While we were all drinking eggnog and singing Christmas carols, the Congolese army and MONUC agreed on a new military plan for the FDLR. In the last days of 2009, the UN mission signed a joint operational order with the Congolese government to end the Kimia II operations and begin a new phase, dubbed “Amani Leo,” or Peace Today. MONUC chief Alan Doss had announced several weeks earlier that the Kimia II operations would end, after they had been much criticized by diplomats, civil society and human rights groups. To make sure that no one took the end of Kimia II as a sign of defeat, the Congolese army published a press statement, claiming that they had gotten rid of 75% of the FDLR by killing 1,472 of the rebels and prompting 2,029 to surrender to MONUC.
First, the figures must be treated with a good dose of salt. The surrenders probably include the Rwandan CNDP deserters – between January 1st and November 6th, 1309 FDLR and 477 CNDP soldiers had gone back to Rwanda with MONUC. I don’t have the updated figures, but I doubt that more than 500 FDLR went back to Rwanda during the rest of the year. Also, MONUC officials in private say they have no way of confirming FDLR casualties, and knowing conflict in the Kivus, it is highly unlikely that 1,472 soldiers died.
What do we know about Amani Leo? If they proceed as planned, it does mark a significant departure from last year’s operations. From what I can glean, the Congolese army is supposed to reduce the number of units deployed in operations in order to limit abuses to the population – they speak of employing 10 battalions per province (what diplomats are saying), or around 6,000-10,000 soldiers (these are my figures, as most Congolese battalions range from between 600-1,000 troops). That is down from twice or three times as many troops deployed in operations last year. Unfortunately, we don’t know which units will be used – there are some rumors that ex-CNDP units will continue to figure prominently in these operations, as the government tries to keep their former enemies busy and flush with cash (troops in operations receive more money for logistics). The government’s complaint has always been that Kimia II may not have always been successful or pleasant, but it did help solidify the shaky peace deal with their real foe, the CNDP.
The rest of the troops are supposed to be put in barracks. Unfortunately, most of the barracks are not finished. The biggest one was supposed to be in Camp Saio, Bukavu, where I believe the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is in charge of the funds to rebuild infrastructure. It’s taking longer than expected, and in any case it is a large order to fill – up to 60,000 troops are deployed in the Kivus. Other barracks are supposed to be built or repaired in North Kivu and Kisangani. These seems like deja vu all over again – I remember when the South Africans renovated the Rumangabo military barracks in Rumangabo (north of Goma) 4-5 years ago. After several years, the installations’ sewage had fallen apart, the paint had been sullied and the windows broken. In any case, there will be many remaining soldiers who can’t participate in the operations or be lodged in the barracks, who will probably just have to stay wherever they are.
MONUC will continue to provide support to the units deployed in operations. There is some language in the agreement about not supporting abusive commanders, but it isn’t clear how that will be implemented or whether the commission the Security Council created to follow up on these conditionalities will take care of this. In any case, the Congolese have recently been very allergic to any suggestion that MONUC can interfere in “internal affairs.” A high-ranking Congolese official recently told MONUC that they would kick MONUC out if they suspended support to another army unit. I think this is just posturing, but the donors seem consistently incapable to find any leverage to use on the Congolese government, which has allowed Kinshasa politicians to resort to such posturing. Also, government officials appear eager to force out MONUC chief Alan Doss (who has also faced criticism from diplomats for not being tough enough…) and maybe other top UN officials in Kinshasa. This is a troubling trend – they may be inspired by neighboring Burundi, where a few weeks ago the government asked the head of the UN operations there, Mahmoud Youssef, to leave.
So, my guess is that we will continue to see operations, reprisals and abuses in the Kivus in 2010, albeit fewer than last year.