Tensions escalate in the Kivus

Following my last blog posting, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Bosco Ntaganda’s position in Goma has been reinforced by a group of soldiers that was based with the former commander of his bodyguard unit,  Lt Col Mugabo, in Kibumba (just north of Goma). Goma town is full of rumors (or reports, depending on your ontological approach) of a new rebellion kicked off, led by Bosco, but that conclusion is still premature, as most of the ex-CNDP troops are still deployed in the field.

More worrying are a series of clashes between Congolese army officers and ex-PARECO units in South Kivu. The Hutu ex-PARECO officers are suspected of being in touch with Bosco and, in general, regular army officers resent them for their influence, affluence and power.

Yesterday, Col. Kifaru, a Hutu ex-PARECO officer who became notorious last year after his troops were accused of mass rape in Nakiele (Fizi territory), was allegedly ambushed in Kabamba (Kalehe territory) on his way from Goma to Bukavu. While the immediate area is controlled by Col. Biyoyo, an ex-CNDP commander, the local battalion commander is seen to be a Kinshasa loyalist. The CNDP and PARECO are now trying to figure out what happened and what the motive might have been. Col. Kifaru is himself reported to be badly injured.

But they are unlikely to see this as a local initiative by a disgruntled commander. The same morning, regular army commanders fell out with a ex-PARECO officer, Col. Burimasu, in Lulimba (Fizi Territory), reportedly over his weapons stockpile. Fighting ensued and Col. Burimasu is said to have fled.

Given that the attacks happened in South Kivu, fingers will be pointing as Col. Delphin Kahimbi and Gen. Patrick Masunzu, the commanding officers in the province.

We will have to wait and see what happens. Some see this as a push by Kinshasa to clamp down on the pernicious parallel chains of command in the Kivus. Now that elections are over, they are free to do so. Others see this as an escalation of local tensions between commanders. It is unclear how this will develop – as a Congolese friend once told me: “La guerre c’est comme la bière. Nous savons comment ça commence, mais personne ne sait comment ça se termine.”