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Congo (Kinshasa): War in the East, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Nov 28, 2012 (121128)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

In a statement issued earlier this week, a coalition of Congolese organizations has called for sanctions against Rwanda, Uganda, and any other individuals or entities that threaten the territorial integrity of the DRC. They also called on the UN to urgently appoint - in consultation with the African Union - a special representative for the Great Lakes.

The events in eastern Congo are rapidly changing but also depressingly predictable and familiar. The M23 rebels are giving "mixed signals" about withdrawing from recently occupied Goma, as demanded by regional states ( New negotiations are expected. But the fundamental realities of insecurity in the east, including support from Rwanda and Uganda to rebels across the border, the lack of a legitimate Congolese state with security forces that protect the people, the weakness of international peace efforts, and vulnerability of the civilian population to a changing configuration of armed groups, continue the same.

Today's two AfricaFocus Bulletins contain a selection of recent articles I have found useful in digging beyond the day-to-day headlines.

This one, sent out by e-mail, contains reports by statements by Congolese and international groups calling for a new approach (also a pattern that has been repeated again and again), two background articles from the blog CongoSiasa (on the rebel group M23 and the role played by Susan Rice in stalling pressure on Rwanda), and an article from Southern Africa Resource Watch noting the surprising absence of "conflict minerals" in the background of the latest fighting.

The other AfricaFocus released today, not sent out by email but available on the web at, contains two longer analytical articles appearing recently on, with additional background on the conflict.

Additional resources with calls for action and policy proposals include:

TransAfrica Avaaz Petition to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice

Friends of the Congo

"DR Congo's Goma: Avoiding a New Regional War" International Crisis Group, 20 November 2012

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Congo (Kinshasa), visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Congo-Kinshasa: Governance Reforms Key to Lasting DRC Peace

by Richard Lee, 27 November 2012

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Johannesburg)

As usual, a 'peace plan' for the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been negotiated by regional leaders behind closed doors - without any real input from Congolese citizens or civil society. Realising that this approach will not result in lasting peace and stability, three major Congolese organisations have issued a joint statement calling for specific actions to be taken by the government, the M23 rebel movement and the United Nations.

The National Network on Security Sector Reform and Justice (RRSSJ), the League of Voters (LE) and the Centre for Governance (CEGO) expressed their deep concern about the situation in North Kivu province following the capture of the town of Goma by M23 forces and by the international community's insufficient response to the latest conflict in eastern DRC.

The organisations are especially concerned about the 'lack of sanctions against the aggressor countries, namely Rwanda and Uganda, whose support for the rebels was clearly demonstrated by the report of the Expert Group of the United Nations' - and are urging the UN to impose sanctions on any individuals and entities that threaten the territorial security of the DRC. They also want donor nations to cut development aid to Rwanda.

The statement also calls on the UN to urgently appoint - in consultation with the African Union - a special representative for the Great Lakes. A similar call was made last week by a coalition of international organisations, including the Open Society Foundations and the Eastern Congo Initiative.

However, the three organisations - two of which are grantees of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) - understand that the root cause of the conflict in eastern DRC is the country's governance crisis and that genuine peace depends on genuine reforms.

In particular, the groups call on the Congolese government to immediately pursue - with the support of the UN stabilisation force (MONUSCO) - clear, structured, coordinated and deep reform of the security sector, including the army, police and intelligence services. But this importance of this call has only been underlined by the fall of Goma, not sparked by it. All three organisations had been calling for serious reform well before the sudden advance of the M23.

But Congo also needs to get its democratic house in order and the groups called for the restructuring of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the establishment of a National Commission on Human Rights to protect human rights and boost citizen's confidence.

Critically, the statement urged the government to ensure that the negotiating process involved non-combatants to give it more chance of success - rather than just the Congolese authorities, neighbouring countries and the M23.

And speaking of the rebels, the organisations made it clear that M23 must end its armed struggle, must 'respect human rights and international humanitarian law in areas currently under its control, including the prohibition of the recruitment of children for military purposes', and cease all attacks against civilians.

Given that the players in DRC's conflict seldom listen to civil society, it is possible that this statement will once again fall on deaf ears. But it shouldn't. There will be no long-term peace in eastern Congo unless the people and civil society organisations are involved. This statement makes that very clear.

Addressing the Conflict in Eastern Congo: Urgent appointment of a UN/AU Special Envoy

November 22, 2012

The conflict in eastern Congo between the government of Congo and the Rwandan-backed M23 rebel group is crippling the Great Lakes Region, and is now at a critical juncture with M23's recent advance on the city of Goma in Congo's North Kivu Province. Recent reports suggest that, despite its continuing denials, Rwanda has continued to provide military, logistical, and political support to M23, emboldened by the failure of the international community to hold it fully accountable for its aggression. The government of Congo has continued to demonstrate an inability to deal with the threat on its eastern borders, as a consequence of its failure to initiate necessary reforms of its weak and undisciplined army as well as other critical institutions. Meanwhile, since the onset of the M23 mutiny in April, 2012, more than 650,000 people have been displaced in eastern Congo due to the ongoing conflict - and once again it is the civilian populations of the region that continue to bear the brunt of the violence and instability.

We believe that it is imperative to initiate a credible internationally-facilitated political process that is focused in a first phase on an immediate cessation of hostilities, but in the longer-term also on addressing the systematic drivers of conflict in the region. The aim of such a process must be a departure from the cycle of violence and regional interference that has defined the conflict for much of the last decade.

Efforts to achieve a durable peace in the region must be led, not by those that continue to perpetuate the conflict, but rather by a credible facilitation process with the commensurate experience and stature to elevate the process above the regional mistrust that is the hallmark of local processes, and bring the necessary parties into a constructive dialogue. This should be done under the joint auspices of the United Nations and the African Union, as recommended at the recent high-level meeting on the DRC held at the United Nations on September 27, 2012. We call on the Security Council to request the Secretary-General to reach out immediately to the African Union with a view to appointing an Envoy or Panel in a matter of days.

We also call on the Security Council and the African Union to condemn in unequivocal terms Rwanda and the M23 for their actions and to immediately apply sanctions against all the individuals identified in the most recent Group of Experts report as having violated the U.N. arms embargo on Congo, including the Rwandan military and political officers who have been supporting and directing the M23. We also call on bilateral donors to Rwanda to continue and expand the suspension of all aid programs that are not explicitly directed to the humanitarian needs of the Rwandan civilian population.

We the undersigned groups strongly reiterate the attached brief and recommendations, which we widely distributed among senior policy-makers in governments and international institutions in October 2012. We believe now as we believed then that military solutions alone will not resolve this crisis and that a new political process is needed to prevent further violence in the region.


Eastern Congo Initiative
Humanity United
Open Society Foundations

From the CNDP to M23

Jason Stearns, November 12, 2012

Last week, we published a report on M23, tracing its roots back through the CNDP to deeper history. What is the take home message from the report?

The CNDP (2004-2009) and the M23 (2012-) emerged out of the failures of the Congolese peace process. The negotiations that began in Lusaka in 1999 and culminated in the Accord global et inclusif in 2002 succeeded in unifying the country, but also disadvantaged one of the strongest belligerents. The Rwandan-backed RCD went from controlling a third of the country to 2-4 per cent representation in national institutions. In response, elites in Goma and Kigali created the CNDP, led by Laurent Nkunda, to maintain leverage on Kinshasa and to protect their interests in the East. These interests are varied, and include economic investments, security fears, and the general perception that North Kivu lies within Rwanda's sphere of interest.

These movements draw on deep historical grievances, but are propelled mainly by military and political elites. The CNDP and M23 are led mostly by Congolese Tutsi and have deep roots in this community. Especially during CNDP times, there were mobilization cells across the region, and even in the US and Europe, that gathered funds and represented the movement. There is no doubt that many in this community saw the CNDP as a vital protection against an abusive and often xenophobic state. However, the main instigators were Congolese Tutsi officers - people like Nkunda, Bosco, and Makenga - and, in particular, the government in Kigali. Interviews with dozens of ex-CNDP officers show clearly that, while the CNDP maintained a large degree of autonomy from its Rwandan allies, Kigali was crucial in the creation of the group in 2004-2006 and then in leading it to the gates of Goma in October 2008. During the M23, this influence has become even more decisive, as Kigali stepped in to prop up a foundering mutiny in April 2012 and has been a key factor in all its military offensives.

The CNDP and M23 are Tutsi-led movements; this does not mean that community is united or a puppet of Rwanda. Many Congolese lump all Tutsi together, from both sides of the border. It is true that many Congolese Tutsi fought for the RPF's in Rwanda's civil war (1990-1994), and have featured prominently in all Rwandan-backed rebellions in the Congo. But deep tensions have emerged between Congolese Tutsi and the RPF. Many of the former have a deep sense of belonging in the Congo, and feel that the RPF has not looked after their interests. An example of this was the Murekezi mutiny of 11 November 1997 (exactly 15 years ago), which pitted Congolese Tutsi against the RPF, as well as similar mutinies in South Kivu. These tensions have grown, and the M23 seems to be a turning point in relations. A majority of Congolese Tutsi officers have refused to join the mutiny, and have been used by Kinshasa in the front line against the M23. Even those who have joined the M23, such as Sultani Makenga and even Bosco Ntaganda, often have difficult relations with Kigali - the arrest of Nkunda by the RDF in 2009 created mistrust among top CNDP officers, especially the Makenga wing.

The M23 has a much narrower social base than previous movements. The cornerstone of Rwanda's strategy between 1998-2003 was to create a communal alliance between Banyarwanda in the eastern Congo, if possible extending it to other groups, as well. Thus, Congolese Hutu and Banyamulenge (Tutsi from South Kivu) featured prominently in the RCD. When the CNDP was created in 2004-2006, Rwanda and Nkunda tried to revive this alliance. This strategy, however, failed, with Hutu strongman Eugène Serufuli leading the defection of several thousand Hutu soldiers from the CNDP in 2005-6. The M23 has an even narrower base - aside from a few officers, the military leadership is almost entirely Tutsi, with very few Hutu or Banyamulenge joining. (The group has a very multiethnic political wing, but few of these leaders have much legitimacy in their communities, with the somewhat bizarre exception of the Nande).

The group's strategy relies more on creating instability than on taking and controlling territory. Precisely because the group has a narrow social base, it has been hard pressed to take much territory. Besides the lack of cross-ethnic alliances, the group had a manpower problem - they started off with 300-700 men, and have since grown to 1,500-2,500. Despite military backing from Uganda and Rwanda (whose troops do not want to venture too far from their borders), this makes conquering and holding territory difficult. The group has therefore relied on a web of alliances with other Congolese groups. But, since their historical Hutu and Banyamulenge allies have refused to go along, the M23 have sought out more opportunistic alliances, often among communities that are historically deeply anti-Rwandan. These alliances - the Raia Mutomboki, Sheka's group, the FDC, Bede Rusagara, Mbusa Nyamwisi - are volatile, as many of the groups have no love lost for the M23 or Rwanda, but their interests (fighting against Kinshasa) happen to converge for now. The M23 will not be able to use these alliances to conquer territory, but rather to highlight the derelict nature of the Congolese state and the need for a change of leadership in Kinshasa.

Absent a credible political process, there is likely to be further escalation. The only political channel currently open is through the ICGLR, chaired by Uganda, and which is proposing the deployment of a neutral force to 'eradicate' the M23 and FDLR. Since the Ugandan government, however, has backed the M23, and few countries seem willing to staff or fund the neutral force, this initiative is unlikely to succeed. Kinshasa's strategy, on the other hand, relies on donors putting pressure on Rwanda and Uganda - but donors are reluctant to do so without channeling their pressure into a larger political process. Since the sticks available are limited - the Congolese army is weak and donors are unlikely to lead - the solution will have to pass, at least in part, through negotiations.

A long-term solution will have to grapple with systemic issues. In order for this kind of compromise to be successful, and not to return us to a volatile 2009-style agreement, systemic issues will have to be dealt with. Kigali will have to accept a much-diminished ex-CNDP force in the Kivus, while Kinshasa will have to strengthen its institutions and reassure the Tutsi community. Various policy options should be considered - none of them easy or straightforward - including decentralization, cross-border economic projects, land reform, and the complete overhaul of the stabilization program for the Kivus. Donors, on their part, can no longer separate Rwanda's admirable development successes from its interference in the Congo. (I will be blogging more in detail on these policy options).

Susan Rice and the M23 crisis

Jason Stearns, November 24, 2012

[Editor's note: For another critique of Amb. Rice's stand on authoritarian African leaders, see, with reference to Ethiopia. It is ironic to many familiar with African issues that Amb. Rice is being criticized publically for quite the wrong reasons.]

As the M23 crisis has unfolded in the eastern Congo, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has emerged as a holdout within American foreign policy, a sort of minority report to the prevailing criticism of Rwanda and the M23.

The first indication of this emerged in June, when Rice delayed the publication of UN Group of Experts' interim report, insisting that Rwanda be given a chance to see the report first and respond. While these UN investigations are supposed to give the accused the opportunity to respond and explain - the Group says it was refused meetings by the Rwandan government, which Kigali denies - they rarely allow them to see the entire report before publication. In any case, the Group finally did brief a Rwandan delegation in New York in June in New York (unsurprisingly, the Rwandan rejected the report as flawed) and the report was released.

Rice emerged as skeptic within a State Department that had largely accepted Rwanda's role in backing the M23. Both Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson and Special Envoy Barry Walkley have told Kigali explicitly to stop supporting M23. According to sources within the Obama administration, Rice has weighed in during these conversations, even when they do not directly relate to the United Nations.

According to an international NGO that follows Security Council politics closely, "Rice isn't convinced that support is ongoing - maybe [there was some] in the past, but not now." Others point to her skepticism at the UN Group of Experts reports and their methodology.

Her latest controversial step was to block the explicit naming of Rwanda and Uganda in this week's UN Security Council resolution, condemning the M23 occupation of Goma. As in previous statements, the body demanded that "any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately." Other Council members had wanted to name Rwanda explicitly, but Rice demurred, arguing that this would not be constructive in a process in which Rwanda must be part of the solution. Rice's supporters say that this was simply the official US position, and she was following orders from Washington.

Rice's relationship with Rwanda goes back to the Clinton administration, when she began her diplomatic career. She worked on the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997, rising to become the Senior Director for African Affairs. Infamously, she is quoted as having asked in a cabinet meeting during the Rwandan genocide what its impact would be on the mid-term congressional elections.

Guilt over her inaction during the genocide - when she was still in a more junior position - and frustration with first Mobutu and then Laurent Kabila fueled her sympathy toward Rwanda. By 1997, Rice had been named Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. When the Second Congo War broke out in 1998, Rice was at the helm of a US policy that, according to colleagues of her at the time, did not denounce Rwandan abuses or involvement in the eastern Congo during this period. As Howard Wolpe, the US Special Envoy at the time, told me about Rwandan involvement in this war: "We just didn't know what was going on, most of the reports about abuses were coming from the Catholic Church and we didn't know what to make of them." For many, including Rice, the Congolese government was corrupt and inept, Rwanda's was efficient and had good security imperatives to justify their involvement in the Congo. (An excellent, if controversial, account of this era is a 2002 article by Peter Rosenblum in Current History.)

Now, however, the predominant mood in the State Department seems to have shifted to become more critical of Rwandan interference in the Congo. Past wars have brought suffering and few solutions, the FDLR threat, while still present, is much diminished.

Rice is now favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, a choice that, according to a Rwandan official, "would make many in Kigali happy. Rice understands us."

Conflict minerals not fueling M23 rebellion

By Enrico Carisch and Dr Claude Kabemba, SARW Director

27 November 2012 |

The capture of Goma by M23 rebel forces is the latest demonstration of the ineffectiveness of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its army (the FARDC). Whatever the political machinations behind the military's most recent capitulation may be, the overarching themes are the longstanding institutional and governance weaknesses of Congo's central authorities - weaknesses that the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) has highlighted multiple times in its reports and analyses.

And yet almost nothing has been done to actively tackle the real governance issues. In particular, the international community and the government of President Kabila have consistently neglected serious security sector reform in eastern Congo, partly due to the prevailing â€~conflict minerals' narrative. But the reality on the ground could not be more different from the concept that every conflict in eastern Congo is - at its heart - a fight for control over the country's vast natural resources. This certainly does not appear to be the case with the current conflict.

Not only have UN reports pointed fingers squarely at Rwanda and Uganda for providing support to the M23 but the rebels have never gained a foothold in any areas where formal or artisanal gold mining takes place or where other major mineral extraction occurs.

Theoretically, by occupying the Bunagana border crossing, the rebels seized control of the key point on the most lucrative export route for Congo's cassiterite, coltan and wolframite. In addition, occupying the Lueshe mine in Rutshuru territory should have granted them access to its strategically important Pyrochlor deposits.

However, since the M23 advanced into Rutshuru, mineral exporters have chosen to avoid Bunagana and use alternative routes to ship their valuable ore out of the country, while the Lueshe mine has been inoperative for more than a decade and provides no source of income for the rebels.

And the vast majority of eastern Congo is not under the control of the M23 - or indeed of other illegal armed groups. In fact, a just-released research report from SARW - Conflict Gold to Criminal Gold: The new face of artisanal gold mining in Congo - provides compelling evidence that the hundreds of thousands of artisanal gold miners in four provinces (North Kivu, South Kivu, Oriental and Maniema) are no longer afraid of warlords or militias. Instead, they fear the hordes of corrupt civil servants, bureaucrats and members of the government's security forces, who are far more interested in exploiting the miners rather than supporting and protecting them.

Would FARDC soldiers have defended Rutshuru with greater vigour if it were rich in gold? Wouldn't they have fought harder to deny M23 control over Goma if it were an important gold trading centre? The reality is that gold is not responsible for the success of M23 - that responsibility lies with Congo's leaders, who show no interest in building effective institutions or following democratic principles, and Congo's eastern neighbours.

Membership of regional and sub-regional organisations comes with a duty to uphold regional peace and security. The 11 members of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have stepped up to their responsibility by condemning the M23 rebellion and by compelling Rwanda's President Paul Kagame to publicly support this position. But the ICGLR must go further. The member states are obliged to assist each other and to prevent non-state actors from instigating revolts - obligations that include the careful screening of any financial and mineral transactions that could support illegal armed activities, and the prompt reporting to the ICGLR Secretariat of any pertinent findings.

In addition, under the statues of the African Union, sanctions must be imposed against any party that seeks to overthrow the government of a member state through unconstitutional means. AU sanctions must also be applied to any state that supports such unconstitutional changes of government.

While some countries are directly implicated in the M23 rebellion, nations that provide financial and military support to these countries must accept responsibility for indirectly supporting this latest attempt to overthrow the DRC's government by unconstitutional means - and must take action urgently.

It is true that Britain and America have withdrawn from their support-Rwanda-at-all-costs position but this must be more than just a rhetorical change - it must also lead to a change of policy and practice. In particular, it is time for them to impose sanctions on Congo's meddling eastern neighbours and vigorously monitor those sanctions to prevent them from further destabilising the DRC.

The current conflict is not about minerals. It is about Congo's dreadful governance - and the bloody role of neighbouring governments.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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