Congo: Rebels Resist Becoming Soldiers



Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

December 18, 2006: The Ituri province militia force led by Cobra Matata finally surrendered earlier this week. Matata turned himself in along with approximately 110 of his fighters. Matata had agreed to a disarmament deal in July 2006 but never fulfilled the disarmament commitment. In November 2006, there was another demobilization and disarmament deal, but Matata failed to show up. Matata's militia had respected the ceasefire agreement. However. not all of Matata's men were willing to surrender. Matata's militia was once believed to have about a thousand men under arms. With 100 demobilizing, that means a substantial number have either already gone home (good) or joined other militia forces (bad). The government announced that Matata himself would be allowed to join the Congolese Army and have the rank of colonel. Despite the problems with Laurent Nkunda, turning a senior militia commander into a colonel isn't necessarily bad. The Congolese government is seeking ways to politically integrate the rebel tribes in the eastern Congo. The rank of colonel or general is an attractive political plum for rebel leaders. Of course, there is also the lingering issue is war crimes. It often takes months (and occasionally years) for hard evidence to be collected connecting militia leaders to reported crimes.

December 15, 2006: The Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda. Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Angola, Sudan, and the Central African Republic signed a treaty that promised the nations would never go to war with one another. If that doesn't sound suspicious enough, the treaty committed the nations to "mandatory disarmament" of rebel groups and militias in their respective territories and "extradition" of rebel groups within their territories (ie, rebel groups rebelling against a neighbor or nation signing the treaty). Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan are already shadowboxing with rebels in western Sudan and along the CAR-Sudan border. Congo has promised Uganda that it will deal with Uganda rebels, but the LRA, and at least one other rebel group still have bases in the Congo. This is a treaty that sounds good on paper, but it isn't likely it will be enforced.

The South African government reaffirmed that its 1400 peacekeepers in the Congo will remain committed to the MONUC peacekeeping force EUFOR still intends to withdraw its peacekeepers by the end of 2006.

December 14, 2006: There is a major outbreak of cholera among refugees in the eastern Congo. There is concern that that the disease will spread among 20,000 refugees (IDPs -internally displaced persons) in the Goma-Sake area. The area has witnessed a great deal of fighting between the Congolese Army and various militias. But the 20,000 new refugees in the Goma-Sake area are the tip of the iceberg. There are over 500,000 IDPs in North Kivu province. The IDPs lack clean water and food. Cholera isn't the only epidemic that threatens the malnourished and exposed refugees.

December 9, 2006: There was another firefight near the town of Sake (near Goma, on the Congo-Rwanda border). A militia loyal to dissident Congolese general Laurent Nkunda launched a new attack on an army unit entering the area. The militia withdrew after the firefight with the troops. The were no casualty reports. Nkunda's militia is now often referred to as the 81st and 83rd Brigades of the army. It's a six to one, half a dozen to the other situation. The men in these "brigades" were mostly drawn from tribal militias before they were nominally integrated into the Congolese Army. The integration often does not take.


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