By Georgianne Nienaber
When Congolese General and wanted warlord Bosco Ntaganda walked into the embassy of the United States in Kigali, Rwanda, surrendered, and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court for trial, a convenient media narrative was fulfilled. Over the past year, a simplistic storyline was developed and nurtured by the press, suggesting Ntaganda was responsible for the bulk of the unrest in Congo and that his elimination would provide a pathway to peace in the region. The international community is making a grievous mistake if they buy into this false narrative and believe that the indictment and removal of the renegade Ntaganda will solve the crisis of eastern Congo. The solution depends on the willingness of the President of Congo, Joseph Kabila, to negotiate a peace based on the demands of the M23 rebel movement that broke with Ntaganda in April 2012, defeated his forces, and drove him to seek sanctuary in the U.S. embassy. They still remain at the bargaining table with the African Union in Kampala, Uganda; hammering out the neglected details of the Goma Peace Accord, signed by Kabila in 2009 with the former CNDP/M23 rebels. Bertrand Bisimwa has taken over the leadership of M23 from former spokesman Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero who was ousted from the M23 by its military leadership under charges of treason.
And so, the crisis in Congo continues, despite remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry that the delivery of Ntaganda to the ICC in The Hague will “contribute” to the goal of “restoration of civil order, justice, and accountability.” The sad and irrefutable fact remains that Ntaganda’s departure will do nothing to solve the unrest, the displacement of tens of thousand of civilians, the rapes, the murders and the recruitment of child soldiers by the dozens of militias still roaming Congo. There are also the under-reported rapes and abuses committed by the Congolese Army (FARDC). Two Congolese army battalions participated in at least 126 rapes as the FARDC soldiers fled an M23 onslaught on Goma in November 2012.
There is another militia in Katanga Province (see map) that has been virtually ignored. Ironically, while “The Terminator” Ntaganda was waiting for transfer to the ICC, Radio Okapi reported that the militia group Kata Katanga (Swahili for “cut out Katanga”) overran the UN compound in Lubumbashi, the capitol of mineral-rich Katanga province. Radio Okapi said 450 militia and family members from the rebel group, which advocates secession of the mineral rich province from Congo, entered the city shooting.
Discontent and violence is everywhere in Congo, but the narrative is extremely complicated, the demands and the names of militias require spreadsheets to understand, and no reporters want to venture deep into rebel territories to investigate the unrest.
Some stories do surface, but they are not widely reported.
Rutshuru and Walikale in Nord-Kivu Province have experienced huge population displacements, murders, rapes and executions. On March 19, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 810,000 displaced people have fled the violence. These are the registered numbers. In Walikale serious tensions arose following the arrests of a rebel militia, Raïa Mutomboki, by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). This led to clashes in Nyamilingi and Lowa on March 15.
In the Nord-Kivu town of Kitchanga, fighting between FARDC and the armed group Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) has caused civilian deaths, wounded hundreds, and 5,000 people have pitched tents around a UN peacekeeping base. Humanitarian warehouses were burned, medical facilities damaged, and the town’s water supply compromised.
Nord-Kivu’s displaced represent only one third of the displaced population in DRC, estimated at2.6 million in January 2013, according to OCHA.
In Maniema Province, access routes between the territories of Punia and Shabunda were demolished by armed groups, OCHA reported on March 20. Harrassment, looting, and extortion by unnamed armed groups continues in Punia. Forty-five thousand people remain in need of assistance.
Equateur Province reports an influx of 22,184 refugees from fighting in the Central African Republic, and sectarian tensions persist in the Territory of Bosobolo.
Examining the map provided by OCHA, and noting the relatively small geography affected by the M23 rebellion near Goma, it clearly comes into focus that there is a failure of leadership and authority in Kinshasa.
There is also the “elephant in the room,” meaning the presence of the FDLR genocidaires in Congo, and the seeming inability or lack of resolve on the part of the government of Congo and United Nations forces (MONUSCO) to do anything about it.
A report is now available on the Internet that is absolutely essential reading for anyone who wants to fully understand what has happened since the 1994 Rwandan genocide that was perpetrated by elements of the FDLR now enjoying sanctuary in Congo. Richard Johnson, a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State from 1979 to 2002, specializing in Russian, East European and North African affairs, wrote the extensive document.
This report details the “de facto safe havens in many parts of Africa, Europe and North America, and extensive material, political and moral support from a range of UN agencies and Western officials, churches, NGOs, and intellectuals” for the FDLR. Johnson makes a cogent argument through a thorough historical and political analysis of the region, that “politically expedient denial and trivialization of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi has been a pervasive phenomenon in the West for the past 18 years, particularly but not only among the French political elite, Christian Democratic and Catholic Church circles, and a range of Belgian and Dutch NGOs.”
Unless and until inattention by the government of Congo, genocide deniers, special mining interests, and the willful paternalistic ignorance of African history by western interlopers supported by the international press are exposed completely and eradicated, the ICC and the Hague can offer sanctuary to generations of warlords and nothing, absolutely nothing, will change for the exploited people of Congo.