Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Uganda: "The problem always seems to be, we're picking up the pieces on the ricochet."

New Vision ( Uganda ) reports

                                                         Thomas Kwoyelo when he was still with the LRA (Monitor)
Kwoyelo pleads for clemency
FORMER Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander, Thomas Kwoyelo, has appealed to President Yoweri Museveni for pardon over atrocities he committed against the people of northern Uganda.

My gut feeling is no way, this guy needs to pay and pay big time. Human Rights Watch reported at his capture and arrest.

" In August 2010, Kwoyelo was charged with violations of Uganda's 1964 Geneva Conventions Act, including the grave breaches of willful killing, taking hostages, and extensive destruction of property in the Amuru and Gulu districts of northern Uganda."

Lets remember that these are only crimes committed in Uganda.  Kwoyelo was apprehended in the DR Congo and has committed crimes there as well. But then we have this from of all places The New Yorker. 

".... Thomas Kwoyelo is intimately acquainted with him. Kony once tied Kwoyelo to a tree, and, in a near-incoherent rant, accused him of betrayal and threatened to kill him. That was in 2007. The L.R.A. had murdered Kwoyelo’s father, kidnapped him as a young boy, and then indoctrinated him into the ranks of the rebel group by forcing him to kill friends and relatives." 

That is about as good as it gets with regard to mitigation.

Kwoyelo, currently remanded at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, was charged with 53 counts of crimes against humanity in connection with the over two-decade bloody war that claimed thousands of lives as well as loss of property in the region.

I don't think Kwoyelo is eligible to be considered for amnesty, again from Human Rights Watch. 

" Amnesties for crimes such as war crimes and crimes against humanity run counter to international law and practice, which rejects impunity for the gravest crimes. International and hybrid international-national war crimes courts outside Uganda have rejected amnesties for serious crimes."

But and it is a big " but ".

" Some critics of the International Crimes Division have claimed that the fact that Kwoyelo has not been granted amnesty and is to be prosecuted is politically motivated, given that so many other LRA commanders have benefited from the domestic amnesty. For example, the former LRA high-ranking commanders Brigadier Kenneth Banya and Brigadier Sam Kolo Otto, as well as Lt Col. Opio Makasi, who served as the LRA director of operations, have all received amnesty under the act over the last several years. Several other LRA members who applied for amnesty were not prosecuted and instead joined the Ugandan army to fight the LRA."

There is also another big " but " hanging over Kwoyelo. Again from The New Yorker.

" As they had with thousands of other seized L.R.A. fighters and defectors, the Ugandan army offered Kwoyelo a seemingly fair bargain: give them information on the L.R.A.’s whereabouts and strategy, and receive amnesty in return. But Kwoyelo, who was in a shell-shocked stupor, refused to coöperate, and only applied for amnesty six months later, after being persuaded by his family. By then it was too late."

It is an exercise in swings and roundabouts, but at some point I think the concept Natural Justice must become a factor. The celebrated English jurist Lord Denning put it thus; 
"Justice must be rooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking: 'The judge was biased'." 
I admit I may be extending the Natural Justice concept to breaking point but expecting people to make rational decisions when they are in Kwoyelo's situation is unrealistic. Shell shock is a condition that was recognised first in WWI.

" Shell shock is the reaction of some soldiers in World War I to the trauma of battle. It is a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness appearing variously as panic and being scared, or flight, an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk. "Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self control."

Right-minded people might well reasonably conclude there is not a lot of fairness happening in this case.

In a recent interview with New Vision, Kwoyelo said: “Having undergone various rehabilitation programmes, I have realised my past mistakes like any other Ugandan who erred. I pray that the President gives me a second chance in life.”

Sometimes, not very often, I really feel for Museveni and this is one of those times. That Kwoyelo is not facing a hangman's noose might well be considered as getting a second chance. According to Human Rights Watch the penalties he faces are:

" The maximum penalty under Uganda's Geneva Conventions Act for the grave breaches of willful killing is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for the other crimes is 14 years in prison. The trial will be the first for war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act since it was passed in 1964." 

Kwoyelo, who is currently on a peace making and reconciliation programme, said he has benefited from the course and pledged to practice what he has learnt because it calls for reconciliation with God and the society he wronged.

“I am willing to work with the Government at all cost. Once considered for clemency, I swear never to go back to rebel activities,” he said.

Kwoyelo has been to hell and back and this report indicates he has acknowledged the wrong he has done, that must be a factor in his favour. Then we have the bigger picture. What is Uganda trying as a nation to achieve with its amnesty laws. Matthew Kane in The Jurist argues:

" Kwoyelo has been accused of horrific crimes, yet many similarly situated were granted amnesty based on a policy that is favorably viewed by a majority of Ugandan citizens and which has helped bring the conflict in northern Uganda to an end. While Coomaraswamy argues that prosecution would "send a strong message to the LRA leadership that they will be held accountable for their actions," such a message could clearly lead to the continuation and extension of hostilities. Similar concerns arise regarding the ICC's potential intervention, with some Ugandans suggesting that the ICC is the reason that a complete resolution has not come to fruition. Indeed, Kwoyelo's year-long incommunicado detention and continued indefinite confinement, now approaching the four-year mark, would seemingly discourage rebels from surrendering to authorities. "

Kwoyelo is not Kony. He is a victim of Kony. Given that Uganda has fools such as  Lango Paramount Chief, Yosam Odur who seems to think Kony is worthy of rehabilitation not to mention neighbours such as Central African Republic president Michel Djotodia who seem to be prepared to feed him Kwoyelo would seem to be fairly hard done by.

On January 25, 2011, Kwoyelo appeared before the High Court in Kampala, which ordered the Amnesty Commission and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to grant him a certificate of amnesty and release him.

The state, however, argued that the DPP could not recommend the issuance of a certificate of amnesty because Kwoyelo had other grave crimes such as rape and murder.

The court said the alleged crimes forwarded by the DPP could have been committed when Kwoyelo was a rebel and, therefore, he could not be denied amnesty basing on such crimes.

It is a mess. I would grant him amnesty. 

Helen Mayelle who works with many L.R.A. returnees stated The New Yorker “The real war will be recovering from this whole war,” . Kwoyelo has suffered enough it is time to focus on the real bastard behind all this Joseph Kony and for him there can be no forgiveness.  In September I blogged

" I am sure that the Ugandan army will stop looking for Kony on the day they kill him and that day can't come soon enough."

Monday, December 30, 2013

CAR: " A blind man looks for a four leaf clover "

Radio France International reports

Chadian troops to be pulled out of Bangui

                                                                     A Chadian soldier in Bangui earlier this month

Chadian troops are to be pulled out of the Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, after clashes with demonstrators and Burundian soldiers. The Chadians, who are the largest contingent of the African peacekeeping force, Misca, will be redeployed to the north.

Chad is widely believed to be have been behind the Seleka rebellion and having troops from there is not all that smart. The feeling in the Christian community is that the peace keepers from Chad are actually protecting Muslim and particularly Seleka interests.

"The whole Chadian contingent will be sent to secure the north in the next few days," Misca spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ndong Toutoune told the AFP news agency.

I am not at all sure that is a good idea. I blogged a few days ago about an ABC report that contained this account from the streets of Bangui.

" Other signs had a hand drawn map of this nation located at the heart of Africa, but showed it split into two, with a Muslim homeland penciled in in the country's north."

It doesn't take a geopolitical genius to draw a line on map and I suspect that that is something that isn't too far from the front of President  Idriss Déby Itno's mind. Now the Chadian African Union peacekeeping troops are going to be stationed in the north. The plan being to secure the north which is a largely muslim part of the CAR. The UN in January 2012 reported

" BANGUI, 11 January 2012 (IRIN) - Among the most pressing security threats in the Central African Republic (CAR) is a Chadian armed group active in the north of the country, which allegedly continues to recruit and acquire weapons, despite having undertaken to return to Chad."

It would seem that they had a change of mind about returning Chad and instead came south with the Seleka rebels robbing, raping, killing and terrorising the largely christian population of the southern CAR.

The announcement came after exchanges of gunfire were reported in Bangui, which remains tense despite the presence of Misca and French troops.

Sustained gunfire erupted near the airport, where hundreds of people have taken refuge, and on Wednesday morning Burundian troops were patrolling the PK12 neighbourhood after overnight shooting and explosions.

Misca has launched an inquiry into incidents involving Chadian troops this week.

Misca (Support Mission to the Central African Republic ) at this point includes soldiers from Gabon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi and Cameroon with DR Congo sending a further battalion of 850 troops, which seems almost too much of a coincidence not to be commented on.

Chadian soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing Christian demonstrators on Monday, killing one and wounding 40.

And the head of the Burundian contingent said that on the same day Chadian soldiers threw a grenade and opened fire on some of his men.

Some Burundians returned fire, wounding three Chadians, he said.

It is interesting that just about everyone seems to be avoiding the obvious, this is now a full on sectarian conflict and the battle lines have been fairly much drawn up by Seleka " foreign mercenaries " read Chadian and Somali criminals. Sending the Chad soldiers to the north is an acknowledgement of that but for the territorial integrity of the CAR it would have been better to have sent them home. 

Chad has contributed 850 troops to the 3,700 Misca force but many Central Africans accuse it of meddling in their country's affairs with Christians accusing the Chadians of favouring the Muslim Séléka militias.

Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi,   Cameroon and the DR Congo are largely Christian nations and they appear acceptable to the Christian majority but they spell the end of the interim regime of President Djotodia. 

Muslims demonstrated against the French on Tuesday, accusing them of failing to disarm Christian anti-balaka armed groups.

I suspect that the French might be the only foreign military power that will show any interest in defending the rights of the Muslim community in the not too distant future. Pissing them off is not a smart move.

At a Christmas Eve press conference interim President Michel Djotodia appealed for peace.

"Love each other," he begged his compatriots. "You can find that in the Bible and the Koran."

With the departure of the the Chadian troops "begging " is about all he can do. The anti-balaka groups are made up of former soldiers of the previous regime I blogged a few days ago .

" The anti-balaka are reputed to be former member of the CAR military that were displaced when Michel Djotodia the new interim President and his Seleka coalition forces displaced the previous regime in March."

Djotodia announced a ban on "all illegal marches" and accused deposed president François Bozizé of stirring up sectarian violence.

Rather than the Seleka rebels he no longer commands.

Friday, December 27, 2013

DR Congo: " Hey you, you've survived. Now you've arrived "

Voice of America reports

DRC to Send Peacekeeping Troops to CAR

Internally displaced children, who are escaping the violence, pose at Bangui's Saint Paul's Church December 17, 2013. Some European countries will send troops to support a French-African mission to restore order in Central African Republic, French Foreign

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) information minister says 850 peacekeeping troops from the national army, the FARDC, will be sent next week to neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) to help with efforts to stabilize the security situation there.

The DR Congo is listed second in the Failed States Index 2013 by comparison the Central African Republic ( CAR ) comes in at number nine. So there is a certain irony in this, that said this is an excellent development and is quite probably a result of the professionalisation of FARDC , that is an achievement Kinshasa can be justifiably proud of. 

Lambert Mende says the government in Kinshasa is providing assistance to about 50,000 CAR citizens who have so far crossed the border into the DRC to flee the unrest that has displaced tens of thousands.

Another irony given the problems caused in the Eastern DR Congo this week by the Ugandan rebel group ADF that has forced Congolese citizens to seek safety in Uganda. Again though this can be seen as a positive development. That the Congolese government has developed the capacity and authority to be able to provide humanitarian assistance is an indicator of just how far the administration in Kinshasa has come. I hope Kinshasa is receiving international assistance funding this effort. 

The DR Congo I suspect will not be listed as the second most failed state in the world in 2014. 

He says the administration has told its citizens the decision to send the troops to the CAR is based on a request by the Southern African Development Community, (SADC) to contribute troops to help with peace keeping efforts in CAR, which he says will also benefit the DRC.

It will definitely benefit the DR Congo. It will provide invaluable experience for the FARDC personnel involved and skills that will be transferable to conflict zones domestically. There is also intangible national benefits, nation building being one that springs to mind.

" Nation-building refers to the process of constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state.This process aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run."

“We have been requested to send troops for peacekeeping mission in Central Africa and we did so by sending a battalion of 850 troops,” said Mende. “So we have to work for peace in the Central African Republic. Working for peace in Bangui is working for peace and security in Congo.”

Again that is undeniable. The DR Congo borders the CAR and regional stability will provide regional benefits that far outweigh the current chaos that is endemic to the region. A lesson that both Uganda and Rwanda might want to take on board with regard to their manipulations in the eastern DR Congo.   
Some civil society groups are objecting to the deployment saying the DRC faces security threats from several armed groups inside the country, who often attack civilians. But Mende says the DRC has received help from its own neighbors to deal with insurgencies inside its own borders. 

Insofar as South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi are neighbours, one should remember that the insurgencies Mende's refers to are a direct result of other Congolese neighbours that have been no help at all.

“Our friends [from] SADC in terms of assistance sent troops to defeat the M23. So people are wise and they know that we not only receive, but we have also to give when Africa is in need. Since we received we must also give and the people understand this,” said Mende.

This is DRC’s first international peacekeeping effort since the country gained independence, according to Mende.

That is a milestone that is not to be sniffed at.

Some observers have said the gesture is a publicity stunt, saying the administration should concentrate on the DRC’s own security needs since its troops are needed to augment United Nations Mission (MONUSCO) peacekeepers in the DRC.

I guess those observers must be saying it in Swahili or French because I have been unable to find an English language report of it. To describe a nation standing up an shouldering a share of responsibility as an international citizen as a " publicity stunt " is in my opinion little more than a publicity stunt itself.

Mende says his government needs to take preemptive measures to ensure the security situation in neighboring CAR does not spill over into the DRC.

“This fire in the Central African Republic, if we don’t [take] care to have it finished it will absolutely land in our Equator Province and our Oriental Province,” said Mende. “So doing this we are taking care of our own security as the DRC. So people must before arguing, read a map of Congo.”

Given the issue in the Kivus that is undeniable. 50,000 refugees would suggest that to some degree it already has landed in the northern provinces. Dealing with problems at their source doesn't seem a half bad idea to me.

Mende says that it is in the interest of both the DRC and the entire region to ensure peace and stability in the CAR.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

DR Congo: The ADF - " If you wish to defeat an enemy, first clearly identify him."

The UN reports

UN peacekeepers respond to Ugandan rebel attack in eastern DR Congo
                                                                      Congolese nationals fleeing after ADF attack

26 December 2013 – United Nations peacekeepers in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) yesterday helped the national armed forces retake control over a town following an attack by a Ugandan rebel group that left dozens dead and displaced many more.

Readers of this blog will be aware that both the ADF and the FDLR are very likely to be the next targets of the combination of FARDC ( Congolese Army ), the Intervention ( Africa Brigade ) and its parent MONUSCO. It is difficult to understand the thinking behind this attack. It will be interesting to see if this is part of a coordinate move and if the FDLR will now start causing problems.

In the early hours of Wednesday, the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-Nalu) attacked positions of the Congolese national armed forces (FARDC) in the town of Kamango, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO).

That they did this on Christmas day is also worth noting. This was a very deliberate move however I can't see any motive that makes a lot of sense. Any challenge to FARDC will be seen as a challenge to the Intervention Brigade and by extension MONUSCO and the UN.

The rebels captured the location after brief clashes, during which they reportedly burnt a number of houses and abducted some 50 people. According to initial reports, six FARDC troops were killed and seven wounded during the operations, while the number of ADF rebels killed is yet to be confirmed.

Any political credibility that the ADF had is now gone. The villagers killed and kidnapped are a testimony to the criminal nature of this group. Uganda quite properly will be demanding that the DR Congo and MONUSCO act forcefully against the ADF. Given that Uganda often has to provide a refuge to the displaced Congolese civilians I would imagine that they will now press for the elimination of the ADF. 

At least seven civilians were also reported to have lost their lives and eight more wounded, the UN said. Up to 150,000 civilians were displaced, while some 2,000 reportedly crossed the border seeking refuge in Uganda.

“MONUSCO strongly condemns these attacks and reassures that it will be using all its aerial and ground assets available to protect the civilians and will reinforce its presence in the area,” it stated.

The only effective way to protect civilians is to eliminate the ADF. 

In accordance with its mandate to protect civilians, MONUSCO supported the FARDC during the operation against the rebel group, including through the use of its attack helicopter, the provision of logistical support and medical evacuations.

The Mission noted that the FARDC has successfully taken over positions in Kamango and is currently in control of the situation.

The ADF  it has been reported outnumbered the FARDC soldiers but they were never going to be able to hold the ground. They apparently managed to get hold some FARDC weapons but as a motive it would seem to be a losing tactic.    

" A Congolese source based in Kasindi, told New Vision that the attackers, whose numbers could not immediately be established, struck and looted assorted weapons from the Congolese before retreating back into the eastern DRC Rwenzori jungles."

“The Mission is determined to fulfil its mandate of tracking down and neutralizing all armed groups elements that spread fear and desolation among innocent civilians.”

The Ugandan army it would seem are less than impressed by the ADF.

“Should the ADF dare us, we are very prepared to deal with them,” Major Kakurungu warned. (Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) 2nd Division spokesperson, Major Ronald Kakurungu ) 

In March, the Security Council authorized the deployment of an intervention brigade within MONUSCO to carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in eastern DRC.

M23 despite losing had alternatives when everything turned to custard, the only alternative I can see for the ADF is to join up with the Seleka clowns in the Central African Republic and die a bit later there rather than dying in the DR Congo in the near future. The account for this Christmas Day atrocity will be settled in full.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

CAR: " losing on the swings, losing on the roundabouts"

ABC reports

Muslims March in Central African Republic

                      Body of a man draped in a string of protective charms typical of the anti-balaka Christian militiamen

Dozens of Muslims marched down the streets of Bangui on Tuesday to demand the departure of French troops, who were deployed to Central African Republic this month to try to pacify fighting, and have instead been accused of taking sides in the nation's sectarian conflict.
I doubt that the French forces have taken sides yet. The simple truth is that the Muslim Seleka forces are well armed and have shown no restraint in the both their rebellion and since March as part of the governing authorities of CAR when it comes to robbing and killing christians. The Seleka forces have retaliated  to anti-balaka militias with a brutality that is hard to comprehend. 
The marchers, almost all of them young and male, began their demonstration in the Kilometer 5 neighborhood, a mostly Muslim section of the capital which has been the scene of clashes with French forces.
It marks a dangerous turning point for the more than 1,600 French soldiers sent here, who were initially cheered by the population, who ran out to greet the arriving troops, waving tree branches, and holding up pieces of cardboard emblazoned with welcoming messages. That was before French President Francois Hollande bluntly said that the country's Muslim president needed to go, and before French forces were accused of only disarming Muslim fighters and ignoring the Christian militias who have infiltrated the city, organizing attacks on mosques, and on neighborhoods like Kilometer 5, where a majority of Muslims live.
In a country that is 85% christian I think that the dangerous turning point is not so much for the French but for the Seleka rebels. The immediate danger for France is in Europe and one that should have been clear to them. 
The Europeans' widespread refusal to enter the CAR comes as an embarrassing disappointment for the French government, whose Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, told the lower house of the French National Assembly earlier this week: "We will soon have troops on the ground provided by our European colleagues."
France is now left with the unpalatable option of having to shoulder the task in the CAR more or less alone. Hollande's much vaunted new African policy appears to be in tatters.
" France will tell African leaders at a Paris summit on Friday it will no longer play policeman on the continent, even as it prepares to act in a new conflict in Central African Republic after its Mali intervention this year.

...France's stance on the Central African Republic (CAR), a former colony, has shown how far its policy has evolved, initially only sending in troops to protect its nationals and interests.

Paris first refused to agree to appeals by former President Francois Bozize for his "cousins" to help him fight Seleka rebels ousting him earlier this year.

And then, as soon as Bozize was ousted in March, Paris declined an African request to send more troops and drew down its troop numbers, saying it was up to Africans to do the job.

The message was clear. The old ways of doing business - a mix of post-colonial graft and patronage called "Francafrique" and which suited dictators and France alike - were over.

Paris will no longer prop up dictators or back rebellions and will seek U.N. mandates and consult African leaders before intervening.

Perhaps propping up Francois Bozize who undoubtedly fell into the Dictator category would have been the better option in hindsight. 

On Tuesday the crowds making their way down the deserted city streets were holding signs that said: "We say No to France!" and "Hollande = Liar." Other signs had a hand drawn map of this nation located at the heart of Africa, but showed it split into two, with a Muslim homeland penciled in in the country's north.
That is not going to happen. The French haven't conducted their operations in Mali against Muslim separatists only to allow a new Muslim state to emerge in the Central African Republic.

The map shows Muslim nations to the north east and west, there would be little appetite for a new Muslim nation not only in the West but also from African neighbours to further south.
Central African Republic slipped into chaos following a coup in March, which was led by a Muslim rebel group. They overran the capital and installed a Muslim president, while the nation's Christian leader was forced to flee with his family. The country is 85 percent Christian, and when the Muslim rebels began attacking Christian villages, first to steal their belongings and cattle, a sectarian divide emerged. Pillaging turned to killing, and by the time French forces arrived earlier this month, at least 500 people had been killed in communal violence, including mob lynchings, their bodies so numerous community leaders had to dig enormous holes for their mass graves.
Seleka are actually an alliance of Rebel groups. The new interim President Michel Djotodia has very little control it would seem over the factions. In fact he seems to have very little influence full stop. 
" On 3 April 2013, African leaders meeting in Chad declared that they did not recognize Djotodia as President; instead, they proposed the formation of an inclusive transitional council and the holding of new elections in 18 months, rather than three years as envisioned by Djotodia. Speaking on 4 April, Information MinisterChristophe Gazam Betty said that Djotodia had accepted the proposals of the African leaders; however, he suggested that Djotodia could remain in office if he were elected to head the transitional council. Djotodia accordingly signed a decree on 6 April for the formation of a transitional council that would act as a transitional parliament. The council was tasked with electing an interim president to serve during an 18-month transitional period leading to new elections

The transitional council, composed of 105 members, met for the first time on 13 April 2013 and immediately elected Djotodia as interim President; there were no other candidates. A few days later, regional leaders publicly accepted Djotodia's transitional leadership, but, in a symbolic show of disapproval, stated that he would "not be called President of the Republic, but Head of State of the Transition". According to the plans for the transition, Djotodia would not stand as a candidate for President in the election that would conclude the transition."

The French have stepped up patrols and are working to debunk perceptions that they are biased in this war. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani on Tuesday reacted to accusations that the French force, known as Sangaris, had targeted Muslims.
French troops stop a government minister's car carrying Seleka soldiers, at a checkpoint in Bangui, Central African Republic, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.
Great photo of the French troops behaving in an impartial manner.
"Since their deployment Dec. 5, the soldiers of the Sangaris operation are operating according to three principles: impartiality, firmness, and controlled use of force," he said. "They are demonstrating this daily, in contributing to the disarming of all armed groups, without distinction, and in intervening between groups to avoid violence and abuses."
Which is fine except that it doesn't work very well.
" Human rights groups warn that disarming the armed groups, one of the French objectives, could backfire unless both Christian and Muslim militias are disarmed at the same time. Amnesty International has documented cases where French forces disarmed Séléka rebels, who were then attacked by militia fighters, and the other way around. Analysts and security experts worry that France doesn’t have a strategy for how to stop the sectarian violence."
A young woman, Edith Benguere, a Christian, ran into the march by accident when she went to the bank to withdraw money. Frightened, she hid and watched, and saw how the demonstrators were acting aggressively against the French forces, positioned along the route.
"Armored personnel carriers had taken positions in different parts of town. But the soldiers would simply backtrack whenever the demonstrators came near them, to avoid conflict," she said. "One of the demonstrators was screaming at the top of his lungs: 'We are ready! We have grenades ... We are ready for whatever comes today, even if we need to die,'" she said.
I suspect that the French will soon have to reach a decision and jump. Should they opt to walk away then French credibility in Africa is over. The UN has its hands full in South Sudan and the African Union force MISCA ( International Support Mission to the Central African Republic ) have a sizable contingent from Muslim countries. The AU's Multinational Force for Central Africa (FOMAC),  will transfer to MISCA, comprises soldiers from Gabon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, and Cameroon. That the Seleka coalition have chosen to go against France leaves the French only one real option, they can't walk so they will have to back a new administration that doesn't include Seleka. How long can this regime last ? How ironic, to be asking that question again after 360 days, or should that be degrees.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

DR Congo: M23 " Attempting to discard these clinging memories "

Reuters reports

Exclusive - Congo's army accused of abuse as rebels regroup in Rwanda -U.N. experts

M23 rebels who surrendered to the Ugandan army are pictured in the village of Rugwerero, about 500km west of Kampala, on November 8. (Isaac Kasamani, AFP)

(Reuters) - Recently defeated M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have continued to recruit fighters in neighbouring Rwanda while the Congolese army has been involved in human rights abuses and corruption, according to a confidential U.N. report.
"The Group has documented that M23 received continued support from Rwandan territory," the U.N. Group of Experts said in its final report to the Security Council's Congo sanctions committee, which was seen by Reuters on Monday.
Given that the M23 leadership have been seen swanning around in Kampala it would be somewhat optimistic to assume the same wasn't happening in Kigali.
"The Group has received credible information that sanctioned M23 leaders are moving freely in Uganda and that M23 has continued to recruit in Rwanda," it said.
The independent expert panel also accused armed groups and the Congolese army of human rights abuses - including use of child soldiers, summary executions and sexual violence - and profiting from illegal mining operations in resource-rich eastern Congo.
That is a concern if it is in relation to the battalions that have been on the sharp end of the fighting with M23. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa described them thus.
In addition, the army is now giving more prominence to the commando battalions, the 321 and 322 trained by the Belgians (a third is currently being trained in Kindu), the 391 trained by the Americans, and one by the Chinese (on the northern front line in Tongo). During the operations last year, these battalions had been mismanaged by the military hierarchy, which dismantled them, sent them to areas where there was little to do, and "sabotaged them by sending them into battle without supplies or knowledge of the terrain," according to one Belgian trainer.
There can be little doubt that the previous troops that the Congolese Army ( FARDC ) were using in the eastern DR Congo were little more than armed thugs, with more in common with the thugs of M23 than professional soldiers. The fact that the " use child soldiers " and
" profiting from illegal mining " tends to make me think this isn't the case.

The allegations come at a sensitive time for Congo, which is struggling to defeat armed militia in its eastern provinces. Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s in eastern Congo where myriad rebel groups have fought over gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium deposits.
That is quite unfair with regard to the performance of FARDC along with the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade and its parent MONUSCO. FARDC and MONUSCO have lifted their game hugely since the debacle of M23 seizing Goma a bit over a year ago. The intervention Brigade it would seem strikes fear into the hearts of the various militias.   
The U.N. experts have repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the rebellion by M23 in eastern Congo, a claim the Rwandan government has fiercely rejected. The U.N. Security Council has blacklisted M23.
Rwanda's U.N. mission had no immediate reaction, though a Rwandan diplomat told Reuters he dismissed the charges: "We are tired by these same allegations."
The allegations are fair accurate and would meet the test of evidence I suspect in any court in the world out side of Rwanda and North Korea.  That said Congo Siasa blog recently made this point.
" But it may be the third factor that was the determining one––the absence of support from Rwanda. According to several reports from the frontlines, despite indications of some cross-border support in the Kibumba area, the M23 was largely left to its own devices. "The Rwandans just wouldn't pick up their phone calls," one source close to the M23 leadership told me. This is a drastic change from August, when many sources––the UN, Human Rights Watch, and foreign diplomats––all reported hefty support coming across the border. The fact that the M23 did not put up much of a fight in Kiwanja and Rumangabo was another indication that they knew they stood no chance against the superior firepower of the UN and the FARDC. According to several diplomats, the US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as a senior British diplomat called President Paul Kagame last Friday to impress how important it was for Rwanda to sit this out. While similar pressure has been applied before––President Obama called his Rwandan counterpart with a similar message last December––this time it may have just been the final straw for the Rwandan leaders." 
Western officials say that Rwanda's denials are not credible, and U.S. and European governments imposed punitive measures on Kigali to pressure it to halt its support for M23.
Rwanda has repeatedly intervened in Congo, saying it had to hunt down the Hutu militia who fled after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda and Congo have fought two wars over the past two decades in Congo's east.
A spokesman for the Ugandan mission said he could not comment on a report that has not been formally released yet. Congolese diplomats were not immediately available for comment.
Rwanda, Uganda and indeed the DR Congo will all find the report uncomfortable reading and so they should. 
The report estimated that 98 percent of the gold produced in Congo in 2013 was smuggled out of the country and nearly all of it traded in Uganda.
"The Group also estimates that the value of gold smuggled out of Congo during 2013 to be between $383 (million) and $409 million," the report said, adding that the resulting tax revenue losses amounted to as much as $8.2 million.
"Armed groups and FARDC continue to control many mining sites and to profit from mining and the minerals trade," it said.
"Smuggling of minerals - particularly tin, tungsten and tantalum - from eastern DRC through neighbouring countries continued in during 2013, and undermines the credibility and progress of international certification and traceability mechanisms."
One of the problems of integrating armed militias into FARDC is that invariably they seem to stay in the area that they were operating and continue to run their criminal enterprises from within the structure of FARDC yet they are not subject to any military code of discipline for these activities.  
Congolese troops and the U.N. peacekeeping mission - which includes a unique Intervention Brigade mandated to eliminate armed groups - last month defeated M23, which signed a peace deal with the Congo government on Thursday.
That is not correct. No peace agreement was signed, rather three separate documents were signed none of which were counter or cosigned. It was sheer face saving and a total waste of time if this experts report is anything to go by.   I rather like the analysis of Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group.

"First, this cannot really be called a peace deal. Uganda... DRC and M23 all signed individual documents but none of them is called a peace agreement, and there is no single document with the signature of the three stakeholders of the Ugandan negotiations process. These documents are the result of the pressure of the international partners on the Congolese government. This one made clear it did not want to sign a 'peace deal' with the M23, but at the same time it was necessary to close down the talks in Uganda and to provide a solution for the M23."
The Tutsi-led M23 rebel group ended its 20-month rebellion, the most serious in Congo in the last decade, after Congolese soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers, known as MONUSCO, captured its last hilltop strongholds, near the Rwandan border.
"The most consistent forms of support were through recruitment and provision of arms and ammunition, particularly during periods of combat," said the 48-page report, dated December 12.
"M23 also received direct troop reinforcement by Rwandan soldiers in August," the group said. "During the October fighting, Rwandan tanks, fired into DRC in support of M23."

As noted by Jason Stearns above the tap of support by the Rwandan government was turned off after August. In addition to the international pressure applied by the US and British governments I also suspect that African political considerations played a substantive part in this decision by Rwanda. Again from Congo Siasa.

The brigade is expected to deploy by June or July (around the same time as drones), with its base in Sake and operations probably beginning in the following months. But, despite the aggressive media campaign waged by M23 against the brigade, its political importance is likely to be as hefty as its (few) helicopter gunships and armed personnel carriers. As one Rwandan official put it to me: "Imagine the M23 kill ten South Africans. It doesn't matter whether we support the M23 or not, Zuma will blame us."The brigade forms a sort of political firewall––if the M23 puts it to shame, it will draw in some of the most powerful countries in the region into the conflict. "
The report cited "serious violations of international humanitarian law, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, summary executions, sexual violence, and targeting of civilian populations."
"While armed groups carried out many of these crimes, the Group also identified the FARDC (Congolese army) as a party to numerous violations," the report said. "Government security forces, particularly FARDC, remain a significant source of sexual violence, notably against minors.
Rwanda has accused Congolese troops of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a charge Kinshasa has denied. "During 2012, the group documented cases of local-level collaboration between FDLR and FARDC," the expert's report said.

There is little doubt that there has been cooperation between elements of FARDC and the FDLR but given the inevitability of the confrontation between FARDC, MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade with the FDLR I suspect it is well and truly over now.
Hutus who fled Rwanda after the genocide of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus make up about 30 percent of the FDLR fighters, according to the United Nations.

I really doubt that figure. The FDLR has made it fairly clear that they are Hutu nationalists and have committed numerous atrocities against other ethnic groups in the Congo but have particularly focused their murderous intentions on the Congolese Tutsi community. These genocidal arseholes are well deserving of the attention they are about to receive from the FARDC, MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade. I have no doubt they still consider the Tutsi community in much the same way Nazi's regarded Jews.  

The above from the FDLR in early December. Clearly the FDLR have no interest in coming to an accommodation with the Rwandan regime, but their presence in the DR Congo can not be tolerated. People who preach genocide and participated in the 1984 genocide in Rwanda have no place any political system. I think any attempt to neutralise the FDLR will succeed. Interestingly the diatribe above was addressed to " Whom it may concern, the UN Security Council"  These idiots think they are capable of running a government.
The experts said the defeat of M23 had sent a strong message to other armed groups in eastern Congo.
"While some have become more aggressive and others have moved into defensive postures as a result of fears of attack by FARDC and (the U.N. Intervention Brigade), several armed groups have started to surrender and expressed willingness to integrate into the Congolese army and police," the experts' report said.

Not really a good option from the perspective of the Congolese government. The argument for having them in the tent pissing out has on past evidence failed to bring about stability. In this instance the stick is probably better than the carrot.
The expert panel said that, through attacks on medical facilities, the Islamist extremist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) was clearly stockpiling drugs and medical equipment to either prepare for an attack by the U.N. Intervention Brigade or to prepare for its own offensive military action.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo has set up a task force to learn more about the ADF, which the U.N. experts described as "a large, highly organized, and dangerous force.
"The group has not found evidence that ADF has links with either al Shabaab or al Qaeda," the experts report said.

I would think that the FDLR will be the next cab of the rank but the ADF will not be far behind. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Central African Republic: " Adjectives of annihilation "

Amnesty International reports

Central African Republic: War crimes and crimes against humanity in Bangui

More than 1,000 people have been killed in violent attacks in Bangui, Central African Republic.
© Amnesty International

War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in the Central African Republic, Amnesty International said at the close of a two-week mission to the country.
The organization is calling for the rapid deployment of a robust UN peacekeeping force with a clear mandate to protect civilians – and sufficient resources to do so effectively. 

Rapidly deploying a force has been ruled out by the UN

A UN peacekeeping force would take at least two or three months to deploy in the Central African Republic (CAR) even if there was a speedy UN security council resolution, Jan Eliasson, the UN deputy secretary general said on Wednesday

Lesley Ann Warner at the Lesley on Africa blog asks the question that should be be on all of our minds.  We have been aware of the situation in CAR for a year now and why has the world failed to get organised for this eventuality.   

“Our in-depth research on the ground in the Central African Republic over the past two weeks has left no room for doubt that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by all parties to the conflict,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Central Africa expert.

The situation is out of control and there is no chance the transitional leadership of the country will be able to resolve the problem.

" The rebel-leader-turned-president of Central African Republic has acknowledged that he doesn't have total control over former allies who are accused of killing scores of civilians.

He said even "an angel from the sky" could not solve all his country's problems." 

“Crimes that have been committed include extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies, intentional destruction of religious buildings such as mosques, and the forced displacement of massive numbers of people.”

The three-person Amnesty International delegation has documented the violations and abuses that have taken place since violence erupted on 5 December in the capital, Bangui, with an early morning attack by anti-balaka militia.

Anti-balaka militiamen, who were former members of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), take part in a training session on the outskirts of Bangui on December 17, 2013.

The anti-balaka are reputed to be former member of the CAR military that were displaced when Michel Djotodia the new interim President and his Seleka coalition forces displaced the previous regime in March. Djotodia attempted to dissolve the rebel Seleka bands or at least he claims this but the reality is that they have been terrorising the local christian communities. Inevitably the conflict has now become one of sectarian violence.

" As ragtag as they may appear, they pose the greatest threat to the Muslim ex-rebels now ruling the country since they seized power in the majority Christian country nearly nine months ago. And in interviews with The Associated Press, both the militiamen and a former officers in the national army before the March 2013 coup confirmed they are working together to topple rebel leader-turned-President Michel Djotodia.

"We are revolting so that Djotodia and his fighters leave, and the country can live in peace," said Richard Bejouane, 27, who used to harvest manioc root and peanuts before taking up arms against the rebels known as Seleka earlier this year."

In some neighbourhoods, the anti-balaka forces went door to door and killed approximately 60 Muslim men. The de facto government forces, known as ex-Seleka, retaliated on a larger scale against Christians in the wake of the attack, killing nearly 1,000 men over a two-day period and systematically looting civilian homes. A small number of women and children were also killed.
During the days that followed the initial burst of violence in Bangui, human rights violations and abuses continued at a staggering pace. 

Something that will only get worse as the situation continues to deteriorate.

" The anti-balaka's power base is in and around Bossangoa, the hometown of Francois Bozize, the ousted president. As the movement has grown in strength and numbers, it set its sight on Bangui, the seat of government in the south of the country.
Douze Puissance says he joined the forces of anti-balaka after the Seleka forces attacked his home in April and destroyed his life. His wife and two children 8-year-old daughter Ornela and 10-year-old son Josias were burned alive, he says.

"We want the French to force Djotodia out of office, but if not we will do it with our machetes," he says. "We are farmers, we don't generally get involved in politics. But he sent his men to our villages to kill our families and chase us into the forest."

The anti-balaka movement grew in the aftermath of Seleka attacks on villages across the country's northwest in July and August, said Lewis Mudge, a researcher with Human Rights Watch's Africa division."

The Central African Republic is essentially a christian country 80% with a muslim minority of 15% add in to this equation that the Seleka rebels were supported by mercenaries from Chad and Sudan who seem to have opted to stay on and participate in murder rape and robbery.  I don't think the Djotodia regime can survive. 

Despite the presence of French and African military forces meant to protect the civilian population, civilians are being wilfully killed on a daily basis, with at least 90 additional people killed since 8 December. Some victims have been shot; others have been killed by angry mobs with machetes; others have even been stoned.

There are 1600 French troops with the apparent promise of more from other EC Nations. 

" At a European Union foreign ministers meeting on Monday, France requested more help from allies to bolster its peacekeeping mission beyond logistical and financial aid.

"We will soon have troops on the ground from our European colleagues," Fabius told parliament in response to a question on a lack of European support in Central African Republic."

A very optimistic assessment on the part of the French. 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Polish Foreign Minister Donald Tusk stopped short of announcing ground troops."In CAR's case we will be ready for limited logistical support in terms of aviation," he said. "A transport aircraft and a group of soldiers, who would take care of it, is something that is within our possibilities," he said.

Belgium's defense ministry said on Friday it was sending tactical aircraft for two months for logistical support that would need 35 soldiers as support. A defense ministry official said Belgium had taken no decision to send any soldiers beyond that, denying a report it would provide 150 soldiers."

There are no where near enough troops at the moment to prevent the situation falling further apart and I doubt that there is much of an apatite in France to send more troops and France's hopes for Poland and Belgium would seem to be misplaced.

The complete absence of justice and accountability for these crimes has led to a downward spiral of revenge killings and to deepening inter-communal hatred and mistrust. In total 614,000 people have been displaced across the country – 189,000 in Bangui alone, a quarter of the city’s population.

“The continuing violence, the extensive destruction of property, and the forced displacement of the population in Bangui are feeding enormous anger, hostility and mistrust,” said Christian Mukosa.

Human Rights Watch has interactive imagery showing war crimes from a satellite's perspective ( Hat Tip Lesley Warner ) .

Above the villages of Bogoro and Bobafio in 2010 from space and below the same villages July 9 2013.


Daniel Bekele the Africa director of Human Rights Watch. 
" Seleka leaders promised a new beginning for the people of the Central African Republic, but instead have carried out large-scale attacks on civilians, looting, and murder. What’s worse is that the Seleka have recruited children as young as 13 to carry out some of this carnage."

“There can be no prospect of ending the cycle of violence until the militias are disarmed and there is proper and effective protection for the thousands of civilians at risk in the country. Residential neighbourhoods must be made safe as an urgent priority in order to allow people to go back to their homes and resume their normal lives.”

I doubt that there are anywhere near enough French and African Union troops to disarm the militias the best they can probably hope to do is create safe zones.

Any disarmament process must be accompanied by effective physical protection measures, particularly in crisis hotspots such as the PK5, Miskine and Combattant neighbourhoods. Amnesty International has learned of revenge attacks on those who have been disarmed to date.

One of the most worrying aspects of the current situation is the blurring of lines between organized armed groups and civilian mobs. In many cases it has been difficult to identify those responsible for the killings, but it is clear that many local civilians advocate violent acts of revenge, and some are participating in them. 

Hence the fears of a genocide. Reuters in a piece called the ' Ghost of Rwanda ' reports.

" But waves of massacres and reprisals by Muslim and Christian militias have killed hundreds there since rebels seized power in March, waking the world up to the fact that it might be witnessing the prelude to another Rwanda, where 800,000 were hacked, shot or clubbed to death in 100 days."

Both the Christian and Muslim communities have a deep sense of anger and grievance – many people have shown Amnesty International researchers photos and videos of slaughter that they keep on their mobile phones.

Amnesty International believes that more international troops are urgently needed to ensure security in Bangui and elsewhere in the Central African Republic. 

The UN has left it very late and the French are little more than a stopgap measure until the UN gets organised. 

The African Union has promised to deploy up to 6,000 troops in a new peacekeeping force which is due to take authority in the Central African Republic on 19 December. This deployment is urgently needed but the makeup and deployment plans for the troops have not yet been spelled out.

Amnesty International is also calling on the UN to expedite its plans to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights.

A commission of enquiry is hardly a priority at this point. We need to get boots on the ground and minimise the workload of any future commission.

“It is important to establish responsibility for the crimes that have been committed by all sides in this conflict and ensure an end to decades of impunity that have prevailed in this country,” said Christian Mukosa. The organization has received credible information about militia leaders who are directly implicated in the attacks and should be brought to justice. 

“The international community has an important role to play in the Central African Republic, ensuring peacekeeping forces are deployed with all haste and are given the resources they need to prevent even greater bloodshed.”

The whole operating structure of the UN needs to be examined. Rwanda taught us, or should have, that you don't have three months to get organised in situations like this. In Rwanda 800,000 people died in a space of three months. There is surely an argument for the UN to have a standing ready reaction force that can deploy fast and stabilise situations such as this until a more traditional UN Peacekeeping is available to take over. 

Amnesty International will present its preliminary findings in a briefing at a press conference today in London. It will publish a more in-depth report in early 2014.
Human Rights Watch is publishing a separate report focusing on an escalation of sectarian violence and atrocities in Ouham province in northern Central African Republic.

Lets hope we can short circuit this now. 2014 doesn't need to kick off with a genocide.