Africa, Headlines | Analysis

POLITICS-DR CONGO: The Devil You See…

Analysis by Charles-M. Mushizi

KINSHASA, Nov 26 2008 (IPS) - Few Congolese believe Laurent Nkunda is the man with whom to negotiate peace in North Kivu. The crux of the matter is economics and geopolitics – both greatly influenced by Western interests.

These women at Kibati, are among the 250,000 people estimated to have been displaced by recent fighting. Credit:  Les Neuhaus/IRIN

These women at Kibati, are among the 250,000 people estimated to have been displaced by recent fighting. Credit: Les Neuhaus/IRIN

And yet because of the security issues in North Kivu, there seems no way around Nkunda, leader of National Congress for the People's Defense (CNPD), if peace is to return to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ahead of a cabinet reshuffle in Kinshasa last month, then-Minister of National Defense Tshikez Diemu dismissed Nkunda's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire and call for political negotiations as "childish babbling". Tshikez did not make it into the new government.

Since then the CNPD has advanced steadily in North Kivu, displacing tens of thousands more civilians.

A Congolese deputy, a member of the Alliance for a Presidential Majority (known by its French acroynm, AMP), argued that despite the political significance of a a meeting between Presidents Kabila and Paul Kagame of Rwanda at the Nov. 7 summit in Nairobi to discuss the Kivu crisis, "the core issue of the Nairobi meeting was economics."

The rebel leader serves "as a kind of blackmail or constraint against Kinshasa for failing to protect the interests of Western investors in the DRC, especially in mining," said the deputy, speaking on condition of anonymity.


In 2006, the DRC received substantial technical, logistic and financial aid from the West to organise elections after the civil war (1998-2002) which caused over 4 million deaths in this Central African country.

But a few months after his election, Kabila's government signed a slew of mining contracts with Chinese conglomerates, handing over a wide swath of mining rights in the DRC, including sites that have yet to be evaluated. The contracts were valued at nearly 10 billion dollars over approximately 30 years.

A number of mining contracts were signed earlier with Western investors during Congo's transitional government (2003-2006). However, these contracts have since been submitted for re-evaluation and renegotiation to "balance the parties' interests" since the investors received the lion's share of the profits, according to Victor Kasongo Shomari, Deputy Minister for Mining.

The presence of Hutu combatants in North Kivu, sought for their alleged participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, remains an excuse for Kagamé to intervene in the Congo "to protect Rwanda's Congolese borders."

Regional peace depends also on Kinshasa's political sincerity, a committed diplomatic effort on their part and the FARDC's credibility, according to analysts.

The leaders of the Cadre de concertation des notabilités des Kivu (CCNK), a group of top politicans, economists and other members of civil society, suspect that officials in Kinshasa have deliberately muddied the waters on security and military matters, specifically in terms of the arming of the rebels and providing political reinforcement.

In September, two members of parliament from the governing AMP joined the rebellion, granting it a certain level of political legitimacy. Their suspicions are strengthened by the fact a former high-ranking member of the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma), Déo Rugwiza, is in charge of managing the DRC's borders; Rugwiza was close to Nkunda when the RCD-Goma was still an armed force during the previous civil war.

Echoing the sentiments of a number of parliamentarians, the CCNK has said that negotiations between Kinshasa and the rebellion now would be "ill-timed".

On the military level, the DRC's army, the Forces Armée de la Republique Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) are neither adequately equipped nor combat ready. Soldiers haven't been properly paid for several months and their families are living in near-poverty. The immediate consequences of the lack of morale has been seen in troops fleeing the enemy and pillaging civilian goods.

According to analysts, FARDC's ability to regain combat strength depends on the current leadership of the Congolese army. Gabriel Amisis, the chief of FARDC's ground troops, commonly known as Tango Fort, is another former high-level officer of RCD-Goma. He too fought alongside Nkunda in the rebellion against the Laurent-Désiré Kabila regime and then that of Kabila the son until the inter-Congolese dialogue in 2003 which resulted in the creation of a transition government.

Tango Fort, who is the key voice on matters of armament and troops, is accused of being unable to fight his former brother-in-arms Nkunda. But in addition, authorities have no control over the wholesale embezzlement of military salaries.

 
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