Friday, July 10, 2009

ICG: Call off Kimia II!

Declaring that Operations Umoja Wetu and Kimia II both failed to root out FDLR militia while further endangering area civilians, the International Crisis Group called for the Congolese military to halt its operations against the FDLR until it develops a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with them. It said the Congolese military should focus on protecting civilians until the Rwandan army and the 3,000 long-promised additional (European?) troops for Monuc are able to take over the hunt against the FDLR.

A few thoughts:
1) The ICG recommends that Rwanda "participate in the planning and implementation of a new FDLR disarmament strategy." I think this is problematic. First, I'm not convinced that Kigali really wants to invest much resources in hunting down the FDLR. I know that over the last decade they've been using the presence of the FDLR in eastern Congo to make all sorts of demands, but it's also true that they never made any serious effort to sweep up the FDLR during that time. Second, I'm not sure how receptive the Congolese will be to the presence of Rwandan soldiers. Their return to Congo could very easily push groups now marginally associated with the FARDC (such as PARECO and various Mai-Mai) into the anti-Rwandan, pro-FDLR camp.

2) In contrast to the recent HRW report, which was harshly critical of Monuc and the Congolese army, the ICG report focuses on recommendations for the future. There are two ways to look at this: on the one hand, the ICG avoids critizing the institutions it feels will need to be part of any long-term solution to the problem. On the other, it sidesteps the question of whether those institutions are capable of being part of the solution, or whether they are just so intrinsically damaged, compromised, or ineffectual that they need to be massively reengineered before they can be called upon to play a constructive role.

3) It is interesting to me that ICG continues to give the "standard" official explanation for the sudden raprochement between Rwanda and Congo. "Their agreement was a significant shift of alliances in the region. In exchange for the removal of Nkunda by Kigali, Kinshasa agreed to a joint military operation against the FDLR on Congolese territory and to give key positions in the political and security institutions of the Kivus to CNDP representatives..."

As readers know, I think the main reason the two governments abandoned their decade-long enmity so suddenly was that they realized they had a lot more money to make together, through this methane gas project, than they did apart. If Kigali really wanted to rid the region of the FDLR, why did they promise they would quit the Congo within a month--and then, more or less, abide by that promise? As ICG notes:

After 35 days, the results of the operation were much more modest than
officially celebrated. The FDLR was only marginally and temporarily weakened in
North Kivu and remained intact in South Kivu. Less than 500 FDLR combatants
surrendered to MONUC to be demobilised in the first three months of 2009. Barely
a month after the end of the operation, the rebels had regrouped and started to
retaliate against civilians they believed had collaborated with “Umoja Wetu”.

Some speculate that Rwanda abandoned the operation out of concern for the political difficulties it was posing for Kabila. I'm not sure Kigali is known for such solicitude.

But if Rwanda and the DRC needed to demonstrate that they were no longer adversaries, and if the point of the operation was simply to secure the perimeter of Lake Kivu for the benefit of the methane plant, then the operation was a definite success.

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