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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

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Arresting Bosco: Following Congo’s fraudulent elections late last year, President Kabila has come under intense international pressure and increasing domestic pressure to arrest Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. In a stunning about-face after claiming that Ntaganda is essential for peace in the Kivus, Kabila indicated yesterday that he would arrest Ntaganda but made a point of saying that his approach is not a result of international pressure. "We have over a hundred reasons for arresting and prosecuting him here and if not here [in Goma], then it could be anywhere else, including in Kinshasa. That said we are not short of reasons [to arrest him],” Kabila said.

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The army Chief of Staff Didier Etumba, who traveled to Goma to join in the talks with Rwanda, sounded an unequivocal note: "Someone who refuses to be patriotic cannot serve under the flag,” Mr. Etumba said. “And when this happens, when they take up arms, well, they must be hunted and neutralized and those who have legal problems will have to answer for them.” Helping deliver Ntaganda to The Hague to stand trial for his alleged crimes would earn Kabila praise for (finally) cracking down on impunity. Of course, without a swift apprehension, Ntaganda will likely try to evade capture by drawing from his significant fortune, amassed largely through his dealings in conflict minerals, to convince fighters to stick by his side. The rebellion they could mount would likely lead to widespread insecurity before a “victory for the ICC” could be declared.

Killing Bosco: For the Rwandans, letting their occasional ally Bosco Ntaganda take the stand in The Hague and lay bare their shadowy partnership and dealings in Congo’s smuggled conflict minerals may be reason enough to orchestrate or at least give Congo their blessing to kill Ntaganda. The Rwandan government may calculate that it is in their interest to prioritize its relationship with Kinshasa over continuing to protect Ntaganda, who for Kigali as well has become an object of international criticism. Of course, any actions against Ntaganda apart from a negotiated settlement (see below) that force Ntaganda to ensconce himself in his renewed rebellion will in the meantime have a devastating impact on communities in the crossfire.

Letting Bosco “retire”: Ntanganda’s whereabouts remain unknown. However, he might be forced to step down from his military exploits and retire to his farming land in Masisi, according to an ex-CNDP loyalist colonel who attended recent meetings with senior government officials in Goma. Despite clear calls by the international community to arrest Bosco and transfer him to the International Criminal Court, there is no clear indication that the Congolese government will comply.

Meanwhile, it seems that talks with Rwanda and Kabila’s bold engagement have started to influence the calculations of the soldiers that mutinied alongside Ntaganda last week. In Uvira, South Kivu, 128 defecting soldiers have reportedly returned to their base with their commanders. In Bunagana, north of Goma, 200 soldiers have reportedly turned themselves in so far. The Ugandan army reportedly captured nine mutinous senior officers Col. Innocent Kayina, who had fled to Uganda under FARDC pressure.

As the tense situation continues to unfold, Congo advocates should seize the opportunity of this uncertain time to utilize all possible leverages, including cutting funding unaccountable institutions, to oblige Joseph Kabila to deliver meaningful reforms to the Congolese security sector—a need rarely seen as more urgent than now.

– Read more about the Enough team at Enough Said.

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The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Africa bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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