News update: MONUC withdrawal, Equateur fighting and Rwandan dissent

News update:

  • UN Secretary-General submitted a report to the Security Council on Monday, addressing President Kabila’s demand for the UN to begin withdrawing troops. Ban Ki-Moon’s compromise is to begin withdrawing 2,000 UN troops based mostly in the West of the country, outside of the main conflict zones, in June 2010. However, for the rest of the troops, the SG wants to condition their withdrawal on certain benchmarks, especially “rule of law and viable security institutions.” That could take a while. The Security Council will decide on the new mandate in May, after a trip to the Congo later this month.
  • Is the West of the country really outside of the conflict zone? The attacks on Mbandaka of a few days ago suggest otherwise, although – as pointed out on my lengthy blog postings – it isn’t clear if this is that last gasp of the Enyele rebellion or the beginning of something more serious. A few hundred rag-tag rebels attacked the Mbandaka airport, killing several UN soldiers and officials and capturing a stock of weapons and ammo before begin pushed back by MONUC and Congolese troops. I got some pretty gruesome pictures of the dead rebels that I won’t publish here, but suffice it to say that they look pretty rag-tag. Kabila has sent in more troops and has apparently arrested an MP from the MLC party, Oscar Molambo, who was apparently supporting the rebellion. There are already quite a few of Equateurians who are languishing in Kinshasa’s Makala prison accused of sedition (many linked to Bemba’s presidential guard that was involved in 2007 fighting against Kabila in Kinshasa).
  • In Rwanda, there are more and more reports of former Nkunda loyalists and other Congoelse Tutsi being arrested by the Rwandan security services. This is the case of Sheik Idi, a former CNDP cadre who was accused of sedition and disappeared in late March in Rwanda and hasn’t been seen since. Also the case of “General” Robert Ndengeye, a former high-ranking RCD commander and a Tutsi from Masisi, who has been accused of being linked to General Kayumba Nyamwasa, who recently fled Rwanda. Ndengeye’s family is also not aware of his whereabouts. There are rumors about others, as well, as in the context of fears about dissent within the RPF in the run-up to the August elections in Rwanda.