Congo: Whack A Mole



Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

 February 20, 2013: How to keep peace in the Congo where there isn't any peace? The UN has tried to deal with this question since the 1960s. The Congo’s enormous size, lack of infrastructure, ethnic complexity, and shortage of technically trained personnel has repeatedly frustrated international peacekeepers. For that matter, it has frustrated every Congolese government, including the old Belgian colonial government. The endemic destructive corruption exacerbates every other political, economic, social, and geographic challenge. The M23 rebel movement in the eastern province of North Kivu provides a case in point. The leaders of M23 claim they rebelled because the current government, led by President Joseph Kabila, failed to comply with important elements in the agreement. For example, the government failed to provide the civil service and military jobs it promised. Why?  Bureaucratic corruption and tribal rivalries (ethnic component) are the most fundamental reasons for the government’s failure. The lack of infrastructure and technically competent personnel also play a role. The Congolese Army is a hodge podge, consisting of a few brigades loyal to the Kabila government (these are deployed throughout the Congo, but special attention is given to the capital, Kinshasha), a couple of counter-insurgency battalions (being trained by either the UN, EU training teams, or US AFRICOM), and a poorly organized collection of ill-trained soldiers and former rebel militiamen. Some of the rebel militia units were not demobilized but were incorporated whole-cloth into the Congolese Army. On short notice an entire battalion can defect and become, once again, a rebel militia.

UN Security Council resolution 1925 tasked the current UN force in the Congo, MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo), with concluding military operations in the eastern Congo, with particular emphasis on South and North Kivu provinces and Orientale province. Like the Kivus, Orientale confronts several rebel groups and is also subjected to Lord’s Resistance Army attacks on unprotected villages. The LRA threat was one reason the Security Council specified another task: improving the Congolese government’s ability to protect Congolese civilians. To accomplish that MONUSCO was also tasked with helping the Congolese government consolidate its control of Congolese territory. Now think about it. This task amounts to nation building in the broadest sense, the consolidation of state authority throughout the territory claimed by the state. MONUSCO still has a very large force in the Congo, 17,700 peacekeeping troops and 1,400 international police officers. However, to consolidate state control over the Congo would require a much larger force, on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers supported by several hundred thousand construction workers. The mission assigned is impossible. This broaches a discussion of what is possible. Several non-governmental organizations have long urged the UN to focus on resolving local issues. The NGOs mean local. Based on their own experience in sub-Saharan Africa the NGOs argue that settling village to village disputes and settling tribal and clan disputes is the best way to keep the peace – in other words, creating small zones of peace. This has been called the “mosaic” approach to peace-making. Kenya and several NGOs used this method in southern Sudan to settle disputes between Nuer and Dinka tribes. The peace theory crowd (yes, this group exists) call it local intervention or local level intervention. The UN has approached the Congo situation at the nation-state level (eg, dealing through whatever government is in Kinshasha) or by focusing on regions in the Congo (eg, the current MONUSCO mission in the Kivus and Orientale). According to the “local peace first” crowd, the UN’s focus on holding national elections was a mistake and indicative of its focus on national peacekeeping.  (Austin Bay)

Meanwhile, in the south (Katanga province) tribal rebels and bandits are becoming more active. The rebels want an independent Kantanga, which possesses enormous mineral riches. The rebels believe, with some justification, that the national government steals most of the taxes levied on the mining companies.

February 19, 2013: The UN again claimed that the M23 rebels were assisted by Rwanda and Uganda and because of that another M23 offensive is possible. Rwanda and Uganda deny the accusations.

February 14, 2013: Over 8,500 Central Africa Republic (CAR) refugees have fled into the Congo in the last week. The refugees began arriving on February 7, as fighting broke out near the town of Mobaye. Pro-CAR government forces clashed with the Seleka coalition rebel group.

February 10, 2013: Police arrested the commander of the Union of Revolutionary Forces of the Congo (UFRC) rebel organization. Authorities identified the commander as Gustave Bagayamukwe Tadji.  The UFRC announced in January that it intended to overthrow the government of President Joseph Kabila. Bagayamukwe was arrested in South Kivu province.

February 8, 2013: South African police arrested 19 Congolese rebel operatives who were trying to procure weapons and communications gear in South Africa.  The rebels had also acquired a farm near the town of Modimolle and were preparing to turn it into a training facility. Government prosecutors said that police had infiltrated the group. According to investigators, the group wanted to buy rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 5,000 AK47s. It was also seeking surface to air missiles satellite telephones. The group had held several meetings in various cities in South Africa, including Johannesburg.

February 7, 2013: The new peace agreement mediated by the UN remains unsigned. However, today the M23 rebel group and the Congolese government indicated that they are discussing reaching a final peace settlement by the end of February. In the meantime, M23 and government agreed to live by the March 23, 2009 peace agreement. That is where M23 takes its name, the March 23rd Movement. The government signed that agreement with the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) militia. Most of M23’s fighters belonged to the CNDP.

February 6, 2013: The on-going delay in signing the peace agreement with M23 involved disagreements over the process among several of the nations involved in the negotiations. The UN emphasized that there was no disagreement over the goals of the peace agreement. The peace agreement was supposed to have been signed on January 28. The deal reportedly gives South Africa a major role in insuring that the agreement is implemented.

February 5, 2013: Uganda urged regional leaders to go ahead and sign the UN brokered M23 peace agreement. Eight countries are involved in the UN negotiations: Uganda, the Congo, Rwanda, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Burundi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Angola.

February 2, 2013: The UN reported that the Union of Revolutionary Forces of the Congo (UFRC) rebel group presents a new threat to the government. In mid-January the newly-formed UFRC announced that it intended to overthrow the Congolese government and try President Joseph Kabila for treason. The UFRC also accused the Kabila government of reneging on the March 23, 2009 peace agreement. This is the chief complaint of the M23 rebel movement. The UFRC is headquarters in the capital of South Kivu province, Bukavu.

January 29, 2013: Diplomats reported another hold up in signing the UN-sponsored M23 peace agreement. The agreement includes the creation of the so-called Neutral International Force of around 2,500 soldiers which would deploy in the eastern Congo. The force would not actually be neutral. Its mission is clearly intervention. It will be deployed to prevent rebel groups from seizing territory. The force would be added to the current UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO.  In early January several sources reported that the NIF would have 4,000 troops assigned.

January 26, 2013: The government claimed that the M23 rebel movement is once again threatening the capital of North Kivu province, Goma. The government said that M23 has failed to withdraw to a point 20 kilometers north of Goma, which it had agreed to do.

January 21, 2013: African diplomats (through the African Union and UN) have confirmed that several countries have been approached about providing troops for the proposed Neutral International Force (NIF) that would be deployed in the eastern Congo. There’s a hold-up, however, in creating the force. At least one country has said it want to retain direct command and control of its forces instead of committing them to a joint command.

January 14, 2013: The government of Rwanda continues to insist that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia is rebuilding and regrouping in the Congo. The FDLR is run by former Hutu radicals who participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan government recently claimed that it has evidence that the FDLR has 4,000 new recruits and intends to train them in North Kivu province. Rawanda has also accused the Congolese Army of providing direct support for the FDLR. Rwanda has claimed that the Congolese Army knows the FDLR has elements in the town of Mudja, Rusayo, and Kanyati (North Kivu province). There are also reports of FDLR activity in the capital of North Kivu province, Goma. The M23 rebel group briefly took control of Goma but withdrew.

January 8, 2013: The M23 rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire in North Kivu province. M23 commanders said they would support a new round of peace talks with the Congolese government. The commanders also said that one goal of M23 is to improve the living conditions of all Congolese living in the eastern Congo. M23 has accused the government of ignoring the eastern Congo.


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