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Africa in 2014: Will Kinshasa, DRC win the peace?

By The Africa Report
Posted on Thursday, 19 December 2013 14:41

President Joseph Kabila’s government has broken a pattern of instability haunting the DRC for a decade and a half: it has pushed back a rebellion that it insists is backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

In about 18 months, the M23 had raped and murdered its way across the Kivus, driving 800,000 people from their homes. That explains the rejoicing in the valleys of Kivu at the M23’s surrender.

It is a way for Rwanda and Uganda to save face as they are called to account for their serial, deadly and greedy meddling in the DRC

The military campaigns are not yet over. TheForces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), the DRC’s army, has plenty more militia groups and factions to take on.

Splinter factions of the M23 are still operating, as are many other groups such as the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda and the Forces de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri/Front Populaire pour la Justice au Congo.

There is no question that the FARDC got the upper hand in the last round of fighting against the M23 rebels and did so without the usual claims of massive human rights abuses and pillaging.

The M23 surrendered on 5 November, renounced the armed struggle and said it wanted to negotiate a political settlement in Kampala.

But there are signs they have left enough fighters on the ground in the Kivus to cause more chaos as the negotiations continue.

The backing from the Force Intervention composed of troops from Tanzania, South Africa and latterly Malawi – and reinforced with South African attack helicopters – helped concentrate the minds of the Congolese soldiers: a decisive defeat of the M23 rebels suddenly looked possible.

Strongly backing a more assertive campaign against M23 was Martin Kobler, the political head of the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en République Démocratique du Congo, known as MONUSCO.

M23 surrenders, but rebel groups still roam
The region Although the Mouvement du 23 Mars surrendered in November, breakaway factions still operate. Other remaining rebel groups include the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda and the Forces de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri/Front Populaire pour la Justice au Congo.

The other key ingredient was the new commander of UN peace-keeping forces, Brazil’s General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz.

The UN and the African Union had concluded in February 2013 that the status quo – 20,000 UN troops and a dysfunctional national army failing to protect civilians – was no longer tenable.

The political track will run in Kampala for the early part of 2014, at least. It is a way for Rwanda and Uganda to save face as they are called to account for their serial, deadly and greedy meddling in the DRC.

The priority is now to stop Kampala and Kigali building up another proxy group in eastern DRC.

The most powerful deterrent seems to be that any such rebel grouping would meet with serious military opposition.

Add to that the possibility of Kampala and Kigali’s role being exposed by drone surveillance, and the risks for presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame become far more tangible.

“The rebels are citizens of the country [DRC]. There is awareness that there is a grievance of the Tutsis and that there are issues to be addressed,” according to Mary Robinson, the UN secretary general’s representative in DRC.

Outside the diplomatic niceties, the deal in Kampala is that Kabila will do more to consolidate the state and security in eastern DRC and respond more to the grievances of the local Tutsi people.

Kabila’s other promise is to track down the FDLR, which has ties to the forces behind the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

According to Robinson: “The most important issue for security purposes is that it be clear that the FDLR will be addressed. Either it will have to surrender or there will be a con- certed action against it.”

So the new year in DRC will start with an emboldened military force, backed by allies from Africa and the UN, ready to take on a disparate array of rebel forces in the
country’s eastern reaches.

Against history, that is progress after the defeat of the M23 but it will also require more reform of Congo’s security forces and its own political systems if the recent advances are to be sustained.

But for once in Congo, there is a clear victory to build on. ●

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