Sunday, August 19, 2012

Understanding the situation in the Eastern Congo

Emmanuel blogs about the numerous armed groups operating in the eastern DR Congo I recommend it if you like me are trying to get your head around the situation. 

" Many have expressed confusion over the armed groups that operate in and around the park.  It’s complex, but not impossibly complicated and while I may be over-simplifying, there is some value in offering an overview of the political landscape with respect to the armed groups.
For a long time, we considered the park to be affected by three main illegal armed groups.  The FDLR (Rwandan) in the South, the Mai Mai (Congolese) in the centre and the ADF Nalu (Ugandan) in the north.  In recent months, things have become a little more complicated with the arrival of the M23, but in many ways it all follows the same logic.  Armed militias have two unique opportunities: the fragility of state security, coupled with the illegal access natural resources. This makes the park and its surroundings fertile ground for an intricate mozaic of armed militias. They’re all a threat to population and represent the greatest of concerns for the park authorities.
Post this to facebook
In the South, the M23 are a new arrival, though based on a presence that was always here.  The movement was born of the CNDP which used to be under the leadership of the rebel General Laurent Nkunda, currently under house arrest in Rwanda.  It came into being in April when former members of the CNDP mutinied under the pretext that the March 23 2009 agreements that ended the CNDP war of 2007 and 2008 were not respected.  Although they are a rebellion against the government, there is an understanding on all sides that the park needs to be protected and that the park’s rangers must continue their work in the areas that are controlled by the M23.  This is fairly unique, partly as a result Virunga’s status as a World Heritage Site offering legitimacy to our claim of being neutral in the current conflict, partly because park is gradually being rebuilt as a government institution genuinely trying to fulfill it’s role.
The southern half of the park is home to several FDLR groups.  They have a long history in the region dating back to Rwandan Genocide in 1994, and are an assimilation of the Interahamwe, brutal irregulars responsible for the worst crimes during the genocide, and of the pre-genocide Rwandan regular army as well as a collection of opportunists including some Congolese nationals.  The group continues to commit war crimes,  including murder, torture, rape, persecution and the recruitment of child soldiers, and has gained significant prominence in recent months as a result of the instability caused by the M23 war.  They are our biggest problem.  They have killed 11 of our rangers since January last year, and are responsible for some of the worsed attrocities in the region.  Of these, the FDLR SOKI are our biggest concern, as they now control the east of the park and have completely encircled Lulimbi, where a unit of our rangers are trying to maintain their presence.  The government army and the UN peacekeepers have fled this area and the FDLR have taken over.  The FDLR Soki have attacked us in the past, such in June last year, when they ambushed one of our vehicles and captured, killed and decapitated one of our rangers, Asani Sebuyoli, near Ishasha.  They’ve attacked us twice in the past two weeks.  Two of our rangers were wounded, and four of theirs were killed during these attacks.
Other FDLR groups live and operate in the park.  A strange group is the FDLR Mandevu who operate just north of Goma, living off the illegal charcoal from the park.  These are perhaps best defined as “rebels without a cause”, other than looting and pillaging, that is.  They were probably responsible for the killing of two of our rangers in September last year.  They tend to switch sides very quickly, based on the financial opportunities available to them.
The Mai Mai are a mixed group that fight amongst themselves as much as they fight with the government forces.  The movement has its origins in the 1960s, but only really came together after the beginning of the second Congolese Civil War in 1998.  The main group that affects us are called the Mai Mai Pareco and come under the command of “General” Sikuli Lafontaine.  Rangers Safari and Magayani were killed by this group in January 2009 and September 2011.
The ADF / Nalu are a strange Ugandan islamic group that have been living in the savannas north of Lake Edward and in the rainforests of the lower Semliki river for several decades.  They are reportedly highly structured and organised and potentially very dangerous, but tend to avoid confrontations with the Congolese authorities.  They are the only armed group that tends to buy its supplies from the local population rather to loot them.  That said, there was a violent incident in 2005 when two of our rangers were abducted by the ADF / Nalu and were never seen again.  They have had several run-ins with the army, some of them with deadly consequences.
There are a number of other small groups such as the Ex RCD K (ML), who are a remnant from the 1998-2003 civil war, and who attacked Kasindi in the northern sector of the park three weeks ago, killing 2 soldiers, but not that much is known about them.  Other small militia groups come and go when the opportunities arise.  Sadly, the failure to re-establish the rule of law by the Government despite UN support, the chronic youth unemployment and the widespread availability of weapons all contribute to making armed groups an attractive option for young men in eastern congo.
That’s it.  For now. "

No comments:

Post a Comment