The absence of President Kabila at the Heads of State Tripartite Plus meeting on the 5th December, 2007 in Addis Ababa could have been meant to prepare and plan for a great offensive against CNDP forces. It is also worth recalling that President Kabila failed to attend the December 8th to 9th, 2007 EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, hoping to fly to Mushake to celebrate FARDC victory on the battle field, but was dismayed by a new wave of fighting that repelled FARDC out of Mushake. On 10th December, 2007, President Kabila as well cancelled a visit to Vatican reportedly due to intensification of fighting between FARDC and Gen. Nkunda's forces, threatening to defeat Government forces in North Kivu.
Congo's army has thrown all of its might into the fight with Nkunda. Over 20,000 troops have been deployed in North Kivu, along with heavy artillery and attack helicopters. Still, the FARDC has failed to win even the smallest victories over Nkunda's troops. Indeed, latest information indicates that the FARDC really got pummeled: one Colonel is dead, as well as several other high-ranking officers. Nkunda says he has captured more than 30 tons of weapons and ammos in Kikuku and Mushaki, and the FARDC appears to be in disarray as the following incidents clearly show.
After the death of Col. Cyril SIMBA, the 83rd Bde Deputy Commander, who died during the battle in Mushake on December 7th 2007, reliable sources indicate that on 11th December 2007, Col. Delphin Kahimbi, the Deputy Commander of the FARDC 8th Military region and his escorts clashed with the 82 Bde forces under the command of Col. Jonas Padiri at Mugunga. Col. Kahimbi was attempting to stop Col. Padiri’s forces that were fleeing from SAKE after heavy fighting with the CNDP forces. It is reported that Col. Kahimbi was seriously injured and lost eight of his soldiers during the skirmishes.
The 82 Bde soldiers later on arrived in Goma through Ndosho most of them having thrown their military uniforms. On the same date, FARDC 14th Bde in Ngungu and Karuba moved from their positions to Minova, an area bordering North Kivu and South Kivu. At their arrival in Minova, FARDC 14th Bde and 83rd Bde exchanged fire accusing each other to be allied to CNDP forces. Colonel Nawej Yave (he hails from Katanga Province) who commands the 83rd Bde accused Col. David Rugayi (he is a Hutu from North Kivu and Ex- RCD), the Commander of the 14th Bde to be collaborating with the CNDP. In Kanyabayonga, FARDC soldiers from the 15th Bde commanded by Colonel Mwungura and those from the 9th Bde of Colonel Smith Gihanga also exchanged fire both accusing each other of collaborating with Nkunda.
And as if that was not bad enough, politicians joined in and fueled even more suspicions among the forces. As a matter of fact, on 11th December 2007, MP Sebishyimbo from North Kivu provincial assembly argued on Radio Okapi that Gen. Amisi (also known as Tango 4) instructed the pull-out of FARDC troops in Mushake which led to the capture of Mushake by CNDP forces. The following day, on 12th December 2007, MPs from North Kivu led by Jean Bosco Barihima, an extremist Hutu supporting the FDLR, issued a statement in which they requested the DRC Minister of Defense, Chikez Diemu, that the FARDC Land forces Commander, Maj. General Amisi (Tango 4) and the Director of Immigration, General Jean Pierre Ondekane, to be impeached by the Parliament for being responsible for FARDC’s failure in North Kivu. On 12th December 2007, Major General Amisi (Tango 4), and Brig. Gen. Vainqueur Mayala, Regional Commander 8th military region, were summoned to Kinshasa and are reportedly under arrest. Gen. Amisi is likely to loose his post as a Land Forces Commander for allegedly disclosing military secrets to CNDP, while Gen. Mayala has appeared before Auditeur Militaire Generale for lack of command and control of 8 MR forces. All the weaknesses of FARDC are now heaped on individuals who are going to be victimized.
Despite all the military losses by FARDC, during a cabinet meeting chaired by President Kabila on 12th December 2007, the DRC Government downplayed the on-going events in eastern DRC stating that FARDC was in total control. This was followed by a statement from FARDC stating that they were in charge although facts on the ground are giving out a totally different image of FARDC operations in eastern DRC. Gen. Nkunda’s forces have won a series of military victories against army forces this week. Where as the Congolese army was celebrating a rapid advance against rebel forces in Congo's eastern province, North Kivu, in a sudden turn-around, Gen. Nkunda’s forces have retaken all the vital strategic positions they lost last week. FARDC has seriously lost its strongholds and many FARDC soldiers have been defecting massively, leaving their positions. Reinforcements by the FDLR/Interahamwe as it has always been, and other militia groups such as PARECO into supporting FARDC moves against CNDP forces has made no difference.
Observers say the defeat is a major setback, not only for President Kabila, whose soldiers have not been up to the task, but also for MONUC, which publicly committed itself to backing the government advance. Indeed, Nkunda's forces advanced towards Sake town on 12/12/2007 but were blocked by MONUC. There are rumors and panic among the Congolese population in Goma that CNDP may attack and capture Goma town anytime. The population is aware that FARDC has been defeated and scattered and MONUC is the only force that is protecting Goma from falling into rebels hands.
Meanwhile, criminality and indiscipline has contributed to the defeat of FARDC. Available information indicates massive looting of exotic cattle exceeding 3,000 from Masisi farms. Rwandophone farmers were targeted, including MP Serufuri (700 cattle), Dr. Bizima Karaha (766), MP Senwinga (number unascertained), MP Bertin Kirivita (number unascertained) and many others.
The cows were slaughtered and the meat transported to Kinshasa through Goma by military chartered planes that were felling military supplies to 8 MR. Definitely, this operation of cattle looting and trading in meat from the Kivus to Kinshasa cannot succeed at the same magnitude as the military on the ground. However, what is most regrettable is that MONUC whose credibility is hanging by the thread and which justifies its support to FARDC in protecting Congolese lives and their property from renegade forces can not purport ignorance of such crimes and are party to it either directly or indirectly through their airlifts of “logistics”
Disagreement among MONUC Commanders has also played its toll in the war. The Indian Comdr North Kivu Bde (MONUC), Brig. Gen. NARAYAN Indrajeet rejected orders from Gen. Boubacar GAYE, MONUC Force commander, to fight CNDP forces along FARDC for fear of losing Indian soldiers and the fact that CNDP had not targeted civilians as alleged. Now MONUC which has taken positions in the surrounding hills says it will use force if attacked. Gen. Indrajeet Narayan later on said that FARDC is consolidating its power and will come out stronger than it has been. This is an indication that MONUC has been generally compromised by the DRC government and lacks the moral authority as a UN body to advise the government to reach a politically negotiated solution to the conflict.
The Indian Bde Commander-MONUC has impartially sided with one party to the conflict despite CNDP several calls for dialogue. They are actually fuelling the conflict other than being peace brokers, their initial supposed role.
It is likely that if MONUC continues to threaten Nkunda's forces in Sake, the CNDP will most likely inflict casualties on MONUC units and the mission may be forced by troop-contributing countries to withdraw or effectively retreat into a tortoise shell for the remainder of its mandate. As a result, the ability of the United Nations to field similarly large and ambitious peacekeeping missions elsewhere on the continent, as they will inevitably be called upon to do, could be imperiled.
As for President Kabila, he has lost credibility in the Kivus which has been his main base. The majority of the Rwandophones both in the military and political milieu are in terrible fear, as they are being accused of siding with CNDP especially after the terrible military defeat of FARDC. Visible cracks between Katangese and Rwandophones (Hutus, Tutsis, and former RCD officers) are tearing FARDC apart. As a result, Kabila is increasingly creating new alliances with politicians from Bas-Congo, Equateur, and Katanga to broaden his base of political support in order to reduce his dependency on the people from Kivu.
And no one could blame them for they have been at the mercy of FDLR/Interahamwe and other negative forces’ exactions for so long; they have pleaded to their government and to the international community with no avail. DRC authorities should consider the latest African Rights’ recommendation to “invest in long-term durable peace by showing political will to move in the right direction probably by eliminating the threat posed by the FDLR/Interahamwe. Unfortunately, for the Congolese citizens and most of all those precisely in the Kivus, President Kabila and his buddies does not seem much interested in such approach. The continuation of war will only increase instability in the eastern DRC, especially as Nkunda’s forces are determined to resist particularly since they have no other option given the threat the Tutsi community is facing as elaborated by Nkunda himself.
The FARDC alliance with the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe/FDLR and the Mai Mai (as has happened in the past), in the war against Nkunda, is heightening ethnic hatred among communities in North Kivu instead of bringing reconciliation among them. Some other negative groups based on ethnicity have already emerged and are targeting Tutsis. These include; PARECO-FAP, a negative group that has already declared its support to the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe/FDLR in their war against Nkunda. There is also a great risk that the FARDC troops could eventually engage in full-fledged reprisals against the Tutsi population, without excluding a genocide. The removal of General Nkunda from the formula of resolving the problem may be rather risky as well since others under him may even be more radical and less likely to be politically tamed.
Testifying before the US Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs recently, Mr. Mauro De Lorenzo - a researcher from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) indicated that an attempt to resolve the Eastern Congo crisis by force results in greater tragedy.
Mr. De Lorenzo added that President Joseph Kabila will be in a delicate position in a case where UN-Congolese troops are defeated with grave casualties. Nkunda's forces are well-trained and experienced, and above all they have a clear sense of purpose, because they feel they are fighting for the survival of their community, he said. Troop contributing countries, Mr. De Lorenzo believes would demand a "withdraw or effectively retreat into a tortoise shell for the remainder" of the MONUC mandate.
The Think-Tank says President Kabila would also be seen as weak if he gave in to Gen Nkunda. He might not be able to survive as leader, opening the political space to a destabilizing competition for political power, De Lorenzo said.
The Think-Tank with close ties to President Bush and the Republican electorate, says Nkunda's forces have the capacity to maintain an insurgency of some type for many years, and they can do so without any support from Rwanda. Their funds and foot soldiers are generated internally, within their community, he told Senators.
Another most dangerous scenario, according to the Think-Tank is a situation where Nkunda could lose to UN/government forces indicating that as long as the FDLR and extremist Mayi-Mayi militias are still active, they will likely attack Banyarwanda civilians.
Furthermore, the Think-Tank says the reputational damage to the United Nations (whose reputation in Congo has already been severely dented by sex scandals and illegal gold trading) would be significant if a military victory that it helped bring about - resulted in the ethnic cleansing of an entire community.
"Both defeat and victory would be fraught with danger. The human consequences, though impossible to predict, could, based on the recent experiences of the region, dwarf that of any other current crisis on the continent." he said.
The experts reminded the Senators that the FDLR has been designated a Foreign Terrorist Group by the Department of State, and was responsible for the targeted murder of Americans in Bwindi National Park in Uganda in 1998. "They (FDLR) must not be treated as if they are just any other party to the conflict", De Lorenzo pointed out.
Mr. De Lorenzo said every effort must be made to discourage the Congolese government and UN forces from pursuing a military solution to the problem of the dissident officers in North Kivu or else the whole region ends up in chaos. Contrary to AEI’S warning, the US Government has been complacent to Kabila’s desired military onslaught that has so far proved to be disastrous.
Every effort must be made to discourage the Congolese government and UN forces from pursuing a military solution to the problems of the Kivus which created the dissident forces of CNDP. Fresh international diplomacy is required urgently to save the face of Kinshasa when the dissident forces are publicly advocating for talks. The alternative either way is not good for the people of Congo, the region and the international community.