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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

As in Goethe’s fable of the sorcerer’s apprentice, it seems like the rebel groups of North Kivu keep on splitting among themselves, creating new rebel groups that are ever harder to control. (Watch out for a Fantasia version of Kivutian politics, to be released soon).

It is becoming clearer and clearer that the some former CNDP stalwarts are forming a new organization. Several meetings were held in Goma and Masisi last week, led by General Bosco Ntaganda (ex-CNDP chief of staff, Tutsi from Masisi) and Francois Gachaba (ex-RCD leader, provincial MP, Hutu from Masisi). They announced the creation of the Front for the Liberation and Emancipation of the Congo (FLEC). As reported in previous blogs, this movement is supported by the discontents of the March 23 agreement – the politicians who have yet to get new appointments, marginalized CNDP officers and Bosco himself, who has an ICC indictment hanging over his head.

At a public meeting in Bihambwe last week, Bosco apparently announced that the Hutu ex-PARECO commander Colonel Balomi would become one of FLEC’s leaders. They also decided that they would more aggressively try to recruit Congolese army deserters to beef up the movement, an activity that has already started, being led by Colonel Baudouin Ngaruye and Francois Gachaba (you might remember Gachaba from his prison break in June this year; he has been sentenced for rape and other abuses during his time as bourgomestre. Bosco sprang him free).

A few interesting things: First, the movement is based explicitly on a Masisi Hutu-Tutsi alliance, including some previously very hard line “Mongol” Hutu from Masisi who are known for their anti-Tutsi views. This is in line with previous strategies of political-military movements in North Kivu, most notably that of Eugene Serufuli although previously the Tutsi faction was represented mostly by upper class Tutsi from Goma and Jomba, while this time they seem to be mostly from the lower class Bagogwe clan from Masisi.

Secondly, it is not clear whether this will be an insurrectional movement or more of a political platform with some military ties. There has not been any fighting so far, but Bosco has made several public statement accusing Colonel Sultani Makenga – who has taken over the pro-Nkunda faction of the CNDP – of wanting to kill him. Lastly, it is worrisome that the person whom Rwanda helped installed as the head of the CNDP earlier this year is now publicly making signs of defecting from the Congolese army.

Much is still in the land of rumor. It seems likely that FLEC has ambitions to control large parts of Masisi. In one of their meetings, they spoke of creating new administrative divisions for Ngungu, Mushaki and Kitchanga and that they will be creating new taxes that they will use to pay their officials and commanders. Much has also been made about movements of cows and Tutsi refugees back to Masisi; FLEC is apparently interested in protecting these movements and using their military power to obtain more land, either through purchase or force.

Also, chroniclers of the Congo will remember that this is not the first the a rebel movement called FLEC has made waves. We first heard of FLEC in 2003/4, when rumors of a new Rwanda-backed rebellion were making the rounds. It was supposed to unite all the anti-Kabila forces in the East, including Ituri armed groups, Mai-Mai dissidents and former RCD members.

The CNDP commanders reportedly linked to this movement include:

Colonel Innocent Kabundi
Colonel Baudouin Ngaruye (Mugogwe from Masisi)
Colonel Eric Ruohimbere (Munyamulenge from South Kivu)
Colonel Wilson Nsengiyumva (Mugogwe from Masisi)
Colonel Innocent Zimurinda
Colonel Ngabo
Colonel Innocent Gahizi (the manager of Tribert Rujugiro’s ranch)

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