The UN Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to extend the mandate of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) until end-June 2012. MONUSCO's mandate is largely unchanged, despite pressure from the Congolese government for the mission to be wound down by the end of 2011. Instead, the Security Council tasked MONUSCO with supporting preparations for November elections, in addition to its responsibilities protecting civilians. Security remains a challenge, particularly in the east, where several of the largest armed groups are regrouping.
Eastern security dynamics will affect Kabila's election platform, which is expected to include concessions to regional minority interests.
Efforts from Kinshasa to formalise, and benefit from, eastern mining will negatively affect artisanal miners, and could stoke instability.
Donors remain focused on promoting free elections, at the expense of security sector reform and anti-corruption efforts.
Relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda -- as well as other neighbouring states -- will continue to improve, although joint military operations have let up in recent months. With neither regional militaries nor MONUSCO capable of scoring a decisive victory, the region's well-entrenched insurgencies will continue to disrupt civilian populations.
President Joseph Kabila entered into a bilateral agreement with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame in early 2009. Details were not made public but apparently centred on a series of goals, all of which have made fragile progress, including:
joint military operations against various armed groups in the region, especially the ethnic Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR);
the integration of other armed groups into the Congolese political process, notably the ethnic Tutsi-dominated National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP); and
the eventual return of the approximately 50,000 Congolese refugees then living in Rwanda. The Congolese Army (FARDC) and Rwandan Army (RPA) continue to carry out joint (small) operations against the FDLR. The CNDP has been integrated into the FARDC under the leadership of Rwandan loyalist General John-Bosco Ntaganda.
The group's cadres appear largely to be following the orders of their military superiors (although Ntaganda is still likely to resist an upcoming plan to redeploy both him and his men to another part of the country). The CNDP's political agenda -- including a demand for improved land rights for eastern DRC's minority Tutsi populations -- is expected to feature prominently in Kabila's campaign for the forthcoming presidential election.
Mining in the east
In September 2010, Kabila unexpectedly announced a total ban on all mineral exports out of North and South Kivu, and Maniema. By the time the ban expired in March, it had become clear that the president's primary objective had been to 'clean up' the (still largely artisanal) local mining sector, with a view to then selling large (industrial) mining concessions in the region. On May 21, Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu announced that a confidentiality agreement had been signed between the government and the world's third-largest tin producer, Malaysia Smelting Corporation (MSC), for a series of concessions across the region. The agreement appears to include a commitment from MSC to fund a 10 million dollar certification scheme for export minerals.
This Congolese initiative is being developed in the context of increased international regulation over 'conflict minerals'. On April 1, a new set of rules drawn up by the Washington-based Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) came into effect, which ban EICC members from sourcing any minerals that are untraced. On May 19, OECD members voted unanimously to adopt the 'Nairobi document', which sets out a series of standards for supply chain traceability.
Continued eastern security challenge
Nevertheless, instability remains a significant challenge in the region. Recent months have seen several of the largest armed groups in the region recovering from former losses, and re-establishing their military capabilities:
Aside from one joint FARDC-MONUSCO operation in early 2011, military pressure on the FDLR has largely abated. Since February, the FDLR has undertaken an aggressive campaign of recruitment, including the creation of a number of new training camps in and around their main stronghold in the Rutshuru region of North Kivu. In recent weeks, the group has increased ambushes against FARDC positions. On May 7, its fighters even attacked a convoy carrying Higher Education Minister Leonard Mamba, killing his driver and bodyguard. Following the arrest of several of the group's key leaders in Europe, units based in the DRC have entered into a wide array of alliances with smaller armed groups, including various Mai Mai militias.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)
In June 2010, the FARDC began a major operation against the ADF (an armed group of Ugandan origin), which it routed in the ADF's main bases in the Beni region of North Kivu. Although the operation has officially continued, in practice, military pressure has dropped. Since February, the ADF has actively recruited, mostly in Uganda (the group's main sources of new members have always been the slum areas of northern and western Kampala). The ADF has re-established bases in Beni, from which it has carried out numerous small attacks on FARDC positions.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
The LRA also came under sustained pressure throughout 2009 and 2010 from joint operations of the FARDC and Ugandan Army (UPDF). However, in late 2010, UPDF-FARDC relations broke down, and the UPDF have gradually withdrawn from north-eastern DRC. The LRA also adopted a highly effective 'zonal command' structure, which has enabled it recruit an increasingly large number of new members (mostly through forced abduction). By May, the group had re-established new strongholds in Bas Uele and Haut Uele, from which it has launched an increasing number of attacks on military and civilian targets. LRA leader Joseph Kony is reported to have returned to the DRC (having spent many months on the run in the Central African Republic and Sudan).
Local units of the FARDC lack both the discipline and the resources to sustain operations against any armed group, partly reflecting the tenuous nature of the integration of former militias. In December, the UN Panel of Experts on the Congo reported on the activities of a series of criminal networks with links to senior FARDC commanders. Since then, some attempts have been made to purge the army of criminal elements. Recent months have seen a number of high-profile court martials. However, based on the evidence gathered by the UN Panel, much more will reform will be necessary before the FARDC become the primary agents of law and order in eastern DRC.
- Oxford Analytica
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