Congo: Dealing With The Terminator


: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

January 15, 2009: The government's anti-LRA drive in northeastern Congo continues, though reports on actual Congolese operations are sporadic. The government continues to stress that it is operating a "joint offensive" with the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) and Uganda to defeat the Ugandan rebels (Lords Resistance Army). LRA attacks since September 2008 killed at least 547 Congolese civilians and 408 have been kidnapped. Between the LRA attacks and the government military operation, an estimated 100,000 people  have had to flee their homes. There are likely good reasons for the sporadic reports ? it's because the operations are likely sporadic. Outside of the capital of Kinshasha, any military operations in the Congo are a logistical challenge. The northeastern border area is particularly primitive ? few roads and very few airfields.

From the rumor mill: the CNDP ? at least Nkunda's faction ? is considering turning Brigadier General Jean Bosco Ntaganda over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution as a war criminal (as the court has long demanded). Whether Ntaganda's arrest would end the split in the CNDP is another matter.

January 14, 2009: The power struggle within Laurent Nkunda's CNDP isn't over. In fact, the break is rather open. Brigadier General Jean Bosco Ntaganda now has his own faction which claims it has appointed a "12-member executive committee." The Ntaganda faction has a headquarters in Kabati (North Kivu province). It appears to favor some type of reconciliation with the Congolese government.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Nkunda's negotiating team in Nairobi, Kenya said that peace negotiations with the government were progressing and that an agreement may be reached "very soon" that will end the fighting between the government and CNDP in eastern Congo. There is no doubt the Ntaganda rebellion has put political pressure on Nkunda.

January 12, 2009: Former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is on trial in the International Criminal Court (located in The Hague, Netherlands). He faces five counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. Bemba ran the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC). The MLC operated in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003 as an ally of former CAR president Ange-Felix Patasse. Recent testimony in the trial alleged that Bemba's militiamen used rape as a terror tactic in the CAR.

January 9, 2009: Despite earlier denials of trouble in the CNDP, more rumors circulate that General Laurent Nkunda faces a serious challenge to his leadership. The key figure appears to be Brigadier General Jean Bosco Ntaganda, who currently has the title of "Chief of Staff" for the CNDP and its militia forces. One report stated that Ntaganda now faces "a disciplinary hearing" within the CNDP. Ntaganda is a member of a Congolese Tutsi tribe. Like Nkunda, he has a long record for fighting for Tutsi tribal rights and fought with Rwandan Tutsis against the Hutu government in Rwanda. He is (or at least was) regarded as a key Nkunda ally. It turns out that Ntaganda issued a statement on January 5 accusing Nkunda of "bad leadership", and he also declared himself the CNDP's leader. This was read as an attempt to oust Nkunda. Ntaganda has a nickname ?"The Terminator." He is also under indictment by the ICC for war crimes.

The government reported an LRA band attacked the town of Negero (northeastern Congo). As many as 20 people may have died in the attack. The main park ranger station for Garamba National Park is located in Negero. The LRa has bases inside Garamba, though the government issued a statement in late December 2008 that "at least 70 percent" of the LRA's camps within Garamba have been destroyed.

January 7, 2009: Negotiations between the government and CNDP have resumed in Nairobi, Kenya.

January 6, 2009: General Laurent Nkunda issued a statement denying media reports that he is no longer in charge of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). One of Nkunda's senior subordinates, Colonel Makinga Sultani also said Nkunda remains in charge.




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