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National Committee for the Defense of the People (CNDP)

The Congolese Tutsi-led rebel group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), agreed to end its military struggle against the government and to integrate its forces into the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). The Governemnt of DR Congo presented the so-called military "mixage" process as part of a short-term solution to end hostilities that erupted in North Kivu province between soldiers loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese military (FARDC) in November and December of 2006. The process "mixes" Nkunda troops with soldiers from other non-integrated, but "loyal," FARDC units in unified brigades, which will not immediately be subject to the usual military integration process. Government officials portrayed "mixage" as a way to break up Nkunda's forces, bring dissident elements under nominal FARDC control, and better secure the province. When the ceasefire agreement between Nkunda and Congolese Air Force Commander John Numbi was announced in December 2006, the GDRC maintained the accord would finally resolve the area's "Nkunda problem" and claimed Nkunda himself would go into exile.

In late 2006 Laurent Nkunda reorganized the non-integrated 81st and 83rd FARDC Brigades, which contain many Nkunda loyalists, into three separate brigades. The new so-called 1st Brigade was roughly equivalent to the 81st Brigade and was commanded by Major Claude. The 2nd Brigade, headquartered in Kitchanga (about 50 miles north of Goma), was sub-divided into three battalions and was commanded by a Colonel Makenga. The 3rd Brigade was commanded by Major Faustin with Major Kavundi as his deputy; it was also divided into three battalions, and his based in Kingi, about 30 miles northwest of Goma. A special battalion was newly-created and was commanded by Major "Jaguar" in the area of Kalonge, approximately 40 miles north of Goma.

Avoiding integration is in the self-interest of many in the Tutsi community. When Tutsi soldiers have reported to integration centers they have been targets of harassment and intimidation. Many, he claimed, have been killed solely because their ethnicity.

In October 2008 conditions were going from bad to worse in an eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the DRC. Insurgent General Laurent Nkunda, trashing a peace agreement he signed in January 2008, vowed to escalate his revolt against President Joseph Kabila's government and "liberate" that troubled nation. Nkunda, leading the National Congress for the People, said he was defending Congo's Tutsi minority against attacks from rebels from Rwanda using areas of the eastern DRC as a sanctuary. In four years of fighting, however, his forces had been able to accomplish little more than mayhem, and only in North Kivu province.

In January 2009, the DRC and Rwanda agreed to cooperate to combat and neutralize rebel forces in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, a source of tension between the two countries for over a decade, a scourge on the civilian population, and the primary driver of instability in the Great Lakes region. While there was probably no written agreement between the two governments, the broad outlines of the rapprochement were worked out between a small group on each side, and the general content appeared clear.

The DRC agreed to allow Rwandan forces to enter DRC territory to participate in joint military operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group composed of Rwandan Hutus, many of whom were remnants of the genocidaires who fled into the DRC in 1994. The rapprochement was a courageous political decision by DRC President Kabila, as he faced vocal opposition from many against improving relations with its eastern neighbor, which had twice invaded the Zaire/DRC since 1996.

The joint DRC-Rwandan military operations, Umoja Wetu, "Our Unity" in Swahili -- began in mid-January 2009 and concluded in March when Rwandan forces withdrew. Umoja Wetu was followed by the Kimia II operation, with the DRC continuing to pursue the FDLR with logistical support from the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC). The goals of the military operations were to capture or kill those FDLR elements that were unwilling to repatriate to Rwanda; dislodge the FDLR from lucrative positions controlling mines in the region; and to improve security for the civilian population.

While no one expected the operations to completely "eliminate" the FDLR, there were tangible results: 1,114 FDLR were killed and 1,522 combatants and 2,187 of their dependents were repatriated to Rwanda; the remaining FDLR were pushed deeper into the forest, away from larger population centers and major commercial sites, such as mines; and several hundred thousand Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were able to return to their homes. However, the operations also provoked a spike in human rights abuses against the civilian population, both acts of retribution by the FDLR, as well as abuses committed by undisciplined FARDC elements. As many as 1,714 civilians were killed as a result of the military operations. Major human rights organizations, some international donors, and even some within the UN criticized the military operations, maintaining the suffering of the civilian population and newly created IDPs greatly outweighed any benefits.

On 01 January 2010, the FARDC and MONUC began a new phase of military operations, Amani Leo, against the FDLR. While the overall goals are similar to Kimia II and Umoja Wetu, there was a slight shift in emphasis. Most importantly, MONUC has conditioned its support to specific FARDC units based on human rights vetting and battlefield comportment. This represents a reinforcement of MONUC's civilian protection mandate under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1906. Amani Leo also planned fewer, but better targeted operations against FDLR leadership and FDLR economic sites, working to re-establish state authority in areas recently taken back from the rebels.

On July 13th, 2012 the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for a Rwandan Hutu militia leader accused of war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The court said Sylvestre Mudacumura was wanted on five counts of crimes against humanity and nine counts of war crimes, including murder, rape and mutilation. Mudacumura was a military commander for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as the FDLR. The court says the rebel group, based in the eastern DRC, attacked civilians in 2009 and 2010. The FDLR was established by ethnic Hutus who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis and fled to Congo after the killing spree was stopped.

Ending a long period of speculation about a cabinet reshuffle, President Kabila announced his new government 19 February 2010. The biggest surprise of the reshuffle was that neither the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP - a Tutsi-led rebel group) nor any other former armed group received any posts in the government reshuffle, despite an understanding by many in the CNDP that Kabila had given tacit assurances he would reward the militia for its decision to lay down arms by naming CNDP members to the next government. In effect, in a February 22 press conference, Philippe Gafishi, President of the CNDP, claimed the new cabinet configuration did not comply with the March 23 peace accords. He softened his displeasure by stating that the CNDP would not resume fighting in spite of their lack of a ministerial post.

Some observers speculated that the absence of CNDP members in the new cabinet revealed the indifference of the Rwandan government in ensuring that Tutsi brethren in the Congo were taken care of. In fact, rumors have circulated that Kabila vetted his new cabinet with the Rwandans but this has not been confirmed. Regardless, Kabila clearly feels no need to reward the CNDP at this time and in fact may want to signal to members of the former rebel movement that he was displeased over some CNDP soldiers' misconduct after recently integrating into the Congolese armed forces (FARDC).

On July 13th, 2012 the International Criminal Court issued a second arrest warrant for Congolese militia commander Bosco Ntaganda, who leads the CNDP militia in eastern DRC. In a 2006 warrant, Ntaganda was accused of recruiting and using child soldiers. In the latest warrant, the court charged him with murder, rape, sexual slavery and attacks against civilians, among other crimes. Ntaganda's militia group was previously integrated into the Congolese army. Soldiers loyal to him left the army earlier this year after complaining of their treatment, amid threats by Congolese President Joseph Kabila to arrest Ntaganda.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2012 18:50:42 ZULU