Congo Siasa

The Bosco-led mutiny sputters on

While Bosco Ntaganda’s mutiny seems to have largely backfired, with many of the troops re-defecting back to the government, and over a dozen senior officers now under arrest, it is not yet over. While the names and positions of the commanders may seem confusing, the gist of it is this: A hard core of ex-CNDP (and some ex-PARECO) around Bosco has not been dissuaded, and the assassination of a two high-ranking loyalist officers has soured relations further with the national army.

Defections toward Bosco

Over the weekend, several additional officers deserted army ranks to join Bosco in his Masisi fiefdom, including Col Bauduoin Ngaruye. Col Baudouin (ex-CNDP, Masisi) had been the sector commander in Masisi and is known as a staunch Bosco loyalist. Nonetheless, as the mutiny sputtered out, he had come to Goma and had agreed to be redeployed to South Kivu – the army had even given him a new stockpile of ammunition. Then, as he was driving on the road to Bukavu, he took a right instead of following the lake, and ended up joining Bosco – ammunition and all – in Masisi.

In addition, the ex-CNDP former 811th regiment commander Col Innocent Zimurinda (ex-CNDP, Masisi) finally also defected after having been stuck in Goma. He is now also reported to be back in Masisi, although most of his troops – which were based in Kitchanga, northern Masisi – have joined the loyalists and one of his battalion commanders, Col Kashawara, is under arrest. A battalion commander from southern Masisi, Col Mutoni (ex-CNDP), has also joined Bosco with some troops.

Meanwhile, a key player behind the scenes of the mutiny, Col Sultani Makenga (ex-CNDP, Rutshuru) – who used to hold the deputy command position for South Kivu operations – is also the center of some speculation. He is back in Goma, allegedly after having traded insults with his commanding officer Col Delphin Kahimbi. However, his bodyguards took the road along the lake and were ambushed in Nyabibwe. Some are now saying that the ambush was intended for Makenga himself. Makenga is one of the most influential figures in the ex-CNDP leadership.

Assassination of army loyalists

Meanwhile on Sunday,  two prominent loyalist commanders were killed during an ambush on the border between Walikale and Masisi territories: Col Chuma Balumisa and Col Kamatimba Pilipili. The two were conducting operations aganst Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi, a local Mai-Mai commander, who is now considered as the culprit. However, some officials with the Congolese army and UN see connections with the Bosco mutiny. While Sheka had previously been allied with the FDLR, on November 20 last year he helped carry out the assassination of Col Sadiki Soleil, a senior FDLR officer, allegedly in coordination with ex-CNDP and perhaps Rwandan officers. He does not have many troops left under his command, and several Congolese army officers told me he did not have either the interest or strength to carry out such an ambush alone.

In addition, according again to Congolese army officers, some of the ex-CNDP troops who were in Chuma’s entourage were not hurt in the ambush and may have even defected to Sheka afterwards.

Some (just some) ex-CNDP troops leave the Kivus

For some years, a key obstacle to army reform has been the reluctance of some Kivu-based armed groups – the CNDP and FRF in particular – to be deployed outside of their home region. This is why the announcement that up to 1,000 troops were being sent to the West of the country on Monday came as welcome news to many.

But the joy was perhaps premature – when details came into the Congo Siasa newsroom (that spacious, bustling suite), it appears that only 50 ex-CNDP troops were part of the 800 soldiers who left. It included three senior ex-CNDP officers: Col Mulomba (Hutu, Kalehe), Col Santos (Mugogwe, Masisi), Col Shimita Hassan (Mugogwe, Masisi).

In the meantime, the trial of 14 mutineers will begin in South Kivu in the coming days. That province, as compared with its northern neighbor, is relatively calm at the moment.

What can we make of these developments? That the mutiny is not yet over. If new officers are defecting to join the mutineers, either Bosco must not be as isolated as he seems (again, the Congolese army is pointing fingers at Kigali) or the new mutineers must feel that the prosecutions left them with no choice, as they would too have been arrested or been left without a support network, as many of their allies are now being tried.