North Kivu’s False Peace – By Michael Deibert
February 29, 2012
At first glance today, things in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern North Kivu province seem far calmer than in years past.
As recently as 2008, a rebel group, the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) under the command of renegade general Laurent Nkunda, controlled sizable swaths of the territory, especially around the area of Masisi in North Kivu’s south-eastern corner.
Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi from North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory and a former commander in the Rwanda-backed Goma faction of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) rebel group, seemed poised to attack the provincial capital of Goma at any time.
Travelling much beyond the town of Sake, 25 km to Goma’s northwest, was a complicated endeavour, as the CNDP had battled the forces of Congo’s president Joseph Kabila fiercely for Sake in November 2006 before withdrawing in defeat. At the time, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that some 800,000 people had been displaced by fighting in the province.
Since those dark days, much has changed in eastern North Kivu.
In January 2009, Rwanda’s government, long believed to be the CNDP’s key backer in its vying for regional advantage, announced that they had arrested Nkunda on Rwandan territory. This event took place shortly after the CNDP had begun to splinter, with one high-ranking member, Bosco Ntaganda, advocating dialogue and détente with the Kabila government.
Since then, a bitter pill scenario has seen Kabila, in power in Congo since the 2001 assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, cede influence and control of much of the eastern part of the vast, mineral-rich country to Rwanda and its proxies, with the Rwandan army now allowed to enter Congolese territory in hot pursuit of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the main Hutu-led military opposition to Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government. The FDLR has its roots in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide when nearly 1 million Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered by extremist Hutu supremacist elements. Read more…