Weekend update: Katumba, garrisoning & refugee return

A few news highlights:

  • Augustin Katumba Mwanke, the highly influential presidential advisor (especially regarding all things financial) officially announced this week that he was stepping down as the head of the presidential coalition, the AMP. According to his deputy, he had submitted his resignation seven months ago but it was only made public this week. Several news sources indicate that Katumba may not have left on his own volition, but that he was pushed out as part of a falling out between Kinshasa and Luanda. Given Katumba’s huge influence within the presidential circle, this would be very surprising. Other speculations have been that the forty-six year-old had left to lead the PPRD party (its previous leader Evariste Boshab has left to become the president of the national assembly) or that the AMP was no longer a useful alliance – there have been reports of intra-AMP squabbling in both North Kivu and Katanga this week. More on this soon.
  • Negotiations were held this week between MONUC and the Congolese army regarding the garrisoning of Congolese troops not involved in operations in three major army camps in the East. The fact that many Congolese troops live among the population leads to many abuses, and lack of decent housing a sanitation for their families has depressed their morale. MONUC has also called for the demilitarization of the IDP camps in North Kivu. The Congolese army told MONUC that the troops would not be able to fit in the camps with their families and suggested that some remain deployed elsewhere. The project is supposed to start this week.
  • A MONUC team visited Kisuma (20km SE of Goma) this week to check up on reports of Tutsi refugees returning from Rwanda. This is what they found: “The team heard that an estimated 3,000 people arriving from Rwanda had settled in the area of Kisuma alone over the past six months. Local authorities reported that the settlers were mixed with returnees from IDP camps in Kirolirwe. The arrivals from Rwanda are seemingly concentrating in a number of Tutsi-owned farms in the area, where they have taken over fields from autochthon populations. In Kisuma the local population reported to be no longer able to access their fields, and alleged that some of the new arrivals were patrolling the area, after imposing a curfew at 18:00 hours. However, they also noted that there was conflict among the settlers, particularly between the arrivals from Kirolirwe and from Rwanda.”