African Reserves

Why eastern Congo is home to eternal war

Why is North Kivu a powder keg where conflict can break out at any time?

In establishing their foreign dominance in the interlacustrine region, the Belgians who settled in what came to be known as Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) were immediately consumed by the potential benefits of the northern volcanic highlands. -Kivu. Farmers in tributary states such as Rwanda eventually found themselves bidding on Belgian settlers.

Some of the 25,000 Banyarwanda, Banyamulenge or Banyabwisha who took part in the first migratory movement between 1933 and 1945 also worked in the mines that dot the mineral-rich provinces of North and South Kivu, as well as Ituri. The scramble for the natural resources of the volcanic highlands (mines, but also agricultural and pastoral lands) continues to be the underlying theme that shapes the power strategies pursued by the various belligerents.

The other migratory movements between 1959 and 1994 – among which, to cite only two, those triggered by the Rwandan revolution of 1959 and the Rwandan genocide of 1994 – directly or indirectly contributed to the genesis of the violent conflicts in the east of Congo. The mishmash of Tutsi and Hutu fleeing in turn created a recipe for disaster, the aftermath of which is still being felt to this day.

So which belligerents are we talking about here?

The belligerents of the Kivu conflict cannot be counted on the fingers of one hand. The armed conflict – the trilogy of which spans 2004 to 2009, 2012 to 2013 and 2015 to date – is essentially the unintended but inevitable product of the Second Congo War. The aforementioned war began in August 1998 before ending in a military stalemate on July 18, 2003.

Uganda and Rwanda were among the foreign state actors in the war, having apparently been drawn into the conflict by militias such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and the Interahamwe, among others.

Educated guesses put the number of belligerents (militias, in fact) involved in the ongoing conflict in Kivu in the hundreds. Those who have contributed to the convoluted nature of the conflict include the M23 (an offshoot of the Democratic Republic of Congo or FARDC army created in April 2012 when hundreds of mostly Tutsi soldiers mutinied) and the FDLR. The National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), now recognized as a political party after signing an agreement with Kinshasa in 2009, is also anything but a footnote, thanks to its umbilical link with the M23.

Why does Kinshasa continue to associate the M23 with Kigali?

The M23 rebellion erupted in April 2012 in Rutshuru, North Kivu, when hundreds of predominantly Tutsi FARDC soldiers mutinied over appalling living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers were members of the CNDP, another armed group which, as mentioned, transformed into a political party after signing an agreement with Kinshasa in 2009.

When dissidents felt that Kinshasa had not fully implemented the March 23, 2009 peace accords, they turned against the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). M23 is named after the date the agreement was signed.

In 2012, the UN Security Council’s Group of Experts said in a confidential report that Rwanda and Uganda, despite their denials, continued to support the M23 rebels in their fight against Congolese government troops in the province of North Kivu.

“Rwandan officials exercise overall command and strategic planning of M23,” the report said, adding, “Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo through direct military support to M23 rebels, the facilitation of recruitment, encouragement and facilitation of FARDC. [Congolese army] desertions, as well as the provision of arms and ammunition, intelligence and political advice.

How does Kampala fit into this complex puzzle?

The UN Security Council panel of experts also singled out the government in Kampala for its alleged support for the M23 rebellion.

“While Rwandan officials coordinated the creation of the rebel movement, as well as its main military operations, Uganda’s more subtle support for M23 has allowed the political wing of the rebel group to operate from Kampala and strengthen its relations outside,” he said.

At the time, the Ugandan army was deployed in eastern DRC. Kigali has drawn a line in the sand, warning that North Kivu should be a no-go zone for the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) where the FDLR are hiding.

The FDLR is a rebel group made up of remnants of the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militiamen responsible for the 1994 genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. After the genocide, they fled to eastern DRC, where they have since wreaked havoc by raping, killing and looting innocent civilians. They continue to pose a threat to the Kigali government.

Currently, the deployment of Ugandan troops has extended to the troubled province of North Kivu – a theater of war crowded with roving militias, including the ADF, the Nduma Defense of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R), whose spin-off factions control large swaths of territory.

Take the FPPH rebel group made up of the Congolese Hutu community; The AFRC led by Charles Bakande, a former member of the Mai-Mai militia who garnered support from the Nande community and organized extortion rackets along the southern shore of Lake Edward, taxing lucrative fishing camps; and Mazembe-Apasiko led by David Kiboko, the grandson of Fabien Mudoghu, former leader of the Popular Resistance Front of Lubwe-Rwenzori (FRPL-R), among other rebel groups. It is indeed a complex puzzle, and one that contains Kampala.

What role does the abundance of minerals in eastern Congo play in fueling this conflict?

Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests an extremely important role. The San Francisco Bay Area is the bastion of technological advancement and imagination powered by artificial intelligence. The far east of the DRC is home to the raw “fuel” mined from the bowels of the earth that powers planes and electric cars.

The electronics industry is largely dependent on minerals such as coltan, cobalt, tungsten, wolfram, cassiterite, gold and diamonds, which are found in abundance in the restive east of the DRC. Research shows that the belligerents finance their activities in part through the sale of gold, wolframite, coltan and cassiterite.

Kinshasa should be part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution conversation with artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing and other technologies in mind. This is because its vast mineral portfolio will essentially fuel the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The cobalt it produces on an unprecedented scale is used in the manufacture of batteries. Its copper reserves – eclipsed in the world by only half a dozen countries – and just over 130 million tonnes of lithium deposits are likely to be used to produce key components in electric cars, computers and power sources. renewable energy.

Can the East African Regional Force help pacify eastern Congo?

The East African Standby Force is largely a paper tiger. Beyond its official profile as one of five regional multidimensional forces of the African Standby Force to provide a rapid force deployment capability to conduct preventive deployment, rapid response, support/stabilization operations of peace and peace enforcement, little is known about its command and jurisdiction structure.

There are fears that contradictions within member states, which are bubbling under the radar, will resurface and affect these deployments.

In 2012, the UN Security Council’s Group of Experts said in a confidential report that Rwanda and Uganda, despite their denials, continued to support the M23 rebels in their fight against Congolese government troops in the province of North Kivu.