A new round of presidential elections in late 2011 brings a new chapter to Congolese politics, but unresolved security questions from the civil war and Rwandan genocide weigh heavily on the political climate
While piloting a new programme to integrate military units in South Kivu, President Joseph Kabila’s government has faced a series of attacks on state institutions, showing heightened tensions as elections arrive in late November. Kabila enjoys his widest support in the east and has struggled to find support in the west and Kinshasa. On 27 February, dozens of men, armed mostly with machetes, attacked the president’s residence and Kokolo military base.
What the Congolese information ministry first described as a “coup attempt” was later downgraded to a “terrorist offensive”. Over 100 people have been arrested.
Information minister Lambert Mende then suggested that the attackers were a combination of foreign elements and members of former rebel leader and International Criminal Court indictee Jean-Pierre Bemba’s security apparatus, raising concerns amongst civil society groups that it would be used as an excuse for a security crackdown ahead of the polls.
With most fighting taking place in the east, Katanga Province has also been the site of threats against state security. On 4 February, a group of armed men led an unsuccessful attack on the airport at Lubumbashi.
Meanwhile, the government is fine-tuning and piloting its latest strategy to bring uncontrolled military units to heel and to neutralise rebel groups by incorporating them into the national army. The Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo(FARDC) have begun their initial reorganisation in South Kivu, which should be completed by late April.
The goal is to shift troops to new stations in order to combine elements of the FARDC with troops from the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple and the Patriotes Résistants Congolais. The initial relocation would be the first step towards eventually posting integrated units outside their home region so as to break the cycle of violence.
One major variable in the equation of stability in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is the political situation in Rwanda. President Paul Kagame’s government in Kigali wants to do everything necessary to prevent the formation of an alliance between rebel groups in the east and Rwandan political dissidents.
This article was first published in the April 2011 edition of The Africa Report.
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