The following is a from a diplomatic source in Kinshasa – on overview of politics in North Kivu since Nkunda’s arrest and the integration of the CNDP.
Politics in the Petit Nord after CNDP’s Surrender
Political and military developments in the Petit Nord were dominated by the strong military position of the RCD-Goma and later Nkunda’s CNDP, despite the RCD’s defeat in the national and provincial elections in 2006. The military wing of the RCD (ex-ANC) never accepted army integration and was the main threat to the Transition during the Bukavu crisis and later, during the electoral process in North Kivu. After the RCD’s poor results in the elections, the alliance between Hutu and Tutsi from North Kivu under the Rwandophonie fell apart and Laurent Nkunda came to the fore again, posing a major threat to the post-electoral process, drawing the attention away from the relative success of the transition and the first credible elections since the early 1960s, in dealing several blows to the national army and drawing North Kivu in an ever worse cycle of violence and humanitarian disaster.
Background to the current crisis
The Hutus of the RCD, represented by former Governor Eugene Serufuli had started flirting with Kabila’s Presidential Majority but lost out against the majority Nande at the Provincial level, while the Hutus from Panadi had mostly ran on a PPRD-slate, taking the popular Hutu-vote away from the RCD. At the national level, the RCD was a spent force, with its most influential national politicians shifting between the opposition and loyalty to the Presidential majority. The RCD became strongly divided, mostly because they had been unable to rally behind one candidate during the elections and because of popular resentment, due to the party’s strong association with the two rebellions (1996 and 1998).
Serufuli eventually obtained a post at the SNEL in Kinshasa, but most of his former Hutu and Tutsi allies of the RCD in the Kivus were left with little to show for, after ten years of rebellion against the central government. Nkunda stepped in and managed to create a political platform beyond his military powerbase, while joining him became an appealing option for those defeated politicians. Some former RCD politicians would even leave their provincial position as local MP’s to join him in CNDP’s “liberated” town of Rutshuru towards the end of 2008. They became “Commissioners” or “Ministers” of Nkunda’s short-lived parallel Administration.
But a secretly negotiated bilateral deal between Kinshasa and Kigali resulted in a Palace coup in January 2009 and Nkunda was removed from the political and military scene, after his second-in-command took over CNDP and publicly declared the ex-ANC troops would join the Government forces. Nkunda’s political negotiating team was left powerless at the negotiating table in Nairobi, while Bosco’s CNDP lined up a team of political newcomers – with clear backing from Kigali – to start negotiating directly with the Government at the Goma level. The Masisi faction within the CNDP, with mostly Tutsi-officers from this part of the province, were now lined up against Nkunda’s loyalists from Jomba (Rutshuru) but under strong pressure from Kigali almost all of the ex-ANC were integrated in an ad-hoc manner in the FARDC and deployed in the two Kivus to help fight the FDLR.
The Kigali-Kinshasa arrangement
But the politicians Bosco Ntaganda brought to the negotiating table were even more inexperienced than Nkunda’s team and had little influence over the ex-ANC troops, the officers of which were all taken by surprise by the sudden removal of Nkunda from the scene. With an international arrest warrant on his head and his unsophisticated ways, Bosco was not a credible interlocutor for the international community but clearly, Kinshasa and Kigali had needed him and several disgruntled officers in the CNDP loyal to him, to oust Nkunda, while keeping the risk of a new rebellion at bay.
This sudden shift in dynamics in the Kivus, at a time when Nkunda and his followers were at the height of their capacity of nuisance for the regime in Kinshasa, also brought an end to the siege of Goma, the provincial capital which was almost overran by the ex-ANC in November. More importantly, the shift brought a sudden change in relations between DR Congo and Rwanda, a change that had seemed impossible only a few months earlier. While one can assume that the DRC’s approval of a Rwandan military intervention in North Kivu against the FDLR, was an immediate response to Kigali’s severing of ties with the CNDP and Nkunda’s arrest, the real motivations and ramifications of this sudden shift remain subject to a great deal of speculation.
The Hutus, especially the faction close to former Governor Serufuli, seem to have played a critical role in the Kinshasa-Kigali arrangement. There is credible evidence that Serufuli’s immediate entourage, his former Director of Cabinet and several other of his influential advisors, were called to Kigali at the end of November 2008. Colonel Mugabo, leader of the Hutu-faction of the Mayi Mayi Pareco, was also a member of the visiting delegation that left Kigali and then went to Kinshasa. Apparently, Serufuli’s influence over the Hutu-population was sought and used, not only to forge an alliance between Mugabo’s forces and the Bosco-faction of CNDP, but also to sensitize the Congolese Hutu-population in favor of the imminent Rwandan military operation against the FDLR. The Hutus in Rutshuru and Masisi and Mugabo’s troops, some of whom had fought alongside the FDLR against CNDP, were reportedly used during the Umoja Wetu intervention as pointers, to denounce FDLR-leaders hiding in North Kivu. Moreover, a great number of foot soldiers and lower ranking officers of the ex-ANC were Hutu and their loyalty was also needed to strengthen the ranks of Bosco’s wing against the Nkunda-loyalist elements.
It is unclear, what the Hutus were expecting in return for all this, but soon after the secretive November meetings in Kinshasa and Kigali, influential Hutus such as the Mwami of Rutshuru and Eugene Serufuli started propagating the idea of the split of North Kivu into two new politico-administrative entities. Leaflets, strongly denouncing the electoral process and the take-over of political power in the Province by the Nande, started circulating proposing the creation of a Grand Sud (the current Petit-Nord) as a separate entity, where Rwandophones (Hutu and Tutsi) would be in a clear majority, an obvious sign of nostalgia of Serufuli and his followers to the days during the war and the transition, when the RCD was strongly in power, politically, economically and militarily.
Eight months after the initial Bosco-coup, operations against the FDLR are continuing in a relatively successful manner, whilst most of the ex-CNDP and Pareco-Hutu troops have been integrated in the FARDC. But Serufuli and his lot are still waiting for political compensation and are visibly annoyed with the slow pace at which the political changes following the agreement between Kinshasa and CNDP are unfolding. For one, the Hutus in North Kivu have waited with impatience to take power again in the provincial capital Goma, where their main rivals at the provincial level, the Nande have taken power. Hutu-Nande rivalry goes back a long way in North Kivu. The Nande outnumber the Hutu at the provincial level and are an extremely affluent community of traders. The Nande started populating the northern part of the Kivus, bordering Uganda, probably two centuries ago. The territories of Beni and Lubero in the Grand Nord are almost exclusively inhabited by Nande and the community, especially in Lubero Territory is known for its tendencies to keep business competitors out, through sophisticated dumping practices and covert support for various militia, such as the Mayi Mayi and the FDLR. The RCD never managed to take control of the Grand Nord and many Nande-traders have settled in other provinces, but also in Rutshuru where Hutu-resentment against their wealth, business monopolies and practices are longstanding issues.
But despite Serufuli’s attempts to blow new life in the success-formula of the Rwandophonie, the protracted negotiations with CNDP and rumors about Kigali’s preferences for political leaders other than Serufuli at the helm of the Province, are creating confusion and feelings of betrayal. Kigali suspects some of Serufuli’s protégés, such as military commanders Colonel Smith and Colonel Rugayi, of double-dealing with the FDLR.
A Serufuli attempt to oust his main rival within the RCD, Azarias Ruberwa, and take power of the party with a view to join the DRC Government after an anticipated reshuffle, has turned into another divisive war between RCD-factions at the national level. The rivalry between the various factions within CNDP, with Eugene Serufuli backing the Bosco-coup, is also not playing out smoothly. Bosco’s political representatives are slowly but surely losing their already limited influence, while the majority of CNDP-officers are clearly taking orders from Nkunda-loyalist Colonel Makenga. The recent creation of a “territory of Mushaki” in Masisi (but extending up to Nyanzale, a Serufuli’s stronghold) by a clique of known Serufuli and Bosco followers, is illustrative of the growing frustration and impatience within the Hutu and Tutsi communities over the undisclosed arrangements between Kigali and Kinshasa. Incidents of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in the same areas suggest Bosco (and Serufuli) may want to accelerate the return of refugees from Rwanda, an issue that concerns many of the CNDP-Tutsi officers and might win Bosco some sympathy as a man who can deliver.
Bosco’s waning influence
Having divided the CNDP (and RCD), Kinshasa and Kigali are seemingly buying time, waiting for the internal power struggles of ex-RCD and CNDP to produce a new credible leadership to represent Tutsi (or Rwandophone) interests at the national and provincial levels. Although risks remain for the Nkunda-loyalists to turn back to rebellion once the Kimia operations against the FDLR are over, a new rebellion would be short-lived without Rwandan support, even though some Rwandan military officers and wealthy Tutsis in Rwanda and abroad might be willing to finance such a dynamic. But the joint operations, the shared command positions of ex-CNDP and FARDC-officers and the – no doubt – pay-offs made by Kinshasa to gain support of key military CNDP-officers seem to have their effect.
Nkunda-loyalists are also gaining renewed visibility in Goma – after several of them fled to Uganda, Gisenyi and Europe in January – while the actual composition of the CNDP-negotiation team in talks with the Government seems to change regularly and reflect the fact that the Bosco-faction may be losing ground. General Bosco Ntaganda, whose real role within the Kimia operations or the 8th Military Region remains unofficial, is clearly sensing that his usefulness is diminishing and therefore, that he may be in danger of being killed or handed over to the ICC. He now only controls a handful of followers amongst CNDP’s former officers, despite some heavy-handed attempts to impose some of his closest confidents in CNDP-military and police positions. These attempts have only led to skirmishes amongst the numerous escorts of both CNDP-factions, but if any new rebellion is to be expected, it would probably be from Bosco’s camp, potentially with covert backing from Serufuli and Hutu-leaders in Masisi.
Bosco is clearly frightened he might become the next victim of the rapprochement between Kigali and Kinshasa. He is rarely seen in Goma but is clearly stocking up supplies and keeping a few loyalists in an area between Mushaki, Ngungu and Kilolirwe, where most commanders are indeed still loyal to him. Bosco is a seasoned rebel and it cannot be excluded that he might sit out an eventual confrontation with the FARDC for several months. He may also hope that some of the Nkunda-loyalists would join his attempt to derail the process. It is unlikely however, he would ever have the political clout, the more charismatic and sophisticated Nkunda had.
Financially Bosco has clearly profited from his new position as a Government loyalist. It is thought that, through his relatives and in an arrangement with Kimia Operational Commander General Amuli, Bosco has acquired some exclusive contracts to import food for the FARDC. Bosco’s influence at the Bunagana border post, where he is reportedly exporting large quantities of timber, is also generating a steady income. Several Ugandan businessmen, no doubt acquaintances from Bosco’s time in Uganda, Kisangani and Ituri, are the conduits for this merchandise. Bosco is trying to link up as well, with some Ugandan officials. A loyalist ex-CNDP intelligence officer in Bunagana was recently arrested by Colonel Yav in Rutshuru, but then reportedly released by Yav’s Deputy, ex-CNDP Colonel Eric Ruhorimbere, on Bosco’s instructions. This officer, who is now hiding in Ngungu, had facilitated the passage of some UDPF Intelligence officers and potentially mercenaries for Bosco’s faction. Some remnants of Nkunda’s controlling agents in Bunagana, have tried to interfere with Bosco’s business dealings, resulting in some violent incidents in Goma between Major Wilson, a Bosco-loyalist and the escorts of Colonel Christian Payi Payi, the chief of ex-CNDP-‘s police.
Bosco’s waning influence is also visible in the distribution of command posts in the Kimia Operations, especially in important mining zones where former Nkunda followers have clearly been rewarded with the richer pickings (Kamituga in Mwenga, Bisie in Walikale are all in the AOR’s of Nkunda-loyalists). Whatever Bosco’s ties may be with the Hutus, the Nkunda-camp is convinced that Governor Serufuli and Bosco – through Serufuli’s close ally Seninga – are allies in a bid to impose their demands on Kinshasa. But this alliance of convenience, this time against the Kigali-Kinshasa arrangement – carries a risk to divide the Hutu and Tutsi communities loyal to CNDP and RCD even more. Serufuli’s NGO Tous pour le Developpement (TBD), an outfit created for political and social activities, is losing some of its influential Tutsi members (the Makabusa brothers for instance), due to the diverging interests and ambitions.
Meanwhile, it is unclear whether Bosco – although military in control of a part of Masisi territory – may be able to garner much support from the wealthy caste of Masisi-based cattle ranchers who had thrown their support behind Nkunda. Only Senator Mwangachuchu, often at odds with other Tutsi-ranchers over property disputes, seems to be backing Bosco. Accusations from the Nkunda-side, that Serufuli is inciting Hutus – with the backing of Bosco – to go and cultivate land in Tutsi-grazing areas in Masisi, suggest that a struggle for power, within the Tutsi and Hutu communities is turning into a clan-war between various factions.
It seems that Nkunda-loyalists have every reason to believe that a confidence-building process with Kinshasa is in their best interest at this point. Now that some of the roles are reversed, this confusing situation may bring some short-term relief and be a guarantee for the effective integration of the Nkunda-loyalists in the FARDC. As a worst case scenario some skirmishes to neutralize Bosco’s grip on Masisi could be considered and although that would put pressure on the integration process, a real fratricide amongst Tutsis is close to impossible to imagine.
Another scenario needs to be taken into account however. Former Governor Serufuli has historically illustrated that he – and the Hutu-population and military officers loyal to him – have a serious capacity to spoil things : covert support to the FDLR and the CNDP alike, the distribution of weapons to civilians, the dream of a new role as Governor of a new Rwandophone province with all the risks for inter-ethnic tension that would entail or the instigation of a split within the FARDC with Hutus massively deserting or taking sides with the FDLR, are all potential processes Serufuli is capable off putting in motion, unless he gets his anticipated political rewards. This disgruntled faction of the Hutus does by no means represent the entire community (certainly not the PPRD and Panadi-Hutu who have been rewarded for their support to Kabila), but Serufuli’s generation of politicians – newcomers mostly who made their careers during the Masisi wars and the two rebellions – are not to be underestimated.
Confusion by design ?
From the side of Kigali and Kinshasa, few attempts have been made to assist the various factions in resolving their internal conflicts. This suggests that the situation is kept festering, either because the operation against the FDLR take too much effort or because the resulting weakening of the former Nkunda-rebellion and a sanitizing of the RCD-leadership serves the interests on both sides of the border. A likely scenario would be that Kinshasa waits for a new political alliance of RCD and CNDP personalities to emerge from the dust, and the potential inclusion of these in the AMP or the Government. CNDP is no credible political force at the national level, while the RCD’s balancing act between the opposition and the majority is politically suicidal. Unless the political confusion and bickering within CNDP and RCD are resolved – and the key to this is in the Kivus – bringing any clarity to the distribution of posts in any new national and provincial Government reshuffle or other positions of power is impossible.
The non-Rwandophone communities in the Petit-Nord are just a side-show for this power struggle. Their fears of a new Rwandophone takeover of the province generate resentment and renewed activism of certain Mayi Mayi Groups (Kifuafua, Shirikito, ACPLS, etc ….), but none of these are in any way capable of staging credible rebellions. The risk however is, that IDPs and refugees, whose fate still hangs in the balance, will only be able to return to Rwandophone dominated areas, where they are under the protection of Rwandophone officers. This will no doubt exacerbate the inter-community rivalry between Rwandophones and non-Rwandophones, with a significant potential for violence from both sides against soft targets, i.e. vulnerable populations in ethnically contested or mixed areas or cattle, mining and other economic interests.