Congo Siasa

As talks continue in Goma, the fate of Bosco is in the balance

After a series of meetings involving the Congolese government, Rwandan officials and ex-CNDP soldiers, there is still no clear idea of what compromise will be struck to end the stand-off between Bosco Ntaganda and Kinshasa. At least it seems that both sides have decided for the time being to talk their differences out instead of fighting.

While the results of the talks are still a matter of speculation, some information is seeping out.

The negotiations began in serious on Sunday, when Congolese government officials – represented by Kalev Mutond, the head of national intelligence – met with Rwandan counterparts in Gisenyi. The Rwandans were reportedly represented by their army leadership, including Gen. James Kabarebe (Minister of Defense) and Gen. Charles Kayonga (Chief of Staff of Armed Forces). They reportedly discussed the implementation of the March 2009 agreement, which had led to the integration of the CNDP and other armed groups.

Then, on Monday, the Congolese delegation was bolstered by the head of the land forces, Gen. Amisi, the head of Amani Leo operations, Gen. Amuli, as well as President Kabila himself. Talks continued late into the night at Cap Kivu hotel on the lake.

After reports of his disappearance from town, Gen. Bosco turned up again in Goma. Contrary to what was reported here previously, several reports from people close to the CNDP suggest that he had fled into Rwanda.

From what information has leaked, it seems that Bosco will emerge weakened from this confrontation, if perhaps not in handcuffs. According to one version, his ally Col. Baudouin Ngaruye will switch positions with ex-CNDP Col. Innocent Kabundi, the former leaving the command of Bosco’s Masisi stronghold and going to Kamituga in South Kivu. This would undermine Bosco’s control over the central Masisi highlands, his traditional bastion.

Others suggest that Bosco will be forced to step down from his Amani Leo command position and retreat to Masisi, while someone else (Col. Sultani Makenga’s name is often cited, although Kabila may like to see Col. Innocent Gahizi play this role) would take control of the ex-CNDP troops in the Congo.

No one has suggested that the strength of the ex-CNDP itself will be seriously questioned, although its allied ex-PARECO networks may fray. The Hutu armed group, from which many officers also defected in the last weeks, has seen at least one of its leading officers, Col. Kifaru, badly wounded in the fighting, and others surrender.

Meanwhile, the situation in South Kivu appears to have been brought more or less under control. At the beginning of the altercations, several leading army officers close to Bosco had defected, including Col. Bernard Byamungu (ex-CNDP), Col. Saddam Edmond (ex-PARECO) and Col. Nsabimana (ex-PARECO), along with 400-500 troops. Most of those troops have now rejoined the army, leaving those officers with just under a hundred troops in the high plateau overlooking the Rusizi Plain.

To the north of Goma, the ex-CNDP officers who had seized the border town of Bunagana over the weekend, were forced to flee into Uganda due to pressure from the Congolese (and some say Rwandan) army. Led by Col. Innocent Kaina, several officers were reportedly apprehended by the Ugandan security forces.

The logic of the 2009 peace deal seems to be holding for now. In other words, as long as the Congolese and Rwandan government can come to an agreement on the Kivus, the ex-CNDP forces will remain semi-integrated in the army. However, what the terms and form of this integration are, and whether Bosco will remain part of it, is yet to be seen.