There have been more and more reports of Rwandan troops in the Kivus this past week. Internally, MONUSCO military intelligence has reported unconfirmed allegations of two RDF battalions in Walikale to help out with the Congolese army’s operations there. The head of the UN mission, Roger Meece, however, says these allegations are unfounded.
At the same time, the Congolese security services along the Rwandan border in North Kivu report an increased number of Congolese Tutsi refugees returning from Rwanda and heading towards the highlands of Masisi.
Add to these rumors information coming from an unexpected source: CNDP officers. Several ex-CNDP officers have confirmed these allegations of RDF deployment, however they don’t think they are here to help against the FDLR. According to them, the Rwandan troops have primarily come to make sure that CNDP troops don’t rebel when they are re-deployed outside of the Kivus (some say as far away as Bas-Congo, on the other side of the country). There has been no official announcement of any major military re-deployment, but many believe this was discussed by Presidents Kagame and Kabila during the recent meetings in Kigali.
Rwanda has been worried for quite some time about ex-CNDP members taking part in an armed opposition to their government, privately linking Nkunda’s supporters to the grenade attacks in the capital, for example. It is possible that Kinshasa has seized upon these concerns to press for the ex-CNDP troops to leave the Kivus, where they have had a prominent role in anti-FDLR operations as well as in controlling mining areas.
There is a long history of resistance by Congolese Tutsi troops to leave the Kivus, where they are close to their families and are well enough organized that they have to be taken seriously. In early 1998, a group of Congolese Tutsi mutinied in South Kivu, protesting redeployment and mistreatment. Rwandan General James Kabarebe had to go to the Rusizi plain himself to negotiate. Then, several months later, another group led by Comd Murekezi mutinied at a military camp in Goma (his followers included many officers who later joined Nkunda’s insurgency). Rwandan troops had to kill several of the officers and imprison others on Iwawa island to put down the mutiny.