Monday, 18 March 2013

DRC:'' M23's split & Joseph Kabila'': When corruption creates/halts rebellion

In the latest turn of events in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the M23 rebels who swept through the region and seized several towns last year has split in two. While several African leaders were signing a DRC peace accord on 24 February, divisions within the rebel group were deepening.  The disputes have even seen blood shed between the feuding factions.

But The M23's split is the result of ''money for peace'' approach initiated by Joseph Kabila's government. For many years now, Joseph Kabila ( DRC's President) has moved  heaven and earth to protect his ''protégé'', Bosco Ntangada, the dormant leader of M23, despite Joseph Kabila's government claim that Bosco Ntangada has taken refuge in Rwanda. Rwanda has denied it.

At the heart of M23’s discord are two faction leaders: Sultani Makenga (head of M23’s military wing) and Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga (head of the political wing). The split followed an announcement by Makenga that the M23 High Command (its highest military decision-making body) had sacked Runiga, accusing him of receiving $50million from Joseph Kabila's government.

Makenga also accused Runiga of promoting ethnic hatred and attempting to facilitate the return of General Bosco Ntaganda. Also known as ‘the Terminator’, the former head of M23’s military wing is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

The divisions within M23 have a lengthy and complex history. The movement itself was born out of a mutiny of former members of the rebel group National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). These fighters had been integrated into the Congolese army (FARDC) as part of a peace deal with the government, but broke away in 2012 accusing the Congolese government of reneging on other parts of the March 23, 2009, agreement.

To an extent, the current fragmentation within M23 mirrors divisions within its CNDP precursor. The leader of CNDP had been General Laurent Nkunda. In 2009, Nkunda fell out with military chief Ntaganda when the latter agreed to join the Kinshasa government as part of the 2009 peace deal.

After refusing to sign the agreement with Kinshasa, Nkunda was arrested by Rwandan forces. However, some reports suggest Rwanda had a secret agreement with Joseph Kabila’s government to arrest Nkunda in return for them being permitted to pursue a Rwandan rebel group (the FDLR) across the border into eastern DRC.

Arguably, the current rift between Runiga and Makenga stems from the rivalry between Ntaganda and Nkunda. Runiga and Ntaganda are allies, while Makenga is allied with the incarcerated Nkunda.

But with M23 divided between these splinter groups, it is not clear which faction will continue with the negotiations in stricking the deal with DRC government. While the M23 seemed better organised that the Congolese army in managing to win battles and seize several towns, the rift could change that. And the Congolese government is trying to take advantage of the split.  That's exactly what Joseph Kabila's government has been doing, according to UN's unpublished report.

A very prominent member of the Drc's senate has revealed that Joseph kabila has been trying to play the factions against each other. In early March, Joseph Kabila's government officials secretly met with Bishop Runiga and Bosco Ntangada in Rwanda. And It is believed that both Bishop Runiga and Bosco Ntangada agreed to temporarily end their rebellion, however the only handicap in this plan is ''Sultani Makenga'' who was not included in that ''secret talk''.

Therefore, Sultani Makenga is angered that the political wing of M23 secretly cut the deal with Joseph Kabila's government, sometimes around March 04th, without being included. Now he wants his ''piece of the cake''. The M23 split is not ideological, it is rather a matter of ''money''.  In DRC corruption has become part of the culture to the extent that it is used to create and halt rebellion.

Joseph Kabila's government ''money for peace'' approach is a dangerous one.The Runiga/Ntaganda faction has already raised concerns that signing a deal with Kabila may not yield results, fearing a similar failure to the one that followed the March 2009 agreement.

The truth is that the M23's split is the latest chapter in a long story involving competing mafia-like political and military alliances controlled by leaders in the capitals of Dr-Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, all of whom justify their actions in terms of national security concerns to mask economic and political interests.

Sometimes these competing elites fight each other and sometimes they cooperate for control of lucrative resources such as land, livestock, minerals, and timber.

The opportunity that presents the UN's peace accord, signed in Ethiopia's capital, should not be squandered by leaving the resolution of the conflict solely to these three governments (Rwanda-Uganda and DRC) while ignoring the root causes.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AFP: DRC's President: Joseph Kabila