Monday, June 11, 2012

War of Words Progresses; Real War, not so much

Overview of Humanitarian Situation in DRC
A month or so into Bosco Ntaganda's rebellion/mutiny, and tempers all around are fraying. Lambert Mende, the DRC government spokesman, said on Saturday that hundreds of the M23 rebels had been trained in Rwanda and that Kigali was turning a blind eye to a "conspiracy" against Kinshasa. Congo PM Matata Ponyo added that the Congolese armed forces were all set to defeat the enemy when they were "astonished to see that the enemy force was increasing." Speaking to the media in Goma Sunday, Ponyo said that a "neighboring country’s territory" had been used for training and infiltration of the rebels. He said the government would use force to dislodge the rebels of the M23 movement from what he described as their last holdout - a range of hills on the borders of North Kivu, Rwanda and Uganda. He did, however, indicate that he favored a diplomatic response toward Rwanda. « Il faut continuer à combattre les mutins, et en même temps chercher les voies diplomatiques avec le Rwanda ».

Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's foreign minister, rejected accusations of Rwandan involvement: "Rwanda has no interest in meddling in the internal affairs of the Congo. We understand that the government in the DRC is facing multiple challenges on several fronts and that using Rwanda as a scapegoat is an attempt to distract and deflect attention away from these domestic crises," she said.

It's a nasty dig, considering how the Rwandan government typically treats its own opposition, but not necessarily false. The grumbling in Kinshasa is growing ever louder, with more than a few voices re-circulating old rumors about Kabila's parentage and questioning his loyalties. Also increasing in volume are allegations of US and English support for Rwanda and claims they are planning the Balkanization of Congo.

The government is clearly walking a tightrope; it's trying to satisfy domestic calls for retaliation against Rwanda without alienating the international community.  RFI asked an unnamed government minister if the government was prepared to get tough against Rwanda:  « C’est très difficile », avoue un conseiller ministériel. « Pour cela, il faudrait que nous soyons bien épaulés par la communauté internationale ». « Le régime rwandais bénéficie de beaucoup de soutien, bien plus que nous », ajoute-t-il.

The International Crisis Group has published a blistering critique of Monusco. In an open letter to the Security Council, the ICG writes that Monusco has lost credibility on several fronts and urgently needs to reorient its efforts if it is not to become a $1.5 billion empty shell (echoes of Mushikiwaba!). The letter calls on the Security Council to demand Bosco's arrest, insist on local and provincial elections under a reconstituted CENI, and consider consequences for "parties that do not cease support" for the rebels--all as conditions for re-upping Monusco's mandate. However, the letter doesn't specify what leverage the international community has available to effectuate these demands; that it tip-toes around even naming Rwanda as the party supporting the rebels is indicative of the challenge.

Ironically, considering how contentious their relationship has been in the past, the Congolese government has of late been pleased with the cooperation it's received from Monusco in preserving peace and security in the east. At Sunday's press conference, Matata Ponyo praised Monusco's protection of Bunagana against the mutineers: «Nous sommes satisfaits de la collaboration entre les militaires congolais et les forces de la Monusco » he said.

Theordore Trefon writes that continuing violence in the east is undermining the credibility of the prime minister, a previously respected technocrat appointed by Kabila as a sop to the international community in the aftermath of the elections. He notes a string of recent failures:
Matata lost credibility when a two-day transport strike brought Kinshasa to a standstill last month.
The World Bank suspended budgetary support in response to the poor management of the post-election crisis.
The UK government at the end of 2011 announced it would double its aid to Congo in 2012 but in March backtracked on that plan.
Bits of good news: Radio Netherlands tells how a young entrepreneur in Bas Congo turned  "cemeteries" of unharvested mangoes into a thriving juice business; scientists are making progress on de-toxifying exploding lakes that contain poisonous carbon dioxide and methane gas (of which Lake Kivu is one); and 10,000 people attended the closing act of Kinshasa's first comedy festival on Sunday, entitled "General Elections in the very, very Democratic Republic of Gondwana."

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