Africa

The Congo-Kinshasa Conflict Part 5

 A divided country

In the parliamentary elections, parties loyal to Kabila had gained a majority, but in the presidential election a second round of elections was required between Kabila and the former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. Bemba played on xenophobic sentiments against Kabila and accused him of not being a “true Congolese”.

Kabila clearly won in the decisive election round, but the result also showed how divided the country was. The president had strong support in the east, while few had voted for him in the west and north.

After the election, Bemba’s supporters accused Kabila of electoral fraud and even now there was violence. An arrest warrant for high treason was issued against Bemba who left the country.

Democracy with shortcomings

During the 2006 election campaign, Kabila had promised to end the country’s economic mismanagement, and to show respect for human rights and democratic principles. But his rule became increasingly authoritarian, while few new jobs were created and shortcomings in care and education persisted.

In the run-up to the 2011 election, the government launched several reconstruction and development projects in the capital with the aim of winning votes. In addition, constitutional amendments were pushed through, which were considered to benefit Kabila. He won the presidential election with 49 percent of the vote, while the election’s second UDPS leader Etienne Tshisékédi received 32 percent, according to official figures. From several quarters, the government was accused of electoral fraud and Tshisékédi claimed that he was in fact the winner of the election.

Rwanda and the rebels

The unrest in the country continued, especially in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, where some 40 rebel groups, many of them small, were active in 2013. Illegal mineral extraction and the struggle for control of lucrative border trade intensified the conflict.

According to directoryaah, Rwanda was again accused of supporting Tutsi rebels in Congo-Kinshasa. During the war itself, Rwanda was allied with the Congolese Assembly for Democracy (RCD), which was later transformed over the years and changed its name to the National Congress of People’s Defense  (CNDP) and later to the  March 23 Movement (M23).

Hutumilisen FDLR’s presence in Congo-Kinshasa is one reason why Rwanda intervened in the conflict. However, it has been a long time since the FDLR made raids across the border into Rwanda. FDLR has survived by recruiting new members from the local population. Of the original group that took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, only a few militiamen remain.

There are also Mai Mai militias in several parts of the country (see  “Africa’s First World War” ), some of which have collaborated with the various Tutsi groups, while others have fought them.

CNDP / M23 accused the Congolese army of collaborating with the FDLR. The Tutsi rebels’ leaders claimed that they had only intervened to protect the Tutsi minority along the border with Rwanda from the FDLR’s attacks. But at the same time, it was hard on people from other ethnic groups, which in turn triggered revenge attacks on the Tutsi people.

Conflicts also flared up elsewhere, including in the south where forces that want an independent Katanga seemed to be gaining support.

In the East, two Ugandan rebel groups, the Christian  Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Islamist  Allied Democratic Forces (Nalu) (ADF) have over the years committed atrocities against the civilian population.

M23 and FIB

In 2009, the government made peace with the CNDP, which was to be transformed into a political party, and the rebels were integrated into the government army. In April 2012, however, several hundred of the former CNDP rebels deserted and formed the M23 and new fighting broke out. It is difficult to know why this happened, but it was speculated that the revolt had been triggered by the government’s plans to arrest CNDP leader Bosco Ntaganda, who was wanted by the International Criminal Court ( ICC ). Others argued that their army unit would be relocated and thus lose control of lucrative natural resources in the Kivu provinces.

When the fighting broke out, the army was at a disadvantage, despite the fact that the soldiers were many more than the rebels. In the autumn of 2012, the M23 occupied several cities, including Nordkivu’s capital Goma. The rebels were said to have received active support from Rwanda – and to a lesser extent from Uganda – something both countries denied. But internal strife weakened the M23 and a new UN Brigade  FIB  (Force Intervention Brigade), which fought the rebels together with the government army, helped to change the balance of power. In addition, reforms had led to the strengthening of the government army. In the autumn of 2013, the government side claimed to have defeated the M23 militarily and hundreds of rebels had fled across the border to neighboring countries. Shortly afterwards, the rebel movement laid down its arms and signed a peace treaty.

The Congo-Kinshasa Conflict 5