Like the United States in Iraq, the United Nations gambled on the penultimate solution of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). However, the DRC remains at risk because of a failure to provide equal importance to disarming over 80,000 former soldiers and militia.
At the weekend, dissident General Laurent Nkunda mounted another attack in North Kivu and presidential challenger Jean-Pierre Bembaâ€™s supporters burned the Supreme Court building last week.
As the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) has previously reported, the immediate threat is blunted by the overwhelming military superiority of 17,000 soldiers of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC), 1200 European Union troops (EUFOR), and the presence of Kabilaâ€™s Republican Guard (GSSP), which is estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers.
The first test is taking place in Kinshasa after pre and post election clashes between President Kabilaâ€™s soldiers and Bembaâ€™s loyal militia. President Kabila on 23 November gave MONUC a 48-hour deadline to move Bembaâ€™s soldiers out of Kinshasa threatening to order the national army to do it by force if not done.
Reportedly fifty soldiers were taken from Kinshasa to Maluku, approximately 80 km, on 24 November and as confirmed by Delly Sessanga, MLC parliamentarian, there are plans to move more troops out of Kinshasa. As the Vice President in the transitional government, Bemba has a right to 100 guards. However, UN military sources confirmed that he has over 600 soldiers at his residence in Kinshasa.
There have been other reports that Bemba might have some 6,000 troops countrywide, most of them based in Equateur and around Kinshasa. EUFOR wants Bembaâ€™s guards integrated and not disarmed because they are part of the FARDC. According to Lieutenant Colonel Fusalba, EUFOR spokesperson, even though the integration and force redeployment are not among their mandates they are trying to find out how to assist MONUC in the process.Â
The DRC National Commission for Demobilization and Reintegration (CONADER) announced on 8 September that even though more than 76,614 ex-combatants had been demobilized some 85,000 ex-combatants still needed to be demobilized. CONADER, which had exhausted its budget of $200 million, has been expecting additional funds in November but none have arrived.
This is an example of the poor coordination of the CONADER with the elections. Surprisingly, even those who were demobilized did not receive the required funds to reintegrate in civilian life as promised. This had been the cause of some violent acts perpetrated by ex-combatants towards the civilians and administrative offices with the actions likely to continue.
On 21 November, in Kalemie, Katanga province, approximately 1,000 ex-combatants protested against the CONADER because they did not receive their arrears as promised. The CONADER office was reportedly smashed by the rioters as confirmed by General Yermos Lokole, the commandant of the First Naval Region.
Daniel Kawata, Director General of CONADER, confirmed there have been violent protests most recently in Mbandaka, Boende, Bumba and Basankusu. This involved demobilized ex-combatants who were expressing their concerns and their dissatisfaction, as they have not yet profited from the agricultural kits given out in the reintegration process. GLCSS believes the main threat in Ituri District is posed by more than15,000 militia who have been disarmed and demobilized but are not successfully integrated.Â A similar problem is reported in most of the DRC provinces.Â
The eastern provinces of the DRC are still subject to insecurity mainly caused by militias who are still active in Katanga, South Kivu, North Kivu and Province Oriental. The Joint Commission for Security Sector Reform has identified the DDR of the 44,000 troops in Ituri, the Kivus, and Katanga as a priority.
It is of a paramount importance however, to start the process of brassage for the GSSP, the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) Kinshasa Garrison, and Bembaâ€™s protection unit in Kinshasa. The brassage of these forces, estimated at 30,000, could serve as a vital example. However, GLCSS believes the process is unlikely to be completed easily and/or soon.Â Some groups are likely to continue resisting disarmament and demobilization. Given the failure to accomplish the promises given to the previous demobilized soldiers, there is a high risk for some demobilized ex-combatants to rejoin the remaining armed groups.Â Â Â
As mentioned above, Eastern DRC has different armed groups which are viewed as a significant security threat. Some of them had indicated they were waiting for the new president to negotiate with them and solve their problems. In Katanga province the Mai-Mai elements, not yet integrated into the FARDC, are still a threat to stability.
Reportedly the region between Pweto, Manono and Mitwaba has attracted particular attention and was considered as the â€˜triangle of deathâ€™. The situation was calmed when Commander Gedeon and his wife surrendered to MONUC before the elections. Commander Gideon was appointed as a colonel in the FARDC. However, elements of non-integrated soldiers are still a security concern in this province.
South Kivu province is still a stronghold of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The militia which is accused of perpetuating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has repeatedly indicated that it expected the new DRC government to help it negotiate with the Rwandan government in order to return home.
Given the role this militia played in the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan government has been consistently indicating that it would not negotiate with the perpetrators of genocide.Â So far, the FARDC and MONUC have failed to disarm this militia which is widely believed to be a serious security threat to the Great Lakes Region.
The FDLR combatants have recently intensified attacks to the population in the areas they occupy. GLCSS military sources confirmed media reports about the attacks. For example, during the night of 11-12 November the militias attacked a village in the Kaniola chiefdom of Walungu, South Kivu province, killing a 20-year old girl, wounding one and abducting six persons.
They also attacked Nyamarege Village some 30km from Walungu Centre and stole livestock. According to Walungu District Administrator, Nicaise Kakwej, although the villages attacked by the combatants are surrounded by positions of FARDCâ€™s Third Integrated Brigade, no army intervention was reported. The commander of the Walungu based brigade, Colonel Taylor Siku, noted that he was aware of the attack but indicated that he was waiting for more detailsÂ Â toÂ Â Â undertake appropriate action.
The recent attacks are interpreted by GLCSS as the strategy used by the militia to reaffirm their existence, and GLCSS expects more attacks from the militia in the coming days. It agrees with Enock Ruberangabo, of the civil society in South Kivu, that the FDLR is an international issue given its involvement in genocide and other crimes against humanity. However, the DRC government has the first responsibility to initiate cooperation with Rwanda and the UN to deal with the issue as the group operates in its territory and yet it failed to disarm the militia.
â€œItâ€™s an international issue. No single person or country can solve the Interahamwe problem. For example, here in south Kivu province there are some areas where the militia is and does not kill people whereas it kills people in other areasâ€. Ruberangabo noted last week.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Another politico-military group, the Solidarity and Progress Front (FSP), is reported in South Kivu. This politico-military movement is led by Amirado Gasuzuguro (president). His vice president is Abasi Kayonga Dada. Its military wing is led by Colonel Bisogo, Chief of General Staff, with General Dunia as his deputy.
The group is operating in the zones of Fizi, Uvira and Mwenga.Â Dada insisted his front is to protect the population whose rights have been denied and that the government cannot chase them from their bases. He added that their group is known in the region and even in Belgium, Canada, UK, France, South Africa and elsewhere. According to Dada, the FSP controls about 80 percent of Minembwe territory but GLCSSâ€™ reliable sources believe this figure to be an exaggeration.
According to Colonel Bisogo the fighting could end if the government recognizes all the Congolese at the same level without any discrimination. GLCSS does not consider the FSP a strong militia, given the groupâ€™s weakness evident by constantly changing their agenda according to the situation. In other words, it would be easy for the new administration or other politicians to manipulate them as indicated by some GLCSS sources from the region.
In North Kivu province, General Laurent Nkunda has formed his political party, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and said the new administration has to negotiate with him if it needs to control the areas he holds in Masisi and Rutshuru. He recently insisted he is ready to integrate into the regular army depending upon the negotiations held by the new government. He is said to have an estimate of between 1,000 and 2,000 troops.
Military sources indicated Nkunda has been increasing his troops towards the Sake sector. Reportedly Nkunda increased the number of his men in Kimoka, near Virunga Park, about 30 km from the town of Goma nearly two months ago. The increased number of combatants was confirmed by the 8th Military Region commander, Colonel Delphin Kayimbire. He communicated the deployment of the 11th brigade to secure the area but also said there was no intention to provoke Nkundaâ€™s men.
“We received strict instructions from our hierarchy not to take any measures which could provoke them. However, if Laurent Nkunda today decided to attack our positions, we will react.” Delphin cautioned.
Some observers fear there might be other clashes between Nkundaâ€™s non-integrated men and the 11th Integrated Brigade as it happened on 5 August at Sake, and the population lives in fear expecting clashes.
For example, the population appeared frightened when the commander of the 83rd Brigade, Major Innocent Kabundi, who is not yet integrated, appeared in Sake sector, some 27 km South-East from Goma, on 15 November. Kabundi said he was surprised by the behavior of the citizens and the 11th Integrated Brigade, which reportedly reinforced its positions after Kabundi visited because he passed by Sake from Mushaki to reach his unit at Kimoka, four km from Sake.
GLCSS sees four scenarios on Nkundaâ€™s issue:
First, Kabila withdraws the warrant of arrest issued against Nkunda and then reintegrate him in the army and gives him an important military post to be able to peacefully regain some localities of Masisi and Rutshuru territories under Nkundaâ€™s control. This scenario is likely if Nkunda has been threatening to protect himself from being arrested. However, it is difficult since it could be considered as impunity or inspire other warlords who committed war crimes like Thomas Lubanga currently at the ICC to claim for the same position.
Second, Nkunda is demobilized and his political party is registered and he becomes a political figure instead of a military one. This scenario is less likely since being considered a civilian he may lose the influence he had in the military and political arenas.
Third, Nkunda integrates in the army and his political party, CNDP, is registered, and the arrest warrants are not withdrawn. In this case he might join one of the two strong political blocks, the Alliance for Presidential Majority (AMP) or the Union for the Nation (UN). However he may also choose to remain neutral as many other political parties did.
Fourth, both the International community and Kabila decide to forcefully disarm Nkunda. This would be the worse case scenario because it would inevitably bring back the war in the Eastern DRC. In fact, given Nkundaâ€™s background and inclination it is unlikely he will surrender without fighting or a political compromise.
The situation in Ituri District, Province Oriental, was partially resolved by an agreement with Peter Karim, the commander of â€œFront Nationaliste et IntÃ©grationniste (FNI)â€. As previously reported Karimâ€™s FNI was responsible for attacks on FARDC and MONUC, and it had taken seven Nepalese soldiers hostage. Karim and his militia agreed to join the demobilization process and released the Nepalese hostages. Peter Karim and Ngudjoro Mathieu from the Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC) were appointed officers with the rank of colonel in the FARDC.
However, there are reports of continued abuses by Karim and his soldiers. Karim continues to extort money and collect taxes and his militia continues to harass the local populations in the territories of Kpandroma and Nioka, about 150 km Northeast of Bunia. A group of fighters belonging to the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FPRI) has also not given up fighting. This group, under command of Cobra Matata, is one of several militias that have resisted demobilization.Â Â
There is still uncertainty about the position of the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army (LRA) and the talks going on in Juba, Sudan. The rebels are reported to be in the Garamba National forest; however, recent reports indicate that some of the combatants are in Ituri District.
GLCSS believes the presence of the Ugandan rebels in Ituri is a threat to the population. In addition there have been some reports of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Defence Forces presence in the DRC presumably in pursuit of Ugandan rebel groups.Â According to FARDC liaison officer in Ituri Lieutenant Kaba Kalonji, Congolese soldiers clashed with the LRA rebels at Mont Zeu near Uganda.
General Vainqueur Mayala, the FARDC operationsâ€™ commander in Ituri, confirmed the reports over UPDF presence in Ituri. â€œSince Monday (21 November), the UPDF infiltration was reported and confirmed by MONUC, local NGOs and other specialized services,â€ he said. He added that the FARDC deployed more troops at Boga near Semiliki valley since 21 November 2006 and pushed the troops back. According to Petronille Vaweka, Ituri District administrator, two UPDF soldiers were arrested in Kasenyi locality.Â
However, the Ugandan army dismissed the reports and said they cannot enter the DRC without the permission of the Congo authorities. On the contrary, there was confirmation on the increase of their troops along the border.Â In an interview with GLCSS, Major Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF spokesperson, qualified the reports as rumors. â€œWe have not entered the DRC and we have no intention of entering without the approval of the Congo authorities,â€ Major Kulayigye said.
He had previously told the Ugandan New Vision that it was the duty of the FARDC and MONUC to stop Ugandan dissident groups from operating in Ituri. He said the UPDF had increased its patrols near the border because of the presence of LRA, ADF and PRA rebels in Ituri.Â
In summary, four factors push GLCSS to question the long-term DRC security situation. First, MONUC and EUFOR are not a permanent force. EUFOR authorities have said the mission will leave the DRC by December with some units remaining in the DRC until 15 December 2006. MONUC is expected to leave the DRC early next year.
Second, rebuilding the DRC security sectors remains a fiasco of corruption and incomplete efforts. There have been many reports implicating the DRC security organs in human rights violations and other unprofessional behavior. The efforts to build an independent, well-disciplined army did not develop as an internally driven priority and was largely a fiction created by the United Nations and the international community.
Third, there are still crucial issues in demobilization, integration and reintegration processes. With the international communityâ€™s interest and appetite sated by elections, this effort is likely to remain incomplete and be the source of the next conflict.Â
Fourth and most importantly, the well equipped and trained forces of the FDLR and General Nkunda demonstrate the lack of will and focus of the Kabila government to establish a government that even remotely resembles the ideals pushed by the United Nations and the international community. The DRC of today will be the pre-1994 Zaire under Mobutu except with one crucial difference. North and South Kivu remain seized by over 12,000 armed fighters and there are over 80,000 restless ex-combatants waiting for demobilization and maybe as much as 30,000 demobilized combatants who feel cheated.
The international community has congratulated itself on elections but failed in delivering the structure of good governance. At a price tag of nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars alone for elections and demobilization and re-integration, international funding is exhausted.
Regardless of the political statements coming from New York, the United Nations presence is not financially sustainable with growing violence in Chad, Central African Republic, Darfur, and the Horn of Africa and the need to fund and equip other missions. The United States, which contributes 27 percent of all peacekeeping funds, is pumping approximately a billion dollars a year into counter-terrorism programs to the north and east of the DRC and has learned the lesson of lack of value for money of the MONUC mission as part of that strategy.
In addition, both France and the United Statesâ€”two permanent members of the Security Councilâ€”are fixated on the immediate need to secure the Lake Chad oil basin and the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, which unlike the DRC, is a higher and more immediate strategic investment of time and money.
More importantly, the MONUC military forces have demonstrated in recent interviews that they are exhausted with the no-win situation in the DRC. GLCSS believes the UN is at the dangerous stage of a combination of lacking a military and political win and starting a gradual but steady pull-down of forces.
Â The Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies is a London-based think tank with offices in Kigali and Kampala.