Congo president counters call for Army defection by rebel Bosco
President Kabila suspended Army operations and consolidated forces in response to Army commander Bosco Ntaganda's efforts to encourage defections last week, writes a blogger
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo
• A version of this post ran on the Enough Said blog. The views expressed are the author's own.Skip to next paragraph
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Following a wave of defections from the Congolese army last week led by rebel leader-turned-commander Bosco Ntaganda, President Joseph Kabila has countered with a show-of-force of his own. Kabila traveled to the capital cities of Goma and Bukavu early this week to meet with high-level military commanders and announced the suspension of the three-year long Amani Leo operations mainly targeting Hutu combatants of the FDLR. All military operations will now fall under the command of the government’s 8th military region in North Kivu province and the 10th in South Kivu.
What this means for the infamously ill-disciplined Congolese army is still unclear. One theory is that ending the Amani Leo operations could take many of the rebel fighters (ex-CNDP, PARECO) now integrated in the army, who play a prominent role in the Amani Leo operations, off of the battlefield. But what Kabila gains in this scenario isn’t immediately apparent, and as blogger Jason Stearns in Goma pointed out, some army officers “are worried that the malcontents may stir up trouble.” Another tactic heard from Enough sources in Goma is President Kabila is planning to restructure the Congolese army into four defense zones, with primary bases of operations in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Equateur, and Kisangani.
While the Congolese government vows justice through military tribunals for the mutineers, the fate of Bosco Ntaganda is a matter of intense talks. On April 8, ahead of Kabila’s own visit, the president sent Kalev Mutond, the trusted head of ANR, the national intelligence agency, to meet with senior Rwandan officials and army officers. According to Enough Project sources, the ongoing discussions are focused on the March 2009 peace agreement forged to officially end the rebel CNDP’s armed insurrection, which was backed by Rwanda, and integrate the rebels into the army under some strict expectations about where they would deploy, among other conditions. But how will Ntaganda fare at the end of talks between Congolese and Rwandan officials? At this stage, several outcomes look possible, and it’s difficult to say which is most likely, especially in light of Congo and Rwanda’s last big, secret compromise on the CNDP, which led to the surprise arrest of former CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda and set up the present arrangements that gave Ntaganda so much power. Any of the outcomes will have important ripple effects in eastern Congo and perhaps the wider Great Lakes region, so they’re worth considering ahead of time.