Recent developments around Raia Mutomboki

Amidst military reshufflings and changes in eastern Congo’s security topography, the so-called ‘angered citizens’, Raia Mutomboki, remain one of the most complex and least understood armed configurations across North and South Kivu. Academic literature is almost non-existent and also other analyses are scarce good, leading to the ironically sad fact that an academic journal could permit a short briefing being published that states the following: Raia Mutomboki are an ethnic Tutsi Mayi Mayi militia. Obviously, a lack of broader and deeper research could allow for this sort of misled, if not ridiculous, analysis.

The best analyses so far include Jason Stearns’s blogpost and  a report of the Usalama Project in 2013 (and – stay tuned – a forthcoming paper by Koen Vlassenroot and Kasper Hoffmann on the Kalehe situation as well as another paper of mine, if accepted for publication). Moreover, in a less holistic attempt, I have added on this for Think Africa Press last year. In the following, this article will trace a bit of the more recent developments within the Raia Mutomboki conundrum, and give an outlook on why it will be hard to both completely co-opt or neutralise them as a non-state armed actor (or: assemblage of).

From the state of the art described in the linked pieces, 2013 has experienced major shifts for the Raia Mutomboki movement. In June, the so-called “Coalition Raiya Mukombozi” was established in eastern Shabunda and Westen Kabare/Walungu, including some ‘traditional’ Raia Mutomboki leaders (i.e. Ngandu Lundimu, Donat Kengwa, Sisawa Kindo and others) but also ‘newcomers’ such as Albert Kahasha Foka Mike, Daniel Meshe, or Songa Ndushi. Despite a myriad of official documents and communiqués, it meanwhile seems this coalition had never really existed besides the paperwork. Frictions and tension among commanders had high time from the beginning, and eventually the coalition should split in late 2013, when for instance Sisawa Kindo was excluded in sequence to several incidents. Early 2014, Meshe, Foka Mike, and Ndushi left for being demobilised while other leaders remained in the maquis.

Other than that, 2013 was the formal end of the first original Raia Mutomboki linked to Jean Musumbu in Southern Shabunda and a gradual loss of influence and power for the Eyadema group, currently led by Juriste Kikuni with strongholds around Lulingu in Northern Shabunda. In Kalehe, another group (officially responding to Juriste but operationally independent) works under the aegis of commanders Shukuru Kawaya, Bwale Hamakombo (in Bunyakiri), and Wasubita Safari (in Kalonge). It is obvious that some of the chapters benefit from both lower (local councillors or chiefs) and high-level (provincial and national MPs, other politicians) political support. Several cases for this are known and include currently serving deputies, as confirmed by a wide range of sources.

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An overview on their structure, in overall terms, is very difficult to estimate, but the following list tries to suggest a structure as of February 2014. It is incomplete by default given it is rather impossible to draw a full map of this highly complex and territorially dispersed movement. Chapters in Maniema province for instance, do not form a part of the following lines.

Group southern Shabunda: defunct

The Musumbu group has officially laid down arms in 2013 and, not least due to the FDLR disappearance in their home turf, seems to be largely inactive and defunct at this stage. Their two main leaders were Jean Musumbu and a certain Sesawa Ngowa.

Group Lulingu/Nduma (northern Shabunda): active

The so-called Nduma group played a crucial role for almost two years within the Raia Mutomboki universe. Formerly linked to the ‘original’ Musumbu group it was a geographical and political nod to liaise with both the eastern Shabunda and Kalehe as well as the Walikale factions. Eyadema Mugugu, who has been detained for over 1.5 years in Kinshasa, was the political coordinator of this group. He is replaced by Juriste Kikuni, whose closest collaborator appear to include Albert Mutima Muba, Faustin Muzumbi Lubula, and Pascal Musombwa. Juriste, in spite of having been less visible in the past six months, still exerts considerable influence over wide parts of the ‘movement’. The Kalehe chapters indicate clearly that, in addition to their own political leaders and influential persons deriving from the Mayi Mayi Padiri era, they see themselves in the hierarchy of Juriste. This group still concentrates around Lulingu and Nduma at the northern margins of Shabunda territory.

Group Kigulube (eastern Shabunda): active

The remainders of the coalition (that may never really have been such) form the Kigulube group. The currently consolidate on the axis between Chulwe (last FARDC position in Walungu) and Nzovu/Kigulube, possibly further westwards. Led by Ngandu Lundimu (aka Baléne) and Donat Omari Kengwa – both former FARDC – the group also includes three other ‘generals’: Nyanderema, Mabala Mese, and Maheshe. While Ngandu and Donat have built their strongholds around Kigulube, the other three have been reorganising around the axis Lubimbe-Nyalubemba-Ysezia-Kigulube, with units mixed and spread over the length of this area. While the high command is undoubtedly held by Donat and Ngandu, the three other generals enjoy a far-going liberty of operation. Additional leading figures are commanders Makombo, , Malewa, Mutuza, Charlequin, Salumu Kaseke, Batachoka, Constant Dindja, as well as more political figures such as Bwana Issa or Valentin Nanza. It is unclear, to which extent formerly included individuals such as Sisawa Wangozi Pascal still play a role in this configuration. These days, Nyaderema, Mabala, and Maheshe have reorganised their troops to fill the gaps left by Foka Mike’s and Meshe’s chapter, while Ngandu and Donat reportedly held a meeting where they ordered their (direct) troops to withdraw from patrolling with arms and only recur in case of defence against outside intruders (i.e. FARDC, given FDLR is currently too far from Raia Mutomboki positions).

Group Kalehe: active

As written above, the Kalehe faction(s) consider themselves part of the Nduma group, if at least in political terms. Militarily, they are based on a recruitment pool and a history that primarily derives from Mayi Mayi Padiri group, that controlled much of the Batembo area during the so-called Congo wars. Currently, the leadership is as follows: Bwale Hamakombo Byamungu commands in the area of Bunyakiri, Shukuru Kawaya northwards around Hombo. Akili Abukabar Fande controls the Buloho axis, while the Kalonge-based Raia Mutomboki appear to be led by a certain Wasubita Safari. At least the Hombo-Bunyakiri parts have re-established vivid and cordial relations with Mayi Mayi Kifuafua, a former temporary Raia Mutomboki satellite, spearheaded by Shukuru. They have also built relations with Mayi Mayi Kirikicho, although Raia Mutomboki members signal a lack of trust in this potential alliance.

Group Itebero (Walikale): unclear

Raia Mutomboki in Walikale used to concentrate around Itebero and Isangi under leadership of Mwami Elenge Mwemano Jacob nd his brother Heritier Elenge. Throughout 2013, their disagreements with Mayi Mayi Kifuafua (and others) bolstered insecurity in southeast Walikale territory, but hostilities seem to have widely ceased pursuant to the mediation efforts of local leaders and provincial politicians.

Ex-“coalition” who have demobilised: defunct

They include Daniel Meshe, Pierre Muamba, Deo Bizibu Balola, Songa Ndushi, Albert Kahasha Foka Mike

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With exception of the Kalehe chapter(s) who are mainly Batembo, all Raia Mutomboki factions primarily rely on Barega networks and participation, which does not exclude many Bashi, but also Bahavu, Banyanga and others within the movement. This does not mean they are an ethnocentric or ethnic movement, though. Rather than that, all Raia Mutomboki consider themselves as patriots and nationalists fighting for the Congolese cause and against real or perceived foreigners. Above all, the FDLR/interahamwe rebels from Rwanda are seen a the prime enemy and target. In several areas spanning across Shabunda, Walungu, and Kalehe, Raia Mutomboki successfully chased them away. In addition, the high prevalence of rwandophone army officers in South Kivu is a cause of anger to many Raia Mutomboki. It needs be the noted, however, that despite their crude reputation, especially senior cadres know well about the intricacies of identity and citizenship in eastern Congo. Banyamulenge, for instance are by no means equalled to FDLR (…obviously there is enough reason to make a difference between those two groups, but it has to be said that Raia Mutomboki does so too). Among rank-and-file this can still be different.

In terms of economic and political organisation, there is no general blueprint for the functioning of Raia Mutomboki. The vast differences regarding geography, social structure and the diversified nature of the organisational units are also reflected in their sources of income and survival. A few things that can largely be generalised still exist: Little is heard about pervasive and controlled extortion of the population. While individual cases indicate such, all Raia Mutomboki seem to pay a lot of attention to maintaining cordial relations with the unarmed population. Oftentimes, is it hard to discern anyway, who is Raia Mutomboki and who not. Taxation of civilians, if existent, is usually done on a basis of consent or contract, often in forms of voluntary contributions, but there are cases of violent extortion and coercive taxation of the population as well, up to atrocities (although it would be erroneous to characterise the whole movement as such). The Kigulube group is a good example of how Raia Mutomboki ‘mimick’ the state – in every village the local commanders and secretaries use government-like stamps to convey a sort of an official character to their movement. Many claim that they are actually replacing the state where it is absent and in this capacity, they also interact with the customary authorities (in cases where the latter are not part of the movement anyway). Revenues are generated through the taxation of goods circulating across their areas of control, and, therefore touch upon the civilian population. There is also income produced through mineral exploitation but not necessarily in the sense of a stereotypical blood minerals paradigm, but rather as a normal economic activity where senior figures act a bit like pit owners in non-conflict zones. Coercion can never be excluded there, but it is not a necessary corollary.

In conclusion it needs to be said, that most Raia Mutomboki currently are in a phase of defensive consolidation of power and the establishment of authority beyond and in spite of the state. Although loose and incoherent – in particular across the main subgroups – there is some sort of general leadership, but most units act independently in terms of daily business. The government and its army is not considered an adversary as such, but discontent with the ‘state’ has led to a situation whereby the Raia Mutomboki (also inspired by individual aspirations of leading figures) aim at building a distinct form of governance, with no imminent aims of expanding their territory (at least not for the time being). After recent defections around Meshe and Foka Mike, the remaining commanders do not seem ready or willing to disarm anytime soon, according to various commanders and other representatives across the subgroups.

Overall the Raia Mutomboki situation remains very fluid and further developments are to come up in the coming months.

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