Is it the end or the beginning of a rebellion?

Euphoria has been spreading within the Congolese army over the past several days, as its officers declare victory against the mutineers led by Bosco Ntaganda. Over the weekend, their troops took control of key towns in the Masisi highlands, perhaps making this this first time since the beginning of the RCD war in 1998 that Kinshasa might have effective control over this CNDP heartland. The self-congratulatory mood was enhanced by the fact that many Congolese officers have resented the ex-CNDP power and privilege within the army, positions that they obtained precisely because Kinshasa had been unable to defeat them fully before.

While rumors abound, it appears that many of the mutineers have surrendered, as was the case of several dozen around Kitchanga and Kilolirwe, according to the Congolese army; or been arrested, as was the case of Lt Col Djuma and his soldiers, who were captured in South Kivu yesterday. Bosco himself and some of his troops are reported to be in the Virunga National Park, behind the Nyamulagira volcano, while others were sighted close to the Rwandan border.

What comes next? As one might expect, this game is not yet over. In a communiqué signed by Gen. Dider Etumba, the army announced that it was suspending operations until Wednesday to give the mutineers time to surrender. Just a day later, however, a new communiqué was emailed around (using the same email listserv as Nkunda’s CNDP used), announcing a new “current” within the CNDP called M23, a reference to the March 23, 2009 Agreement between the CNDP and the government.

Several things are interesting about this communiqué. First, it accuses the previous CNDP leadership of not overseeing the implementation of the March 23 Agreement (more on that agreement here), so perhaps Senator Mwangachuchu has been fired after just several months as CNDP president. Secondly, it places Colonel Makenga in charge of M23, which appears to be identical to the CNDP, as all officers are ordered to obey only to Colonel Makenga. Which begs the question: What about Bosco? (It also can be perceived as a dig against Colonel Innocent Gahizi, who is the main CNDP officer who has stayed loyal to Kinshasa).

Secondly, the document is issued on a CNDP-ANC letterhead. The ANC was the military wing of the CNDP under Nkunda and has not, to my knowledge, been referenced since the latter’s arrest in early 2009. Moreover, under the March 23 Agreement the CNDP agreed to become a purely political organization and not to get involved in military affairs (it’s soldiers were, officially at least, integrated into the army). So this new movement is supposed to “redynamize the application” of an agreement that this very declaration would appear to violate?

Lastly, and most importantly, it appears that the crisis may not be over. Most of the senior leadership of the mutiny is still at large (Col Baudouin, Col Makenga, Lt Col Zimurinda, Lt Col Kaina, Lt Col Masozera, Lt Col Butoni,…). Since it has lost its foothold in Masisi, it will have to regroup elsewhere. If it does not receive outside help, it will probably falter. Hence many Congolese officers are currently pointing toward Rwanda, accusing its army of supporting the mutineers.

Rwanda’s official position has been that this is a Congolese affair. Its stance will be crucial in determining the outcome of this crisis and the future of the ex-CNDP networks in the Kivus.