Congo Siasa

Perestroika and the Kivus

Just when you thought there were enough complexities in the Kivus – the ex-CNDP boys (Nkunda’s former armed group) now seem to be fighting amongst each other. Some of the the bodyguards of Colonel Faustin Muhindo (Tutsi, ex-CNDP, the chief of staff of Kimia II, still close to Nkunda) have been complaining of lack of salaries. On Tuesday, 15 of them apparently defected from Goma with a small stock of weapons and headed towards Masisi to join up with Colonel Baudouin, an ex-CNDP officer close to General Bosco Ntaganda. Halfway to Masisi, some other ex-CNDP soldiers allegedly ambushed them, killing two and injuring a few others.

At the same time, there is more news about Bosco regrouping troops around Ishasha (on the DRC-Uganda border), where the population has been panicking. He is allegedly doing this with his cousin, Ngabo Gadi, who is based in Kampala (he’s also the older brother of Colonel Wilson Nsengiyumva, one of the few CNDP officers still loyal to Bosco), along with some of the Ituri militia leaders (such as Floribert Kisembo) to whom Bosco is still close.

All this may be linked to Bosco’s increasing uncertainty about his personal future. The new US envoy for the Great Lakes, Howard Wolpe, said a few days ago that he was “very troubled” by the Congolese’s government refusal to arrest Bosco.

At the same time, humanitarian NGOs in Goma seem to be on alert as emails are sent around regarding a possible imminent breakdown of the integration process; they are considering ratcheting up security precautions.

As I’ve blogged before, I don’t think we are heading towards a collapse of the peace process quite yet. The ex-CNDP commanders have all made quite a bit of money off their integration into the Congolese army – I saw an internal UN estimate a few days ago that says that Bosco’s network alone makes $250,000 a month from taxes on charcoal, timber, vehicles and minerals. The PARECO and especially other Mai-Mai leaders are less happy, but also have less military leverage – they may hold ground in rural areas, continue to fuel a brutal insurgency/counter-insurgency, but won’t overturn the apple cart altogether, especially if the Hutu leaders like Serufuli, Seninga and Kirivita are on board.

The biggest liability is probably the inertia in the political scene. All factions have been waiting for months for new nominations in everything from the local administration to ministers in Kinshasa. They are all getting tired of waiting, and this had fed into a general malaise and scheming by all commanders and politicians. “As usual, Kabila’s policy is: ‘When in doubt, prevaricate,” a UN official told me.

Where are we headed? It’s a bit like the end of the Cold War – the detente between Kigali and Kinshasa has left the region in a strategic vacuum, the divide that overshadowed everything has sharply diminished (but certainly not disappeared), allowing smaller, more parochial interests to proliferate. Intra-Tutsi feuds, small ethnic militias appearing, racketeering – its all pretty confusing at the moment. The balls are in the air, we’ll have to wait to see where they all come down.