A new rebellion has been tearing the North and South Kivu provinces apart, again, though you may not have seen anything about it in the U.S. news media. This current uprising is by men who had been part of a rebel group in earlier struggles in the area and were subsequently incorporated into Congo’s national army. If that sounds like a risky proposition, it was. In April a group of these soldiers broke away and began advancing through the Kivus, fighting against the army they had just left. They are commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, also known as “Terminator,” a notorious thug who was second to Thomas Lubanga. If you recognize Lubanga’s name, it’s probably because he was recently sentenced by the International Criminal Court to 14 years in prison for war crimes. Ntaganda has also been indicted by the ECC.
Earlier this week the rebels–who call themselves M23 after the date of a failed peace treaty–threatened to invade the city of Goma, North Kivu, “if attacks against civilians in the city do not stop,” according to the BBC account. If that statement sounds totally inside out, just remember, this is Congo, where things do not have to make any sense where military force is involved. United Nations peace-keeping troops were moving to Goma to protect the city, and the rebels later denied that they intended to try to take that target. Meanwhile, an estimated 200,000 new refugees have been created by this upheaval.
There are two quite good articles that I recommend if you want to get a quick but insightful picture of what’s going on this time. The first is on the BBC’s website: “The tactics behind DR Congo’s mutiny.” Written by Andrew Harding, BBC Africa Correspondent, the article takes the perspective of what the M23 rebels are actually trying to achieve. “As with most mutinies, the turmoil now spreading across the lush green hills of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is, despite appearances, a calculated and calibrated affair. Its ultimate purpose is not to conquer territory or defeat enemies but to strengthen a negotiating position and to win, for its various partners, a bigger slice of power or money or security. In this case, all of the above.”
The second comes from the Agence-France Presse, as picked up by ReliefWeb: “Kivu: why DR Congo’s border region is focus of violence.” In this one article, you’ll get a good survey of the involvement between the DRC and Rwanda going back at least 18 years. If you want a more thorough treatment of that history, superbly done, read Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, by Jason K. Stearns. And if you want to keep an eye on how this particular episode of warfare is going, watch the BBC online. They’re pretty good about reporting on Congo and other African countries.
SAJ 13 Jul 2012