Congo: Warlords Confront A Cash Flow Crises

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

September 29, 2009: The rebel groups in Eastern Congo are facing a cash crises. Many of these groups keep their gunmen paid and armed via the sale of raw materials. Much like diamonds financed West African rebels for years, various valuable ores have sustained warlords in Eastern Congo. But now the foreign companies that ultimately obtain the illegally exported ores are being pressured to halt those purchases. Without the cash, the Congolese warlords won't be able to maintain a large enough force to resist the army and UN peacekeepers. Even now, some rebel groups are forcibly conscripting teenagers, and forcing the kids to fight for them. These fighters are not as reliable as paid gunmen, and are much more difficult to supervise.

September 27, 2009: A “migrant war” has begun pitting Congo-Brazzaville and Angola against the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the last several weeks Angola has expelled around 9,000 illegal migrants from the Congo (800 were living in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda). Congo-Brazzaville has also recently expelled Congolese (ie, citizens of the DRC) who were living in its territory illegally. The Congolese government is now retaliating against Angola. It isn't clear how many Angolans have been sent back to Angola. The government indicated it intends to retaliate against Congo-Brazzaville.

September 24, 2009: An ad hoc coalition, the government described as rebel militias operating in eastern Congo (primarily in North Kivu province), announced it was suspending cooperation with the government and would no longer participate in the 2008 ceasefire deal. Arrests of militia leaders for war crimes was cited as a main reason for the political withdrawal. The government dismissed the militia group's statement. However, this is the “flip side” of war crimes prosecutions. In the Congo the UN and the government want to make political deals to end the fighting. The leaders they negotiate with could well be charged with war crimes (and for that matter, so could members of the Congolese government). The militia leaders don't want to disarm, face prosecution, and then a lengthy stay in jail – so why make a political deal? The “ICC problem” (named after the International Criminal Court, which issues war crimes warrants) has certainly played a role in Uganda's peace negotiations with the Lords Resistance Army. The problem has now shown up in the Congo.

September 16. 2009: There has been a new series of militia attacks in northeastern Congo. The attacks have displaced around 100,000 people in Ituri District. The worst attacks appear to have taken place about 70 kilometers south of the town of Bunia. A Congolese Army (FARDC) attack had also created refugees. The army launched a reprisal attack on a village (Gety) after a local militia (FRPI/FPJC, Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri/Popular Front for Justice in the Congo) had ambushed a Congolese Army unit and killed a soldier. An army statement accused villagers of “collaborating” with the rebels. This looks like the kind of action by the army that leads observers to say it is often as dangerous to Congolese civilians as the rebel militias.

September 14, 2011: The government said that the UN Mission on Congo (MONUC) would be able to withdraw from the Congo in 2011. The statement was greeted with real skepticism by many analysts and Congolese. The government statement indicated that the Congolese Army (FARDC) and the National Congolese Police (PNC) would have to be able to handle security issues. Few people believe these organizations will be capable of handling security in 2011.

 

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