There was quite a bit of commotion in the Kivus this past week. Abbe Malu Malu arrived in Goma to chair a Comite national de suivi (follow-up committee for the peace deal) with the armed groups. Here were some of the developments he announced:
- Kabila has authorized the appointment of 6 CNDP delegates as territorial administrators, without saying where they would be based (most likely not just in the Kivus);
- funds had already been released for the CNDP war wounded – this had been the pretext for CNDP’s maintenance of parallel administration and taxation in Masisi and Rutshuru;
- the various armed groups in the peace process will be officially recognized as political parties within the next three weeks;
- a new president of the Comite de suivi will shortly be named and its mandate extended for another three months.
This breathed some much-needed life into the peace process. However, most of the important negotiations and developments have always taken place outside of these formal talks – giving the CNDP and PARECO lead positions in the Kimia II operations, and even the appointment of politicians from their ranks to administrative positions. So it remains to be seen how relevant the process is, other than providing per diems to its members. Also, I am not sure the CNDP will be happy with just 6 administrators – they had been gunning for ministerial positions in the national and provincial governments (they already have two such positions in North Kivu, there had been rumors of similar nominations in South Kivu). There should be a ministerial shuffle in Kinshasa in the next weeks that will be important in this regard.The military developments on the ground have also been important. MONUC and the Congolese army have been discussing the new deployments of the Amani Leo operations (successor to Kimia II). Interestingly, MONUC chief Alan Doss has used the insurgency in Equateur province (unrelated to the Kivus) to get leverage on the Congolese army – they have provided extensive transport, fuel and medical evacuation for Congolese troops deployed there upon the condition that the Congolese army allow for closer MONUC involvement in operational planning in Amani Leo – they had been pretty much excluded from meaningful planning in Kimia II, and they have seized upon this as an opportunity.
What exactly this means is yet to be seen. The Congolese are supported to deploy eight “strike battalions” in North Kivu against the FDLR, which will be supported by MONUC. The areas that MONUC has targeted for increased civilian protection (and I assume where these battalions will be active) are: southern Lubero, north-central Rutshuru and southern Masisi territories. This means that the Congolese are supposed to deploy military police with their units to prevent abuses, and that regular police forces are supposed to move in to take care of law and order problems. Money will be provided to refurbish police buildings and prisons, and community reconciliation programs will be launched (not clear by whom and what this means).
This is a much more holistic approach than under Kimia II and will much fewer troops. As pointed out here before, however, it isn’t clear where the remaining soldiers will be going, as the barracks have not yet been built or renovated for them, so they may still be preying on the local population, especially as they will no longer be receiving the extra funds from their government for operational logistics and fuel/supplies from MONUC. Previous experience in the Kivus shows that troops who are deployed in operations loot; those deployed in holding positions predate through taxation.
In the meantime, the FDLR have not changed their behavior much. Here are some quotes from MONUC’s reports on the security situations in North Kivu for last week:
“Various reports have highlighted concerns that FDLR elements are causing insecurity for the local population in parts of NE Rutshuru, NW Masisi and E Walikale. North Kivu Brigade received reports from local sources that 6-7 FDLR elements looted the village of Karambi (12 km N of Tongo, Rutshuru Territory) on the night of 16 January, killing one individual. In Masisi Territory, North Kivu Brigade in Kashebere (33 km NW of Masisi) received reports from local sources that civilians in the area were apprehensive of FDLR looting around Mahanga (10 km W of Masisi). In E Walikale Territory, a MILOBs patrol to Kailenge (5 m SW of Pinga) received reports from local sources that Rhungoma (8 km S of Kailenge) was attacked by FDLR in the evening of 16 January. The attackers apparently beat local inhabitants, demanding ration cards provided to the population by ICRC. Inputs from NK Brigade suggested that this looting extended to Binyungunyungu (9 km SE of Pinga) and Kaghuli (7 km SE of Pinga). Meanwhile, local inhabitants in Ngora village (14 km NE of Walikale) reported to MILOBs that FDLR elements were based along the Mera-Ntoto axis (70-80 km E of Walikale) where they were reportedly committing exactions on the local population, including looting and rape.”