Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Coming Anarchy?

The Congolese state seems to me be teetering on the edge of collapse, about to forfeit even the appearance of control over the country. Consider: Outbreaks of localized violence in the east are increasing; an inadequately manned UN intervention brigade is on a collision course against a determined, Rwandan-supported rebel movement; Katanga is openly defying orders from the capital while dealing with its own rebellion; and Kabila's power base in Kinshasa is coming unglued. It's possible that Kabila's regime will continue to muddle through, absent an effective challenger. But the state's hold on power appears as fragile as it's been since the 1996-97 war, and I would not be surprised if there were a coup or some sort of temporary state collapse within the next Friedman unit or so.

Bukavu Online reports that 57 Congolese soldiers died fighting the Union des Forces révolutionnaires du Congo (UFRC), in a battle for control of Chisadu, in Walungu, a mere 60 kms from Bukavu on April 24. Civil society groups are warning that the Mouvement pour la restauration de la démocratie au Congo (MRDC), controlled by General autoproclamé Hilaire Kombi, is threatening to take Beni even as the town's mayor appeals for calm. Walikali has become a free-for-all in the mineral trade, says Christophe Rigaud with Afrikarabia, relaying a report from Prince Kihangi Kyamwami of the NGO, Le Bureau d’Etudes, d’observation et de coordination pour le Développement du territoire de Walikale (BEDEWA).

Meanwhile, negotiations in Kampala between the M23 and the Congolese government appear to have broken down, amid demands from the M23 for a blanket amnesty and reincorporation on its own terms into the Congolese army. Civil society groups are warning that M23 is reinforcing its positions in Rutshuru and Beni in preparation for battle against the UN's intervention brigade. And Congo365 wonders if a military confrontation inevitable.

If a confrontation does take place, it may not end well for the UN. Nadine Gordimer is among many South Africans voicing doubts about the wisdom of their country's participation in the brigade. Thirteen South African troops were killed in the Central African Republic in late March, and questions continue to swirl about whether they were there to protect South Africa's national interests or Jacob Zuma's family's personal investments with ousted president Francois Bozize. Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN Force Divisional Commander for MONUC in the DRC, raises a host of troubling questions about the brigade in an analysis authored by Fiona Blythe:
“No one has conducted an analysis of why, over the last five years or so, MONUSCO has been unable or unwilling to fulfill its mandate of protecting civilians, and until we have the outcome of this analysis we cannot determine if the solution is an intervention brigade.”

“The issue is not that proactive operations are not already authorized, but that troop contributors are risk averse, and show time and again a lack of political will to employ a full reading of the mandate, leading to accusations that it lacks robustness.” In the end, “the mandate is only as strong as the will of the leadership and the TCCs to implement it.”

“Is one brigade to be responsible for enforcing peace through the use of force and the other not? Is one set of rules of engagement to differ from the other, and if not, why deploy a new brigade with the same rules of engagement and force posture as the existing one?”
Reviewing the litany of potential pitfalls analysts worry may be facing the brigade, Christophe Rigaud concludes with one of his own: If the brigade focuses its energies on M23, the 20 or so other rebel groups operating in the Kivus may paradoxically end with greater room and freedom to maneuver.

And Jason Stearns raises the possibility of a re-internationalization of the Congo wars, this time featuring overt conflict between two African military heavyweights: South Africa  and Rwanda. The humanitarian consequences would be appalling.

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