Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Congo Spiraling out of Control?

Four reads today provide the most dire evidence yet that Congo is spiraling dangerously out of control. None suggests that an implosion is imminent; combined, however, they paint a picture of a government that is failing in every respect: unable to control its territory and in danger of collapsing or being overthrown in Kinshasa.

First, the ICG has an excellent backgrounder on last month's massacre in Lubumbashi. Money quote:
The unexpected occupation of Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by 440 Mai-Mai fighters last month is another sign of the central government’s lack of capacity to govern, ensure security or pursue reform. The occupation, which resulted in 35 dead and 53 wounded, serves as a reminder that the country’s crisis is not limited to North Kivu, in eastern Congo, or to warlords.
 Second, Pete Jones has a sobering update on the Mai Mai Morgan operating in Ituri: "For nine months a brutal militia has made repeated attacks on villagers in remote areas of the Ituri rainforest. The Mai Mai Morgan, led by a man named Paul Sadala who likes to call himself Morgan, has created fear and suffering wherever it has attacked..."

Third, Agoravox details a confrontation earlier this week between Monusco forces and M23 rebels. The rebels blocked a UN convoy it suspected of carrying supplies for the proposed intervention brigade. The convoy was released only the arrival of heavily armed Monusco troops prepared to fight. The article also speculates about whether Rwanda and Uganda will continue to support M23 even after the brigade arrives. And it worries that the intervention brigade will be woefully underequipped for the mission en-tasked it.

Fourth,  Christophe Rigaud at Afrikarabia raises some troubling questions about the latest alleged coup attempt against Kabila, the third such in the past two months. Last Thursday, April 11, the government announced it had arrested 13 individuals plotting an attack on the presidential convoy. But the evidence against this latest group of coup plotters is thin, says Rigaud. Many of the alleged plotters are affiliated with veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi; he and other opposition leaders are claiming that this is simply an attempt to discredit them.

There are two possibilities here, neither of them good. The first is that the coup allegations are true. In that case, shadowy figures on the fringes of Congolese political society believe that the regime is weak enough to make a coup attempt feasible. The second is that the charges are trumped up, which means that the government is becoming increasingly paranoid and dysfunctional. It's hard to figure out which option is worse.

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