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Rabble-rousing MPs and the Congolese Wild West

A few tidbits:

1. In my series on provincial politics (see here for past rabble-rousing incidents in provincial assemblies) there is much to be talked about. Last Wednesday, 60 out of 100 provincial MPs from Equateur signed an impeachment notice for the entire office of the provincial assembly – including the president and the vice-president. What was remarkable was that MPs from across the political divide signed on, from the PPRD (Kabiliste) to the MLC (Bembiste) to the RCD (?-iste). The five leaders who were asked to leave were mostly from Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC party, although one was from the PPRD. The reason: Embezzlement of $600,000 of severance payments. It isn’t clear, but the severance may have been intended for the recently fired governor and his cabinet. It is even less clear why they would receive any severance at all. But this is far from extraordinary: When the Governor of South Kivu, Celestin Chibalonza, was impeached, he was also alleged to have embezzled a similar amount of cash.

Why do we care? It’s great and terrible at the same time. Yet another sign of one Congolese institution that is both deeply corrupt but also able, at least, to promote some sort of accountability. But even if they impeached, I doubt they will stand trial (the president said he will go to court now).

In other news, in a press conference by Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito last week, he said that the portion of the national budget that was being retroceded to the provinces had grown from 3% in 2006 to 23% in 2009. That’s still short of the 40% required by the constitution, but quite a leap (if it is true.)

2. Information leaked out this past week about the situation in the High Plateau of South Kivu. According to several insiders, the Banyamulenge rebels have been seriously weakened in recent months. They say that the Force republicaines federalistes (FRF), a small group of Tutsi who launched a rebellion in 2005, is now only composed of around 150 soldiers. Several weeks ago, the Congolese army launched a sizeable operation against the FRF, chasing them out of Kamombo, where they had been based, into the Bijabo forest. For some reason, the Congolese army has deployed a battalion led by Banyamulenge officers to lead to offensive against the FRF, which has led to some nasty internecine assassinations, but also to treason within each group. According to these insiders, the FRF was able to launch a successful raid on the Congolese army on December 9th last year thanks to intelligence provided from relatives within 422nd brigade in Minembwe.

I know this may be confusing to some – Banyamulenge politics are complex, centered around clan politics, feuds between rival protestant churches, and political battles. It’s the Wild West up there, cattle herders with long sticks and 10 gallon hats, walking across craggy and windswept hills at 1,800 meters.

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