Democratic Republic of
the Congo (formerly Zaire)
November 25, 2008: Rebel general
Laurent Nkunda now proposes that his forces be merged into the Congolese army.
November 23, 2008: Some army troops
looted a large refugee camp outside Goma, after a confrontation with UN
peacekeepers. As a result of this, refugees threw stones at UN vehicles,
protesting the inability of the UN to protect them.
November 22, 2008: Rebel general
Laurent Nkunda has 6,000 fighters under arms. This is a strength increase of at
least 1000 over figures available earlier this year. Eighteen months ago
Nkunda's militia (now called the National Congress for the Defense of the
People, or CNDP) had an estimated 4,000 fighters. Figures for the Rwandan
Hutu-led FDLR are even murkier, though 3,000 crops up and one source reports 3,500.
As for other militias – make a guess. Mai-Mai organizations are little more
than bandit gangs. They had a "hard core" cadre. Other fighters come and go.
This is why "several thousand" is likely the best estimate for the strength of
Mai-Mai militias operating in eastern Congo. Evidence is piling up that the
CNDP offensive has scattered the Mai-Mai, which is what usually happens when
Mai-Mai militias engage in serious fighting. The FDLR and CNDP have political
and tribal agendas. The Mai-Mai have tribal connections and some no doubt have
political affiliations, but the comment "they are in it for the banana beer"
isn't far from the truth. The Mai-Mai type militias are in it for the pay and
November 20, 2008: The situation in eastern Congo remains
chaotic – and so do the various reports. Now a Mai-Mai militia officer alleges that
UN soldiers are allied with Laurent Nkunda's CNDP. The Mai-Mai said that MONUC
forces and fighters from the CNDP fought them in the villages of Katoro and
Nyongera (North Kivu province). There is no independent confirmation of the
claim and quite a claim it is. The UN peacekeepers usually treat the Mai-Mai as
gangs – which they are. Nkunda claims the Mai-Mai in his area are
"pro-Congolese government." A subsequent UN report did say that UN soldiers
fired at a Mai-Mai militia group in the area after the militiamen fired on a UN
patrol. Shooting at Mai-Mai who are shooting at peacekeepers is well within
MONUC's rules of engagement in eastern Congo. In fact, MONUC allows its forces
to take offensive action against rogue militias.
November 19, 2008: Laurent Nkunda's
rebel forces claim they have withdrawn from forward positions near Kanyabayonga
and Kiwanja (north of Goma). This is supposed to set the stage for a new round
of negotiations. The term "rebel forces" is more accurate than simply saying
CNDP fighters. Observers have identified at least one Congolese Tutsi militia
that is cooperating with the CNDP but isn't part of the CNDP.
November 18, 2008: November 20, 2008:
The UN is considering increasing troop strength in Congo (in the MONUC force)
by 3,085 peacekeepers
General Laurent Nkunda said that he
will consider a withdrawal from some positions in North Kivu as a demonstration
that he is "committed to peace initiatives."
November 17, 2008: Congo President
Joseph Kabila appointed a new commander of the Congolese Army (FARDC). General
Didier Etumba is now army chief of staff. "Low army morale" following defeats
by the CNDP in eastern Congo is one reason the former commander was replaced.
November 16, 2008: Forces loyal to
General Laurent Nkunda attacked Congolese Army units in western North Kivu
province. Nkunda's forces reportedly took control of the town of Rwindi (130
kilometers north of Goma). A UN observer in Rwindi said that Nkunda's forces
had "continued to advance" in the area. The Congolese Army has abandoned a lot
of equipment in the area, including light infantry weapons and ammunition.
Heavy fighting was reported in the town of Ndeko (100 kilometers north of
General Laurent Nkunda has let the UN
create "a humanitarian corridor" in order to supply and (eventually) move
refugees caught in eastern North Kivu province. Nkunda met with a UN
negotiating team in the village of Jomba (near the Uganda border).
November 14, 2008: The UN has
approximately 6,000 peacekeepers in North Kivu province. Approximately 900 are
in and around the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu.
November 13, 2008: Congolese are
telling European reporters that they have seen Zimbabwean and Angolan soldiers
in eastern Congo. One unconfirmed report had Angolan troops in the town of
Kanyabayonga. The Kabila government regards Angola as a close ally. A week ago
one of the "print rumors" mentioned a meeting between the Congolese government
and Angola. There was also a report on November 8 of Angolans operating with
the Congolese Army near Goma. Again, it was an unconfirmed report, but Angola
has provided training assistance to Congolese forces. Sending Angolan advisers
to assist Congolese Army commanders isn't unthinkable, it's likely. Zimbabwe supplied the Congolese government
with troops during the Great Congo War. In exchange, senior officials in
Zimbabwe got to sell trainloads of Congolese minerals. The Zimbabweans were
"mineral mercenaries." There are also rumors of Zimbabweans serving with
Kabila's presidential guard unit. That could be the case. Like a lot of Third
World potentates, Kabila may be "balancing out" his guard unit with a few
well-paid foreigners. Locals always have tribal sympathies.
November 12, 2008: The UN is trying to
find money and permission from the UN membership for more peacekeepers for the
Congo force (MONUC).
November 5, 2008: Angolan military forces are apparently in
North Kivu province. It is more likely that Angolan military advisers are
operating with Congolese Army units. Angola has provided training assistance to
the Congolese Army.