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. 

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