Nearly a year after being installed in a senior position in the
Congolese armed forces, former rebel-general Bosco Ntaganda has formed with others the Front for the Liberation and Emancipation of the Congo (FLEC).
The group has not started war, but is institutionalizing control over regions of eastern Congo, particularly Masisi territory
in North Kivu province, 256 news.com has established
Unlike some other rebel groups in the Congo – including Mr. Ntaganda’s Tutsi-led National Congress for the People Defense (CNDP) who wrecked havoc on the country last year – FLEC does not appear to be built along ethnic lines.
Violence both against and between Hutu and Tutsi in eastern Congo have broiled the region in an on-again-off-again struggle that, over the last fifteen years, has directly and indirectly led to millions dead.
While it remains unclear whether FLEC will be an armed insurgency or just a way to make more money, the emergence of the group is the latest sign that the CNDP is breaking up, and the Congo’s army is unraveling in its year long war against Rwandan Hutu rebels.
“According to local sources who speak with this reporter in Goma town, FLEC was established because of the reported refusal of pro-Nkunda elements and the former political leadership of the party to associate CNDP with the reported Coalition pour la protection et la promotion du
Mr. Ntaganda, who became military commander of the CNDP at the beginning of the year when its charismatic Laurent Nkunda was arrested by Rwanda, was supposed to lead the group into integration with the Congolese national army, along with a menagerie of other rebel groups
and splinter factions.
In the United Nations-backed offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda – Hutu rebels accused of orchestrating the 1994 Rwandan genocide – Mr. Ntaganda is accused of playing a senior role.
In South Kivu, where the bulk of the fighting is focused, Ntaganda’s CNDP lieutenants are the ones doing the fighting and the
But now, he and other CNDP officers are spending their time organizing FLEC and already control some of North Kivu’s most fertile grounds, including large swaths of Masisi territory according to reliable sources.
And there’s no much that can be done, saying that the police in the
region were “neither equipped nor paid” by the Kinshasa government.
For years, Rwanda and Congo have battled over the presence of Rwandan genocide suspects hiding out on Congolese soil, killers that fled after the Rwandan genocide.
Rwanda’s own military has repeatedly invaded the Congo in pursuit and have left behind residual militias to do the fighting for them.
Last year, things began to get out of hand, when one of these
generals, Mr. Nkunda went on a strong offensive in North Kivu, taking important parts of the province and coming within a few kilometers of the capital Goma.
The Congolese military didn’t stand a chance, instead fleeing with civilians from the oncoming rebel group, looting, killing and raping in the process.
It all changed, investigators have argued, when Rwanda and Congo struck a deal that placed Ntaganda in the drivers seat and Mr. Nkunda supposedly behind bars.
Now, the Congolese army was no longer fighting the CNDP, but the Hutu rebels, and in the process Ntaganda and his troops took command of the war.
It’s been a sweet role of reversal for Mr. Ntaganda. According to the
United Nations Panel of Experts report leaked Tuesday, he is making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in illegal tax revenues from the lands he patrols. His elite CNDP that follow him is about 60,000.
But as the atrocities mount, Ntaganda has been losing friends.
The people who put him in power – including Rwanda – have not gone out of their way to keep all the soldiers below him in line and, as the The New York Times has reported, much of the region has descended into ‘warlordism.’
From Mai-Mai generals to FDLR splinters, new groups have sprung and popped, since the beginning of the year, feeding off each other like water wheels.
A spokesperson for the United Nation in Congo said that the latest developments reflected a “possible division within the CNDP itself,” those working with Ntaganda, and those loyal to the arrested Laurent Nkunda, who remains in Rwanda, somewhere.
“He is our man, he always will be,” says Claude Mutebutsi, a Congolese Tutsi originally from South Kivu. He insists Nkunda wasn’t simply sponsored by Rwanda. According to him, “95%” are still faithful to Mr. Nkunda, who has acquired a Che Guevara-like mystique with his constituents.
The political arm of the CNDP – Nkunda had said he was fighting for the protection of Congolese Tutsi – has accomplished little on paper since peace agreement that culminated integration into the army.
Two party members are in parliament.
Mr. Ntaganda’s new group is the latest manifestation in a breakup of the CNDP that has been ongoing for months. The first incarnation was the Coalition for the Promotion and Protection of the Congo.
Initially built around Ntaganda and other CNDP soldiers, it fell apart due to deteriorating support for Mr. Ntaganda.