DRCongo Pursues Military Solution to Rebel Crisis
The Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRCongo) foreign minister, Raymond Tshibanda, has announced that the government will not negotiate with army mutineers who launched a rebellion in the mineral-rich east of the country in April, effectively affirming a preference for a military solution to the security crisis in North Kivu province.
IHS Global Insight Perspective
Regional efforts to tackle ongoing insecurity in eastern DRCongo, which has been facing a new rebellion in North Kivu province in 2012, has led to proposals for the deployment of a neutral, international force.
However, an August summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Uganda has not yet led to an agreement on the make-up of such a force, with the DRCongo appearing to prefer that the current UN peacekeeping mission take up this role, albeit with a strengthened mandate.
A rapid deployment of such a proposed force is unlikely, but further fighting between the DRCongo's army and rebels from the March 23 Movement will probably eventually push the two sides into negotiations despite the DRCongo's current pursuit of military action.
Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told a press conference in Kampala, Uganda, on 8 August that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo) does not want the rebels "to survive as a movement, as an ideology, we do not want to see their actions continue", adding "there is nothing to discuss, to negotiate", Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The rebels, who started mutinying from the army in April 2012, are now grouped under the banner of the March 23 Movement (M23) and are largely renegade Congolese Tutsi officers, who claim that their motivation is to force the government to implement a previous peace deal agreed on 23 March 2009. That peace deal officially integrated an earlier incarnation of the M23—the former rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (Congrès National pour la Défense du People: CNDP)—into the DRCongo's armed forces (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo: FARDC).
The M23 mutineers claim that the government has not taken that integration process seriously, accusing the army of regularly bypassing its officers during promotion rounds and they have raised issues such as poor working conditions. Nevertheless, previous reports by UN groups of experts on the DRCongo have claimed that former rebels were maintaining parallel command structures within the army, that some ex-CNDP officers were getting "privileged treatment' in the Kivus and that elements within the FARDC, including some former members of armed groups, were linked to criminal economic networks in the east of the country.
Moreover, reminiscent of allegations raised by the DRCongo's government during the CNDP's previous rebellion, Rwanda once again stands accused of backing Congolese rebels, raising fresh tensions between the neighbours and putting a rapprochement between them since 2009 at risk. It is amid such tensions that regional leaders met to discuss the security crisis in eastern DRCongo, but an inconclusive summit from 6–8 August of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Kampala has been followed by Tshibanda's public refusal to negotiate with the M23 rebels.
The key discussion point at the summit was the deployment of a neutral international force that would be tasked with confronting the M23 and other armed groups. Foremost among the other armed factions is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces Democratiques de Libération du Rwanda: FDLR), a group that is the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan regime's foremost declared foe, since it contains alleged extremists accused of involvement in Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Rwanda twice invaded eastern DRCongo—once in 1996–97, and again from 1998-2002—ostensibly in order to confront these extremists, although, in so doing, Rwanda also built up significant mineral trading networks. The DRCongo and Rwanda have signed a number of agreements aimed at rapprochement in recent years, with these also including that the FARDC take decisive action against the FDLR.
The August conference began with three proposals on the table amid the current insecurity in eastern DRCongo. One was the creation of a discrete regional force composed of ICGLR member states, with a second being a regional, or wider international force, incorporated into the existing 20,000-strong UN mission in the country, known as MONUSCO. A third option proposed a new interim MONUSCO force to fill the current security vacuum, pending the creation of a neutral regional (or wider international) force to fight the 'negative forces' in eastern DRCongo.
However, despite these wide-ranging options—with options two and three including a possible role for soldiers from non-ICGLR African Union (AU) nations—a communiqué at the 8 August conference appeared to narrow down the troop-contributing focus to ICGLR countries. The communiqué committed member states to "home-grown solutions" and Uganda's acting foreign minister Henry Okello Oryem confirmed to reporters that the force would comprise regional militaries.
Although the planned neutral force had, according to Rwanda, been agreed "in principle" between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the DRCongo's Joseph Kabila on the sidelines of an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa in mid-July, there are significant obstacles to this coming to fruition, the most pertinent being—at least from the DRCongo's perspective—the questionable neutrality of some of the potential troop contributing countries. The Great Lakes' most effective national armies are those of Rwanda and Uganda, both of which have been questioned by the DRCongo's government over links to the M23 rebellion.
The allegations against Rwanda are particularly strong, having also been raised by the UN Group of Experts on the DRCongo. In an addendum to the UN group's June 2012 interim report, elements from the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) were accused of "direct facilitation... of the creation of the M23 rebellion" and direct "interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23".
Although the Rwandan and Ugandan governments vehemently deny any links to the M23, the tensions between them and the DRCongo's government will militate against the successful creation of such a regional force (neutral or otherwise) to confront the rebels. Rwanda's Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, acknowledged to IHS in a text message reply on 9 August, that the RDF "as part of any [multilateral] force in DRCongo is very unlikely".
Reflecting the DRCongo's desire for a rapid deployment of a neutral force, Tshibanda reiterated on 8 August that instead of creating a new force, his government would rather MONUSCO's mandate be strengthened, to enable it to pursue the M23 and other armed groups more aggressively. UN helicopter gunships fired on M23 rebel positions in late July, but at its core its current mandate prioritises the protection of civilians and the main troop contributing countries may be adverse to a greater role in ground-based fighting.
Ultimately, although the ICGLR heads of state are due to reconvene in four weeks' time—with defence ministers from Rwanda, the DRCongo, Uganda and four other member states in the meantime tasked with confirming "details on the operationalisation" of the proposed neutral international force—it is unlikely that a significant and coherent regional (or wider international) military initiative will emerge to confront the M23 over the next month, or even beyond. Instead, the military burden is likely to continue to fall on the FARDC and MONUSCO, despite the former being routed in a number of key battles with the M23 in North Kivu province in July.
Outlook and Implications
Given an absence of other options, the FARDC's weaknesses suggest that the DRCongo's government will, eventually, be forced into negotiations with the rebels, despite Tshibanda's hardline stance. Such negotiations would likely cover the repatriation of Congolese Tutsi refugees from Rwanda, the military integration of the mutineers, together with their post-conflict spheres of geographic influence, among other issues.
In the meantime, further military confrontations are likely, although fears that the M23 will take Goma, the regional capital of North Kivu province, are subsiding, for two key reasons. Firstly, the UN's readiness to use gunships is a key deterrent to the rebels. Secondly, Rwanda is under increasing diplomatic pressure over its alleged links to the M23, with Britain, the US and the Netherlands having all suspended elements of their bilateral aid programmes in July (see Democratic Republic of Congo: 27 July 2012: Netherlands Suspends Budget Support to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo: 24 July 2012: US Suspends Military Aid to Rwanda over Alleged Backing of Rebels in DRCongo). Moreover, with Rwanda aiming to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, it could use its alleged contacts with the M23 rebels to urge them to refrain from moving on Goma, at least over the next few weeks.
This article was provided by an IHS Jane's contributor.
- Indian government releases DPCO 2013, expanding price controls to 652 drugs
- Key US data releases and events
- Chinese vehicle sales rise, local OEM Chery sees demand drop – CAAM
- Anti-capitalist and republican security threats dominate preparations for G8 summit in Northern Ireland
- Passenger vehicle demand props up overall sales in China during May – CAAM
- Pfizer, Takeda to receive USD2.15 bil. from settlement agreement over Protonix with Teva, Sun Pharma
- Unprecedented police raid shakes Czech government's fragile stability
- Ford struggles to meet Fusion demand, to unveil new Lincoln CUV by year-end
- Global Economic Impact of the Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster
- Chinese influence drives new transcontinental canal plan in Nicaragua