Saturday, July 20, 2013

DR Congo: Does Rwanda intend to invade ?

New Times Rwanda reports


Rwanda: UN brigade aiding FDLR-Congo alliance


The Government has accused the newly-deployed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), under the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco), of backing collaboration between DR Congo-based Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda militia (FDLR) and the Congolese army.

The accusations are contained in a letter that Rwanda’s Ambassador to the UN Eugene-Richard Gasana wrote to the US’s Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo in her role as this month’s president of the UN Security Council.


This runs completely against a report in Congo DRC News last week in which the International Brigade / Africa Brigade /  Force Intervention Brigade were accused of supporting M23 against the FDLR and FARDC that I blogged here. The problem Rwanda faces is that the Africa Brigade ( under the command of  MONUSCO ) has not really formed up yet. 

Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa describes it thus.

For weary observers of the M23-FARDC standoff, the cycle of events is becoming all too predictable. Every week, dozens of rumors are spread via SMS, the web, and word-of-mouth about cross-border infiltrations from Uganda and Rwanda––most of them false, but persistent enough for it appear to be an orchestrated campaign of misinformation. Some MONUSCO officers spend many of their waking hours just hunting down the latest canard, usually to come up with nothing.

Then the fighting: in past weeks, a variety of militia loosely allied to the Congolese government have launched attacks against the M23. Last week, a small bunch of APCLS Mai-Mai somehow made their way to the north of Goma to harass the M23; before that, it was the MPA and FDLR-Soki to the northeast of Rutshuru. And now it is the M23's turn again to strike against the FARDC, attacking Mutaho, a village overlooking Goma from the north.


Alex Engwete offers two possible explanations. 

The first explanation is that little doubt remains in the minds of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and his military entrepreneurs and plunder operators that they are watching unravel--live!--the endgame of this installment in their serial assaults on the Congo. 


The second explanation is that Rwanda is rehearsing its rationales for an all-out military assault in the Congo.

And this could turn out to be Kagame's biggest mistake in his long career of pillages and thefts in the Congo, as the Rwandan president is now antagonizing Tanzania.

Understandably Alex is pro FARDC whereas I see them as part of the problem at this stage rather than part of a possible solution. Congo DRC News gives us some graphic pictures of why FARDC are probably the least professional army in the world today, including the despicable crime of offering indignities to the dead.


A man accused by the Congolese Army of being a spy of rebels of the M23 movement is tied and taken away on July 16, 2013 in Munigi on the outskirts of Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo… PHIL MOORE/AFP/Getty Image


The bodies of two alleged M23 fighters are dumped out of the back of a pickup truck by Congolese Army soldiers in the village of Rusayo on July 16, 2013 during a press visit. According to the army, one of the men was Ugandan and the other Rwandan, but they could not produce the identity cards that they claimed to have seen proving this.PHIL MOORE/AFP/Getty Image

More troubling and in line with Alex's second possible explanation is Jason Stearns prediction that it is possible that a M23 re-occupation of Goma can not be ruled out. 


So will fighting continue? Will the M23 or the FARDC escalate? Anything is possible, but I would imagine the Congolese army would wait for the Intervention Brigade (FIB) to fully deploy, and for the army to carry out its ongoing restructuring before making a move––and that could take at least another month. The M23 would have a greater interest in escalation, perhaps in order to preempt the FIB from deploying or improving the deal on the table. But their problem continues to be a lack of troops. With only 1,500-2,500 troops, they have to protect an area 100km long and some 20-50km wide.

So taking Goma would leave a considerable vacuum along the Rwandan border, and would probably only be possible with backing from the Rwandan army––would this once again be forthcoming?


Is Rwanda is positioning its self politically to invade the Eastern DR Congo again ? Incidentally how will that sit with its current membership of the UN Security Council ?

A case of two letters

The letter, a copy of which this paper has obtained, is a replica of another that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, sent to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week, according to Gasana’s letter.

Amb. Gasana, also Rwanda’s State minister for cooperation, said in the Tuesday letter that senior FIB commanders have held several meetings with FDLR commanders to discuss cooperation while the force is supposed to hunt down the rebels.

“The Government of Rwanda has credible, reliable and detailed information that various forms of tactical and strategic collaboration with the FDLR were discussed during those meeting,” Gasana said in the letter. “Their actions, implicating senior UN commanders picking sides among the very armed groups whose military activities they are meant to deter, is of serious concern.”

The FDLR militia is largely composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, which claimed the lives of a million people.

The newly-formed UN intervention brigade in eastern DR Congo is mandated to dismantle the group, among others.

But Rwanda says it’s concerned that the militia is cooperating with the Congolese army, FARDC, in offensives that the army has been conducting on several armed groups in eastern DR Congo, especially against the M23 rebels who they are fighting near the North Kivu capital of Goma.

Kigali is concerned that reinforcement of the FDLR would allow the group to mount military operations against the Rwandan territory.

Such attacks have in the past compelled Rwanda to send its troops to eastern DR Congo to neutralise the rebels and ensure that Rwanda is safe from their attacks and their plan to continue their extermination agenda against the Tutsi.


Rwanda is very good at making wild allegations and providing no evidence to back them up. There is nothing I have been able to track down supporting any of the Rwandan claims in fact  the opposite would seem to be the case again from Congo DRC News .

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of alleged mistreatment of M23 detainees and desecration of corpses of M23 combatants by the Congolese armed forces,” Ban’s press office said.
“MONUSCO has launched the process of reviewing its support to FARDC units suspected of being involved in these incidents,” said Ban’s statement. “The Secretary-General calls on the DRC to bring the perpetrators of these reported acts to justice.”




Weapons delivery

Amb. Gasana said Rwanda has reports of large quantities of weapons and ammunition delivered to FDLR by FARDC officers with the knowledge and support of FIB commanders.

The Rwandan government accused FIB commanders and contingents of observing as FARDC integrates FDLR units and commanders into its commando units near the border with Rwanda.

“The above-mentioned activities and patterns are developments that my government takes seriously, as they constitute a serious threat to the security of my country but also put into question the credibility of MONUSCO and its peacekeeping operations,” Amb. Gasana said.

He added that any hidden agenda driven by political or economic interests would undermine efforts for peace in the region.

"....any hidden agenda driven by political or economic interests...."  Rwanda has got to be taking the piss if it thinks it can get away with that allegation unchallenged. I have argued for some time that M23 despite last weeks limited success has its back against the wall. 

One might well argue that Rwanda scored an own goal in its support of Makenga over Ntaganda and the subsequent hanging out to dry of Ntaganda that has brought about M23's current weakness. Reuters reports. 


 "To halt Ntaganda's activities, Rwandan authorities arrested some of the individuals who were part of this network," the experts said.
"Some Rwandan officers also provided limited material support to Makenga as he sought to defeat Ntaganda," found the report. "While some Rwandan officers had ensured Ntaganda of their assistance, in reality they had decide to support Makenga.
"Rwandan officers also fed disinformation to Ntaganda which precipitated his defeat. Former M23 soldiers who fought alongside Ntaganda reported that soldiers of the (Rwandan Defense Force) special forces that were deployed along the border provided Ntaganda with ammunition at the outset of fighting, which made him believe that he enjoyed RDF support."
As his troops began to run low on ammunition after two weeks of fighting, Ntaganda fled into Rwanda, where he feared Rwandan soldiers deployed on the border would kill him. The U.N. experts said that Makenga had also ordered his troops kill Ntaganda.
It was estimated that about 200 rebels from both sides were killed during the M23 split, the report said. Almost 800 rebels loyal to Ntaganda also fled into Rwanda after their defeat. The experts said Makenga was left with some 1,500 fighters spread across a 270 square mile area (700 sq km).

The FIB, which is made up of troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi, has begun patrolling in eastern DR Congo and the completion of its full deployment is due by August.

One should not forget Rwanda has gone out of its way to piss off Tanzania, the nation leading the Africa Brigade / FIB . 

Monusco refutes Rwanda’s claims


Reacting to the accusations, Monusco spokesperson Madnodje Mounoubai told The New Times by telephone yesterday that the mission has not found any proof of the actions taking place.

“Monusco has not been able to substantiate these accusations,” he said.

Mounoubai instead called on both Rwanda and the DR Congo to stop counter accusations, the latter having continually accused Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels.

“We are actually calling on all parties to exercise restraint and not to escalate the situation. The losers (in the conflict) are actually civilians on the ground,” Mounoubai said, highlighting an already alarming number of internally displaced persons in eastern DR Congo.

On Monday, two mortar bombs fired from an area under the control of FARDC and Monusco landed in villages in Rubavu District, according to Rwandan government.

The Rwandan government described the bombing act as “provocative and deliberate” by FARDC and Monusco since there was no fighting nearby between the Congolese warring factions.

I think Rwanda might well be painting itself into a corner and may well be left with the option of invasion of the Eastern DR Congo and Goma under the guise of M23 or humiliation and back-down something that unfortunately Paul Kagame I suspect is incapable of doing.

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