Rwanda is being accused to be the main aggressor in this conflict, in Kinshasa, although it allowed Kenyan EAC troops to cross its territory to deploy their soldiers in the Kivu’s. The main sponsor of the EAC is the African Union of which Rwanda is also a member and a contributor.
Tomorrow the defense ministers of the East-African countries who participate in the East-African force will meet in Goma. But Rwanda, another member of the EAC, is not invited to this party that was announced with a lot of noise by the new minister of defense of the DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba.
But it is Congo that is calling the shots as it is taking place on Congolese soil, in a city that is completely surrounded by the M23. Rwanda is being accused to be the main aggressor in this conflict, in Kinshasa, although it allowed Kenyan EAC troops to cross its territory to deploy their soldiers in the Kivu’s. The main sponsor of the EAC is the African Union of which Rwanda is also a member and a contributor.
It is more than probable Bemba will try to convince his East-African colleagues to change their opinion to start engaging the M23 in a more direct and military way. Kinshasa already showed its stick behind the door when the EAC will not comply to that demand: the legal mandate of this force was only temporarily prolonged for 3 months and Tshisekedi already declared openly that the EAF would not be necessary any longer after that period (if they would not start fighting the M23!).
In the recent days the EAF was regularly probed by proxy-FARDC forces who tried to engage the M23 in the tampon zones the EAC forces where already occupying. Add to that the future presence of a couple of thousands of Angolan troops which whom the EAC has no direct links or obligations and the resulting picture becomes foggier and foggier by the day.
To be followed,…
By Adeline Umutoni & Marc Hoogsteyns
PS: The French version of this text will be posted tomorrow.
Bemba will have to prove himself in this meeting and his bosses in Kinshasa expect him to come back with a new deal in which the involved East-African countries agreed openly that they will engage the M23 on the battle field, alongside the FARDC and their proxy allies such as the Nyatura, the FDLR and several Mayi Mayi groups and other gangs.
Yesterday the EAF commanders already declared openly that the M23 has rather complied well to vacate certain areas (such as Kibumba, Kishishe, Tongo, Kitchanga, etc). We believe they mainly did this to pull the carpet away under the feet of Bemba and weaken his demand. And there is another obstacle for Bemba: the FDLR will have to be neutralized and disarmed as well and the FARDC is mainly using these forces to do their fighting as they are too cowardice and too badly motivated and disciplined to do that.
Bemba will be pushed between the hammer and the iron in Goma: Tshisekedi pulled him and his other colleague Vital Kamhere out of the garbage bag to strengthen his new coalition in Kinshasa and on the other hand the ex-warlord and rival of Joseph Kabila needs all the arguments and tricks he will be able to find to polish his very bad reputation.
Bemba was accused of leading two battalions of Banyamulenge mercenaries that created a lot of havoc in the Central African Republic. He spent years behind bars in Holland for that but was finally released when the International Tribunal didn’t know any longer what to do with him. While he was sitting their Joseph Kabila had signed up Bemba’s ex-Banyamulenge army of which some officers were able to become generals in the FARDC. Otherwise, those would have been accused of the crimes committed in CAR and Bemba would have been let of the hook too early.
Reaching up his hand to Tshisekedi to take him aboard his new political structure was the only option for Bemba to get extra breathing space and to spike up his wallet again. Kinshasa was smart enough to organize this meeting in Goma, so that Rwanda would be left out of this picture. Earlier two RDF advisors who were part of the EAF-staff in Goma were already expelled, much to the disliking of the EAF-command. If Bemba will put all his weight on the table tomorrow it might crack.....
Rwanda was, to start with, not against the deployment of the EAC-force. They allowed the Kenyan troops to pass over Rwandan territory and a lot of the EAF-logistics still pass via Gisenyi into Goma. When I asked some of the local top brass members of the RDF if the Rwandan minister of defense would also be present in the DRC, they answered me with a short message that they were currently at loggerhead with the DRC and therefore not welcome. But they finished their answer with a big smiley to indicate that my questions were probably very naïve and that I could have guessed the answer without bothering them.
This also shows that the leadership in Kigali does not expect anything any longer from Kinshasa. Kigali also contributes indirectly to the financial part of the EAF-operation in North-Kivu, as members of the EAC and the African Union. Their goodwill to find a durable solution for the problems in the Kivu’s is therefore present. But their motivation to keep on showing that same goodwill is getting weaker and weaker in the same time.
If the EAF bends over for Kinshasa and accepts their radical demand to let its soldiers to be used as and exclusive anti M-23 fighting force the motivation of the Rwandan government might disappear completely.
The moral intentions of the Kinshasa top brass are getting shakier as well: demagogy, lies and the way in which very simple and clear facts are being turned into their advantage are becoming thrive in Tshisekedi’s propaganda mill in which guys such as Patrick Muyaya are playing a leading role.
Foreign journalists who are peeking holes in that balloon full of lies and wishful thinking are being kicked out of the country. Others and with them also a lot of well-informed researchers shut up and deny this truth to be said to conserve their access to the country (and probably also their salaries…). Congolese journalists who do not want to become and instrument in Muyaya’s fanfare and play different songs are being locked up. Some others were locked up for a while and came out with a big smile only to start underline the courage and the political strength of the “great leaders and guides” in place. And the Congolese audience is swallowing their intox.
In the case of the scheduled meeting of the defense ministers in Goma tomorrow the audience was already prepped by Jean-Pierre Bemba with the announcement that the previous deals with the EAC would have to be re-negotiated. The Rwandan president told journalists in Benin that the whole M-23 problem could not be understood well if the international community would not take the contradictory history of this region into consideration.
Serious scholars and historians know very well the history of the African Great Lakes where a Rwandan speaking community has been living for ages on what is now Congolese soil and that their rights often were neglected. Not to forget the thousands of Rwandans who were brought over to the Kivu’s from to work on the colonial plantations of the Belgians and who were added to the Kinyarwanda communities on the spot who had been living there already for ages.
Kagame’s words were interpreted by the propaganda mill in Kinshasa as a full out provocation. All Kagame wanted to explain was that the reality is more complex as most people abroad think and to understand this well you have to study its history.
Even the biggest Kagame haters such as Filip Reyntjens or Michela Wrong would not dare to ridicule themselves by raping the history in such a harsh way. But in Kinshasa a small army of history pirates and pseudo-intellectuals are willing to repeat this song without any scruples to please their benefactors.
Another fact is that many Congolese from the other side of the country do not know what is going on there exactly and this probably also goes for President Tshisekedi himself who’s level of education is sub-standard and who has never set foot in places such as Masisi and Rutshuru.
Less and less outsiders are falling for the twitter-ish style and the propaganda of the Congolese regime that is trying to run the country with hollow slogans. In this case Kagame is being accused to have claimed in Benin that both of the Kivu’s were in fact Rwandan territory but everybody knows that this is fake. By adding fuel drops like this on the already hard-boiling fire Muyaya just wanted to raise the stakes in his hypochondriac bubble.
The M-23 showed its goodwill by accepting to pull out of certain regions. These regions might be of lesser strategic value to them and Makenga’s men might still be present in the surrounding hills to intervene if the FARDC or the FDLR break the ongoing agreements or if the EAF fails to keep the FARDC out of their tampon zones.
The rebels are not donkeys and a donkey never hursts itself at the same rock 3 times in a row: their demands were not respected when Laurent Nkunda buried his axe, in 2013 they were disrespected again when Makenga accepted to withdraw. This time the situation is different.
I think that we already explained that well in our previous papers. A possible withdrawal of the EAF with the FARDC trying to move in to these zones would automatically result in an open war. The FARDC would be kicked out completely of the North-Kivu Province.
The Angolan troops on the spot would not be able to stop this: there is not one M-23 soldier who is not aware of the Angolan betrayal of the RCD troops when the Rwandan army and the RCD walked on Kinshasa from Kitona, years ago. The Angolan army had given the advancing troops of RCD-Goma the guarantee that they would not intervene but they changed their opinion when those troops were standing at the gates of Kinshasa.
Probably in exchange for oil concessions in Congolese territorial waters. Hundreds of RCD and Rwandan soldiers died while by being bombed by Angolan jets. In case the Angolan troops might get engaged in combat in the Kivu’s the RDF might turn their back on them. Nobody would be able to blame them for not stepping in for the Angolans. Logistically the Angolan army would bath in misery and pain and find itself in exactly the same situation as the RCD troops on their way back to Matadi, years ago.
A couple of days ago Tshisekedi openly declared that the Angolan troops would replace the EAF in case of their possible pull out. The Congolese know the history of the Kitona-debacle also very well so they are, once again and willingly, making the odds heavier.
It does not have to come to this worst-case scenario: if the African Union and the EAC would decide to change the mandate of their operation in case Kinshasa keeps on blocking a peaceful way out there might still be hope. In a conflict in which where the biggest culprits also can decide how to fight and have the exclusive right to stop it innocent people will keep on dying. Joseph Goebels might be proud of Patrick Muyaya when he would know how this guy gets away with lies, racist slander and fake hypochondriac claims.
Martin Kobler, the ex-guru and boss of the UN-forces in Congo, who still claims that he was able to solve the Tutsi rebellion of Sultani Makenga in 2013, told journalists yesterday that only a rapid reaction force such as the one used in 2013 would be able to solve the problem.
By stating this he openly says that the M-23 are the only bad kids on the block. We were on the spot in Goma when this happened and I confronted himself with the question if that move would not be useless given the fact that the rebels would probably be back on the doorsteps of Goma a couple of years later. He had also made the formal promise that the FDLR would be dealt with right after the withdrawal of the M-23. I told him that the FARDC would never allow this. And it never happened.
Kobler also seems to forget that after the complete failure of the UN forces in the DRC the (in itself) contradictory alliance of the EAF is all what is left to prevent an even much bigger disaster. South-Africa might think twice before getting involved again in this region: the RDF is already chaperoning and protecting them in Mozambique. The SADF capacity and professionalism has gone down the gutters during the past couple of years. Tanzania already has troops on the ground, inside Monusco. But they were not able to change the situation either.
Martin Kobler would be far better off to continue to enjoy the luxury of his retirement because it also because of short sighted bureaucrats like him that we are being confronted by an even worse crisis. My analysis that the whole situation is at loggerheads can therefore stand its ground.
To be followed,…
By Adeline Umutoni & Marc Hoogsteyns
PS: The French version of this text will be posted tomorrow.
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