few new bottom-up peacebuilding efforts, such as those of UN Habitat, but the scopes of these are so limited that they could hardly be said to represent a shift in the overall strategy.

All in all, your position and mine are not as opposed as you picture it in your post, and my arguments are crucial if we want to go beyond the surface in our analyses. While you focus on macro-level events – and, again, I have always emphasized that they too matter – I focus on the importance of grassroots causes of violence because policy and scholarly writings have so far largely ignored them. Thus, your criticism of my work seems to be quite off-target. I can think of many interesting debates related to my work, but your objections are not relevant.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guest blog: So how do we help the Congo?

This is a guest post in response to my recent blog titled "So how do we help the Congo?" It is co-authored by Pieter Vanholder, the national director of the Life and Peace Institute in the Congo, along with Deo Buuma, the executive secretary of Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC).

Le travail en RD Congo du Life & Peace Institute (LPI) et de ses partenaires, tels qu'Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), a été assez largement commenté à l'occasion de la publication d'un Op-Ed de la politiste Séverine Autesserre paru dans le New York Times et l'International Herald Tribune datés du 22 juin – chronique ensuite discutée par Jason Stearns sur Congo Siasa. Le débat lancé par ces deux prises de parole est important. Nous souhaitons y contribuer à travers deux précisions : l'une porte sur notre diagnostic quant aux « sources » du conflit en RDC, l'autre porte plus particulièrement sur les tentatives de LPI et ses partenaires pour contourner certaines limites à notre travail mises en évidence par Jason Stearns dans sa réponse à Séverine Autesserre.

Actions locales mais diagnostic global

Premièrement, il nous paraît important de différencier le travail d'identification des « causes du conflit » et le niveau d'action choisi par les ONG de transformation de conflit. Nous pensons qu'il est possible d'« agir localement » avec les communautés des Nord et Sud-Kivu mais de « penser globalement », c'est-à-dire en ayant conscience qu'une partie du contexte socio-politique est déterminé à un niveau supérieur.

Séverine Autesserre a mis en avant les dimensions locales de l'action de LPI et APC (bien qu'il ne s'agisse pas du seul aspect de notre travail, cf. infra), en particulier l'enquête de terrain comprenant près de 800 entretiens dans 18 localités qui a permis de documenter la question des conflits fonciers et des dynamiques de cohabitation en territoire de Kalehe (le rapport issu de cette recherche-action-participative est disponible au téléchargement ici). LPI a également, avec d'autres ONG congolaises telles que le Réseau d'Innovation Organisationnelle (RIO) et Action pour le Développement et la Paix Endogène (Adepae), mené une recherche de quatre ans dans les territoires d'Uvira et Fizi, impliquant près de 600 acteurs et débouchant sur la mise en place de Cadres de Concertation Intercommunautaires et la signature d'accords entre éleveurs, agriculteurs et chefs coutumiers afin d'apaiser les tensions récurrentes entre communautés lors de la période de la transhumance (rapport disponible ici).

Une part très importante de notre travail se fait donc auprès d'éleveurs, agriculteurs, petits propriétaires terriens, paysans sans terres, femmes des zones rurales, chefs coutumiers ou encore réfugiés (en somme, le « track 3 » identifié par le théoricien John-Paul Lederach), sur des thématiques et dynamiques  principalement locales. Mais travailler auprès de ces communautés ne signifie pas que nos organisations situent les causes profondes des conflits en RDC dans les seuls conflits fonciers ou de pouvoir coutumier.

Pour preuve, cette courte analyse de contexte extraite d'une communication présentée début avril dernier par LPI lors d'un panel à l'International Studies Association Annual Convention (version non définitive). La question foncière y est identifiée comme un facteur structurel parmi d'autres :

« The main structural factor explaining the Congolese conflict is the generalised system of political patronage that the DRC has inherited from the pre-colonial period, which was exacerbated during the colonial period and is still reinforced with the lack of democratic process since the independence period. (…)
       With this specific organisation of political power in DRC comes a series of other structural factors, such as the ethnic aspect of competitive politics, which empties much of the democratic process of any real debate or exchange of ideas in favour of simply promoting members of its own community. The manipulation of ethnicity is thus one of the more efficient strategies for attainment and maintenance of power in the DRC. Ethnic solidarity is expressed usually in a negative way, so that rather than creating a basis for social cohesion expressing openness and tolerance, it tends to invade all spheres of society, including the financial and cultural, in an exclusive manner.
       Another structural factor, linked to the above elements, concerns the problem of land across the country and more precisely the duality, if not opposition, between the modern official legal system and its traditional, but often un-official, counterpart. This duality in standards of land management has created a situation of uncertainty and insecurity in relation to land tenure, which is further exacerbated by the weakness of administrative and judicial institutions. (…)
       A final structural factor that mainly arises from the legacy of the above-described system of governance is the general deterioration of the national and regional political system since the 1960’s. This deterioration is primarily characterised by violent and reoccurring ethnically defined conflicts in the Great Lakes region, and the presence of rebellions in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC with secessionist tendencies, political assassinations and coups.
       Next to these structural factors, several secondary causes to the conflict can be identified, such as the presence of a multitude of national and international armed groups, the enormous mineral wealth in DRC, a series of unsuccessful military attempts to solve the conflict, the presence of a large amount of counteracting forces and an overall mentality of impunity. All this must be seen in a context where there is a very weak state, unable to react to any of the challenges cited above. »

LPI et APC ont donc effectivement choisi les communautés comme un des « points d'entrée » possible dans le processus de transformation des conflits de l'Est du Congo : en misant sur les acteurs de la société civile congolaise, nous espérons atteindre également, sous certaines conditions, une partie plus large de la société. Mais cela ne signifie pas que nous estimons que les ressorts de ces conflits soient uniquement locaux.

La deuxième précision que nous souhaitions apporter concerne la place de ces actions locales dans le travail de LPI. L'accent mis par S. Autesserre et J. Stearns sur le caractère très local de l'approche développée par LPI et APC (résumé sous l'étiquette « local reconciliation work ») ne doit pas occulter une autre partie substantielle de notre travail, qui vise les acteurs nationaux et internationaux.

Au-delà de l'approche communautaire

Recherche après recherche, LPI constate que les questions traitées dans les cadres de dialogue et de concertation soutenus par l'Institut ont des ressorts sous-régionaux. Pour ne citer que deux exemples : la question de la transhumance bovine à Fizi et Uvira, citée en exemple par S. Autesserre, ne saurait être comprise sans se pencher sur les politiques de modernisation de l'élevage menées au Rwanda et Burundi. Quant aux questions foncières, elles sont souvent étroitement liées à la question du retour des réfugiés depuis le Rwanda, le Burundi ou la Tanzanie. Plus généralement, on ne saurait ignorer les effets de politiques pilotées depuis Kinshasa ou certains pays étrangers sur le contexte de l'Est.

C'est notamment pour cette raison que LPI, dans son travail d'accompagnement technique et financier, encourage ses partenaires à identifier et travailler avec les « acteurs délocalisés » dans toutes leurs recherches : politiciens, militaires, réfugiés, opérateurs économiques, membres de la société civile, députés ou encore déplacés de guerre ne vivant pas à l'Est mais identifiés comme influents. Ainsi, dans le cas de la recherche sur Kalehe mentionnée ci-dessus, APC a interviewé 75 acteurs délocalisés à Bukavu, Goma et Kinshasa, en plus des réfugiés de Kalehe vivant au Rwanda. Parmi les interviewés figuraient nombre de responsables politiques, députés et officiers militaires. Autre exemple : dès 2007, pour ses recherches sur les problématiques de Fizi et Uvira, quatorze enquêteurs issus des ONG partenaire de LPI se sont rendus à Kinshasa, Kigali et Bujumbura ainsi que les camps des réfugiés tanzaniens de Lugufu et Nyarugusu pour des entretiens (en plus de ceux menés auprès des commandants militaires, chefs de cités, chefs des postes d’encadrement administratif et administrateurs des territoires).

Nous pensons que ce travail peut encore être rendu plus efficace s'il se double d'une stratégie efficace de plaidoyer à destination de ces acteurs nationaux et internationaux. C'est la raison pour laquelle LPI compte ouvrir avant la fin 2012 une antenne à Kinshasa. À travers elle, nous espérons un rapprochement avec les institutions étatiques congolaises ainsi qu'avec certaines institutions sous-régionales.

Reste la question des groupes armés. J. Stearns souligne à juste titre comment l'approche de transformation de conflit « par la base » est limitée au fur et à mesure que les groupes armés s'autonomisent des revendications de leurs milieux d'appartenance, si besoin, en s'insérant dans des réseaux économiques et politiques transnationaux – à noter que cette autonomisation reste souvent relative, car la plupart des « leaders » de ces groupes armés savent continuer à instrumentaliser la question identitaire pour légitimer leurs prises de position. La première nécessité pour les organisations de transformation de conflits est effectivement de comprendre les dynamiques internes de chacun de ces groupes, et la nature de leurs liens avec « la base » ; c'est la meilleure stratégie pour comprendre comment les atteindre, dans le souci d'inclure certains au processus de concertation intercommunautaire.

LPI a débuté ce travail dès 2003 avec la publication d'un travail de recherche d'Hélène Morvan sur la cohabitation des populations civiles avec les combattants maï-mai dans la région de Bunyakiri (rapport disponible au téléchargement ici). La démarche a été poursuivie en 2007-2008 à travers la recherche-action-participative menée par LPI et l'ONG UPDI sur le groupe armé Rasta, alors actif  dans les zones de Nindja et Kaniola (Sud-Kivu) (rapport disponible ici).

La recherche sur Fizi et Uvira se focalisait également en grande partie sur le phénomène des groupes armés – d'où le titre de l'ouvrage auquel elle a donné lieu : "Au-delà des groupes armés : conflits locaux et connexions sous-régionales. L'exemple de Fizi et Uvira (Sud-Kivu)". Elle a conduit les chercheurs de LPI et ses partenaires dans la zone sous contrôle des Forces Républicaines Fédéralistes (FRF), dont les leaders ont été rencontrés à Kamombo et à Mikenge puis inclus lors des phases de restitutions des conclusions de l'enquête aux populations. Les leaders maï-maï Yakutumba et Zabuloni ont également été interviewés plusieurs fois et ont participé aux restitutions et aux rencontres intracommunautaires, en plus de simples miliciens actifs ou des ex-combattants reconvertis à la vie civile.

Acteurs politiques nationaux et internationaux, leaders de groupes armés : on le voit, même si LPI et ses partenaires, dont APC, ne prétendent pas maîtriser parfaitement les complexes jeux et enjeux politiques, économiques et militaires à l'échelle de la sous-région, notre travail n'entend pas se réduire au dialogue intercommunautaire à l'échelle locale.

En somme, nous pensons que comprendre les dynamiques locales de violences ne doit pas conduire à ignorer qu'une partie du décor est planté par d'autres – un « cadre imposé » par un certain nombre de politiciens, diplomates, législateurs, businessmen. Mais nous pensons également qu'à l'inverse, examiner le cadre posé par la législation nationale et par les tractations diplomatico-militaires internationales ne doit pas faire oublier qu'au Congo comme ailleurs, les simples citoyens composent avec leur environnement, contournent ou adaptent les règles, se révoltent ou se soumettent, s'affrontent ou s'allient, pour une variété de raisons qui a souvent peu à voir avec les discussions de ministères ou d’organisations internationales, et qu'il convient plus que jamais d'explorer.

M23 beats a tactical retreat, troubles in Goma

[Blogging will be slow this week, as I am teaching in Bujumbura.]

As readers will know, a lot has happened in recent days. M23 launched a major offensive, taking the strategic border town of Bunagana, as well as Rutshuru, the territorial capital. This advance was an embarrassment for the Congolese army, as 600 of their soldiers fled to Uganda and their commander of the military region, General Vainceur Mayala, reportedly sought refuge with the UN. A UN soldier also died due to an M23 mortar round, and the blue helmets engaged their attack helicopter against the mutineers.  

Mayala, along with another senior Congolese officer, is now reported to be on his way out after over six years as the head of the military region. The Congolese government, meanwhile, has repeated its accusation of Rwandan involvement in M23, saying that whole battalions of Rwandan troops took place this offensive.

Now, the M23 has beat a tactical retreat from the towns it captured, in some places reportedly leaving police forces loyal to them behind. One of their officers told me that this was because some Congolese officers were trying to organize a massacre of the local population there and stick them with the blame; the army denies this.

In Goma, in the meantime, fear and anger spread as people worried about a possible attack on town. In a few places this resulted in xenophobic outpourings. A group of youths at the Université de Goma began attacking Tutsi students, throwing stones at them and calling them names. Police reportedly had to intervene and escort some of the Tutsi student to the neighboring Rwandan town of Gisenyi. Elsewhere, motorcycle taxi drivers grouped together to attack Tutsi, as well.

The M23 has accused Governor Julien Paluku of being behind this; the victimization of Tutsi has been one of their main justifications for leaving the army and starting a new rebellion. Governor Paluku's people have retorted that M23 is cynically paying people to harass Tutsi, so as to have a pretext for their rebellion. The presence of large numbers of motorcycle taxi driver could be an indication of some sort of organization behind this, as in some places up to 80 motorcycles allegedly gathered to harass Tutsi.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fact-checking the M23 rebellion

Over the past weeks, a lot of accusations have been thrown around regarding the conflict in the Kivus. Let's take a closer look at some of them:

The M23 rebellion is the result of the international community pressing for Bosco Ntaganda's arrest.

Not really. The real reason behind the M23 mutiny/rebellion is Kinshasa's desire to get rid of the ex-CNDP parallel chains of command in the Kivus. The CNDP - Gen. Laurent Nkunda's armed group - had been integrated into the Congolese army in 2009 through a deal brokered by the Rwandan government. That deal proved providential for the ex-CNDP, as they received top positions in the operational command, with around 20 per cent of senior positions in South Kivu (I don't have figures for North Kivu), along with control over smuggling and taxation rackets (often in complicity with non-CNDP). Other, non-CNDP officers were resentful of this arrangement and have been sending signals since at least last year that they want to break up these ex-CNDP networks. So when pressure piled up in March to arrest Bosco it provided the trigger, but not the underlying cause, for the mutiny.

(Another myth is that Kabila called for Bosco's arrest in April in Goma. He said, in Swahili: "There are a hundred reasons why we could arrest him," but never explicitly called for his arrest. Since then, however, the governor of North Kivu has called for his arrest.)

The M23 rebellion was formed because Kinshasa had not lived up to its end of the March 23, 2009 agreement.

This is a bit disingenuous. The M23 are called thus because they claim that all they want is the March 23, 2009 agreement with the Kinshasa government to be implemented. (As a reminder, here and here are the terms of the deal.) It is true that there were shortcomings - more could be done to promote the repatriation of Congolese refugees from Rwanda, although the issue is complex. There certainly were tensions and insults traded between ex-CNDP and other FARDC commanders, and the implementation committee had not met in many months.

But to say that the ex-CNDP did not receive their proper salaries is a bit rich, given that many ex-CNDP officers benefited royally from their deployments to mining areas and their control over smuggling rackets. Bosco in particular became rich through smuggling minerals across the border; his men even burglarized banks in Goma in broad daylight.

As for the operations against the FDLR, which the M23 claim had been insufficient, the past three years had seen major advances. According to the UN, 4,914 FDLR combatants returned home via MONUSCO between 2009 and February 2012, with almost as many dependents. That could be anywhere between 50 and 75 per cent of all FDLR troops, although it does not account for fresh recruitment and the original estimates for the FDLR strength may have been slightly off.

In addition, the Congolese government has continued to allow a Rwandan special forces company of around 200 soldiers to maintain a base in the eastern Congo (bizarrely, until today) and conduct operations against the FDLR. These, again, have been very successful (although often at a great humanitarian cost) - with their help, the FDLR Chief of Staff Col. Mugaragu was killed, as were the influential battalion commander Col. Kanzeguhera (aka Sadiki Soleil) and several other important officers.

There were certainly problems with the integration of the ex-CNDP and insincerity on both sides. But those problems should have been solved at the negotiation table, not on the battlefield.

Allegations of anti-Tutsi discrimination are just a pretext for Rwandan meddling.

Slow down, this isn't quite so simple. There is no doubt that deep resentment and prejudice persists against the Tutsi community in the eastern Congo. And there have been many incidents of abuse against Tutsi civilians and soldiers over the past years, ranging from summary execution to torture and hate speech. All communities in the eastern Congo have experienced abuse, but the Tutsi perception of discrimination is accentuated given their particular history. This fear and ethnic solidarity is very real.

But allegations of anti-Tutsi discrimination are not always well-founded and have at times been manipulated. Since the mutiny began, there have been accusations of anti-rwandophone attacks, particular in Masisi. While there have not been exhaustive investigations, the UN and international NGOs have looked into these allegations by sending teams to the field and have not been able to to find proof of systematic abuse (there appear to have been isolated cases of rape and murder, which are reprehensible, but not widespread). In particular, the allegation voiced both by the Rwandan government and the M23 that 43 ex-CNDP Tutsi were killed in Dungu during anti-LRA operations has not been corroborated by either Congolese civil society or international NGOs based there. There have indeed been Tutsi and Hutu civilians arrested by the Congolese army and intelligence services under suspicion of collaboration with M23, and some of these civilians may have been beaten. Investigations are ongoing.

It is worthwhile pointing out that many of the units deployed against the M23 in the Mushaki-Kilolirwe part of Masisi were initially from the 601st battalion, which included many Tutsi and Hema officers at the company level. Also, the sector commander who took over from the M23 in Masisi is Col. Innocent Kabundi, a Tutsi himself from Masisi, and many of the staff officers commanding operations in North Kivu are Tutsi (Col. Jonas Padiri, Col. Innocent Gahizi, Col. Aaron Nyamushebwa, etc.).

The US government delayed the UN Group of Expert's report from being published.

Yes, although the US government was divided on this matter. According to several sources within the State Department - in Washington, Rwanda and the Congo - the outlier was Ambassador Susan Rice, the US Permananent Representative to the United Nations.  She had some misgivings about the information in the report and especially whether this was the best way to air these allegations, thinking it would be best to address this behind closed doors to avoid an escalation. Almost everybody else in the State Department, including the embassies in the field, as well as Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, agreed that the addendum to the report should be published.

The Congolese army is collaborating with the FDLR in their offensive against the M23.

This is an allegation to Rwandan government has made, largely in private. There is no hard proof so far to substantiate this. The most serious claim was the visit of FDLR Col. Pacifique Ntawunguka (aka Omega) to Goma in May, allegedly to meet with Congolese Gen. Didier Etumba and to receive money to fight the M23. Other allegations have been made of suspicious troop movements toward the front in Runyoni. Also, this past week an FDLR delegation visited Goma from Brussels, as reported in Rwandan newspapers. According to several sources in Goma, this delegation had been organized by a Norwegian NGO to help sensitize the FDLR, but were arrested by the Congolese army once they were there. It is not clear whether there was some ulterior motive to their visit.

While the Congolese army has collaborated with the FDLR in the past - most recently in 2008 - there has not yet been independent verification of any systematic collaboration against the M23.

The M23 mutiny is not the most serious conflict in the east; we should focus our attention elsewhere.

Yes, while the M23 has the most significant geopolitical implications, the most serious humanitarian situation in April and May was the fighting between Raia Mutomboki along the border between North and South Kivu. Hundreds have been killed there since late last year and tens of thousands displaced. The Rwandan government has pointed this out, suggesting that we should focus our attention there.

But here, again, it may well be more complicated. Some of the armed groups active there - in particular the Forces pour la défense du Congo (FDC) and Sheka Ntaberi's Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC) - have direct ties with Bosco Ntaganda and perhaps even Kigali (see the Group of Experts' report here). There are now allegations, which have not been substantiated, coming from civil society and the Congolese government, that similar ties exist with the Raia Mutomboki. That would be strange, given the extreme anti-rwandophone bent to the group, but these kinds of alliances contre nature have popped up previously.