Sunday, September 22, 2013

DR Congo: Rebels in the Orientale province

The UN News Centre reports

80,000 people displaced by fresh fighting in DR Congo over past month
Displaced people in Orientale province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) receiving food aid. Photo: UNOCHA/Y. Edoumou

18 September 2013 – Some 80,000 people have been driven from their homes in a new outbreak of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over the past month following repeated clashes between the national army and rebels, the United Nations reported today.

Henning Tamm at Congo Siasa blogs about the Ituri rebel groups that mid last year formed the COGAI  Coalition des Groupes Armés de l’Ituri).

COGAI officially consists of four groups: the FRPI; the Front Populaire pour le Développement Durable de l’Ituri (FPDDI); the Force Armée pour la Révolution (FAR); and the Forces Armées d’Intégration de l’Ituri (FAII). COGAI’s founding document suggests that “Col. Hitler” leads the FPDDI, as the creation of this rebel platform is said to have taken place “under the watchful eye of General Cobra Matata and Colonel Hitler.” The FAII is headed by “Col.” Charité Semire, his co-signatory is “Lt. Col.” Saidi Cedrick. Amos Lopa and Blaise Ngbathema signed for the FAR. The coalition’s spokesperson is John Mpigwa (FPDDI).

Who are these groups and their leaders? Apart from Cobra’s FRPI, none of these groups and individuals is well-known. The most significant characteristic of their coalition is that it is multi-ethnic: Mpigwa, “Hitler,” and Semire, for instance, are all Hema; the latter two are former UPC combatants. Although Ituri’s “war within a war,” which began in mid-1999, initially pitted Hema and Lendu against each other, rebel alliances that cross ethnic boundaries are not a new phenomenon. Since the conflict shifted to a struggle between the central government and the UN peacekeeping mission versus rebel remnants around 2005, there have been several such coalitions, e.g., the Mouvement Révolutionnaire Congolais (MRC) between 2005-7 and the Front Populaire pour la Justice au Congo (FPJC) between 2008-2010.

“Cases of rape, kidnappings and other abuses by armed men have been reported,” the spokesperson for the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Madnodje Mounoubai, told a briefing, warning that the population was living in precarious conditions.

General Cobra Matata was going to integrate his fighters into FARDC but withdrew from the deal late last year. I am guessing that the armed men are part of this organisation.  
“Entire villages have been emptied of their populations. Many of those displaced, fearing violence from the belligerents, are believed to still be in the forests in inaccessible areas,” he said, stressing that humanitarian organizations were very concerned with the situation in the Ituri region of Orientale Province where the national army and the Front patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI) - the Ituri Patriotic Front – have repeatedly clashed since August 22.

This situation needs to be brought under control quickly. FARDC simply are not up to the task of suppressing the situation here and in the Kivus for an extended period if their performance in Goma before the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade and the 3 reconstituted  foreign trained FARDC brigades arrived.   

The new outbreak of violence is to the north of the Goma region, where a MONUSCO unit has been helping the national army battle another rebel group, the M23, in North Kivu Province which has seen little respite from fighting since UN peacekeepers helped bring relative stability and elections to much of the rest of the vast country over the past decade following vicious civil wars.

I would expect a flare up soon in the Goma region. The M23 leadership have probably reached the conclusion that the peace talks in Kampala are not going to go their way. It should also be remembered that Rwanda has called up a lot of units to the DR Congo Rwanda border although I doubt Kagame will be stupid enough to invade he is certain to be providing support to M23.  

Mr. Mounoubai said 120,000 people in all have been affected by the violence in the Irumu region of Ituri through the destruction of homes and the looting of property. Sporadic fighting between the army and the FPRI had broken out most recently over the past weekend with both sides using heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket launchers.

Over the past year the fighting with the M23 in the Goma region has displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which already includes 2.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) driven from their homes in clashes with other rebel groups and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.

The potential for another humanitarian catastrophe is very real.

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