Ahead of another ICGLR summit on the neutral force insecurity grows in Kivu provinces

With apologies for a more than two weeks blackout due to travels, it is time now for a wrap up of eastern DRC’s current state of affairs and the main recent events in this period. After basically calm weeks in the Rutshuru area, the upcoming summit of ICGLR head of state and government may or may not bring forward some change with regards to M23 military strategy and both the DRC’s and the regional answers to the group’s advance. A couple of days ago, Rwanda decided to retire its remaining 300 special forces from Rutshuru territory – most probably a late response to the smouldering diplomatic calamities among the neighbouring states since the rise of M23. Media reports have stated that this “free space” was, soon after, occupied by different actors such as FDLR, M23, and at least one Mayi Mayi group. More or less parallel, another string incursion of South Kivu based Raia Mutomboki occurred around Ngungu and other parts of Masisi territory. The latter, as previously, primarily targeted dependents of FDLR and Mayi Mayi Nyatura combatants, all of them mostly Rwandophone Hutu populations. In this setting, the Congolese government is apparently to weak to step in to protect populations, regardless of which side, and even paused its anti-FDLR campaign (provoking Rwandan allegations of collaborating with the génocidaire-based rebel group) to remain operational for the large M23 front.

It is in front of this scenario that ICGLR leaders will again meet in Kampala during the next days, and discuss the concrete modalities of a neutral force to be put in place to 1) eradicate M23 and FDLR and 2) increase Rwando-Congolese border protection. The notion of such a multinational, African, neutral, probably AU-mandated ICGLR force (adding all this specifics already indicates the possible problems getting it materialising…) has been subject of vivid discussion both within political and analytical circles in the Great Lakes region. Lastly, DRC favoured sort of a “home solution” with transforming parts of MONUSCO into this force. This is obviously an intriguing solution for the Congolese side, since it would for sure exclude Rwandan and Ugandan forces, though not feasible for a range of reasons: Another change of mandate (as the last was few months ago) would be surprising, especially since it would in theory partly transform parts of MONUSCO into an active offensive and robust battle corps. Difficult to imagine major troop contributors such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India will appreciate or major paymasters such as the US or Germany will enjoy an increase in yet high costs. In addition, this could never be an “African” force. On the other side, DRC will probably under no condition accept Rwandan, Burundian, or Ugandan soldiers to form part of such a force. Rwanda on its side may have prejudice against the use of Angolan or Zimbabwean troops given the history of Congo wars. South Africa, until now, has not shown a keen interest in being in the lead of such an endeavour although it might be a capable regional force more or less accepted by all sides.

All in all, surprises might happen in Kampala but the timely establishment of this neutral force (scheduled 3 months after the approaching summit) would be huge one. An interesting question in this regard remains the AU’s overarching continental role in assisting the ICGLR. For instance, in the frame of its regional security strategy, the AU is developing and training battle groups to be tasked with peacekeeping and peace enforcement measures in respective areas. The so-called EASBRICOM is responsible for Eastern Africa including parts of the Great Lakes region. Despite this fact, it has not even ever been openly considered to contribute to the crisis’ resolution (officially it will only be operative in a couple of years, but any ad hoc created force is unlikely to be better prepared).

As a final argument, it is also still questionable whether additional militarisation in terms of a new fighting force entering the Kivu provinces is the right tactics at all. In a situation whereby SSR in general and DDR/RR in particular, have widely failed the mere existence of basically every armed group or unit can be regarded as a potential threat to peace. Also, in a recent interview with Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, Rwandan Defence Minister James Kabarebe, while propagating the thorough implementation of the bilateral Joint Verification Mechanism, has questioned whether the neutral force could ever actually happen and the reciprocal accusations between Rwanda and DRC continue to mushroom in the region’s pressrooms. This, coupled with a conflict topography that continues to grow volatile in a fashion not observed for a couple of years, will most probably bear the menace of a hot autumn in North and South Kivu. The humanitarian situation has been worsening since the beginning of 2012 and dozens of reported Ebola cases in Orientale provinces (where Ituri-based rebels just created COGAI and links to M23 cannot be excluded) are no hopeful sign in this regard. It is high time for both the concerned actors to thrive for doable and diligent solutions and for international actors to review their approach and refrain from doing harm. The partial standing of MONUSCO and the idiocy of upcoming Dodd-Frank Act are clearly two aspects where a lot of change is needed in order not to further fuel the DRC conflict in its current stadium. The ICGLR neutral force is an aspect where the immense risks will hopefully be addressed before implementation, if the latter is to materialise at all.

One Response to “Ahead of another ICGLR summit on the neutral force insecurity grows in Kivu provinces”
  1. Gady Lube says:

    In war and peace, Rwanda could not gain Congolese territorial in the ways they do want it.

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