It is easy to think that all is quiet in the Kivus, if only because international news agencies rarely pick up much of the news there – it’s hard to get a novel, interesting spin on the “7 dead, five houses burned to the ground, eleven goats stolen” kinds of events that happen every day, all across the Kivus. Just think about it: there are roughly 60,000 troops deployed in the Kivus (North Kivu, South Kivu & Maniema). Last I looked, soldiers got around $50/month, money that rarely arrived on time or at all.
So, just as a reminder, and to confuse you, here are some developments of the last week in North Kivu:
- Attempts to integrate the mostly Hunde APCLS militia continue. The group, which is led by the self-proclaimed General Janvier, is based in Masisi. Some of its soldiers have joined the FARDC, while most are still in the bush, complaining of Rwandan infiltrations and unequal treatment by the Congolese authorities (“we don’t get high-ranking positions in the army like the CNDP.”) Being a local militia, others probably just don’t want to leave their home territory in uncertain operations against the FDLR. This past week, APCLS leaders met with to FARDC army commander General Gabriel Amisi and promised to send part of their troops to the Luberizi integration camp in South Kivu. However, several days later, the APCLS informed MONUC that the Rwandan army was infiltrating to attack General Janvier at his headquarters in Lukweti (southern Masisi). Later the same day, fighting broke out in Lukweti, allegedly initiated by the FARDC. What really happened? Not entirely clear, but there are many rumors swirling around about Rwandan infiltrations and the impending return of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda.
- Around the same time, the FARDC launched an offensive against General Sikuli Lafontaine’s militia. Lafontaine, a Nande from Butembo, had officially split from PARECO in June 2009 to create his own group, the Front des patriotes pour le changement (FPC), although the real split between the Hutu and Hunde wings of PARECO had taken place months ago. There was fighting along a 50km axis between Muhangi, Vuyinga and Bunyatenge (Lubero territory). The Congolese army also attacked FDLR positions around Alimbongo, Mbughavinywa and Kanyabayonga.
- These operations prompted looting on all sides. According to internal MONUC sources, armed men (probably FDLR) looted Muhangi, Vuyinga, Kanzanza, Bunyereza and Ngwenda (Lubero territory). The FDLR allegedly attacked Mambira (45km SW from Butembo) in collaboration with Mai-Mai, killing two civilians, and injuring a woman and her child. Eighty houses were allegedly burned down.
- Mai-Mai from the Cheka group (based north of Walikale town) allegedly met up with FDLR elements to plan an attack on the Bisie mining site in Walikale. Cheka is a former employee of the MPC mining company and had alleged links to Colonel Etienne Bindu, who is the chief of staff of the 8th military region in Goma. Cheka attacked the mining area in August, killing fourteen miners.
And that’s not half of it.