While the focus here at Codebook: Africa has been on developments in CAR, it is important to note that authorities from the Democratic Republic of Congo and representatives of the M23 rebel group signed a deal formally ending hostilities in Kenya on Thursday. A deal brokered by Uganda had stalled out, in no small part due to the issues of the final status of former rebels and reported Ugandan support for the group. Many M23 rebels, including its military chief Sultani Makenga, had fled into Uganda, and Uganda had said it had no intention of repatriating them to the DRC without their consent.
Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo showing the approximate zone of conflict with the M23 rebel group. The city of Goma has historically been a major point of contention in the region and one can see the tri-border region with Uganda and Rwanda, both accused of providing support to M23.
Given these issues it is no wonder that a final agreement was brokered by a different third party, one that the DRC would believe was actually acting as a neutral facilitator. However, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was reportedly at the event. The arrangement reached in Kenya saw DRC and M23 representatives sign separate declarations. The DRC pledged to help demobilize and reintegrate former M23 members back into society, while the M23 representatives reiterated the end of the movement as an armed group. No amnesty for those believed to be responsible for war crimes was included. DRC President Joseph Kabila was said to have been hailed by other African leaders present at the ceremony for signing the DRC’s document. The US and UN also responded positively to the deal.
As always it remains to be seen how this new agreement will play out. As previously noted here and elsewhere, M23 was only the latest iteration of Tutsi rebels in the region. There is nothing to say that grievances, real or imagined, of government inattention or outright hostility to the Tutsi minority in eastern DRC might not again provoke a return to open conflict. With the status of former M23 members in Uganda remaining uncertain, there is the possibility that members of the group could return to set up a new armed movement.
In addition, M23 was only one of a myriad of armed groups in DRC, including a large number of localized and independent “Mai Mai” militias, said to act in self-defense against the other more formalized movements. The UN has already looked to launching offensives against some of these groups like it did against M23. The activities of the UN’s intervention brigade in DRC, formed this year, were said to have been instrumental in the rapid collapse of M23 at the beginning of last month. This past week, the brigade launched a new offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group operating in DRC. Whether this is really the beginning of a new chapter for the DRC, its clear that there is a long way left to go.
Reports are coming out today that suspects have been detained or charged in Mali over the killing of RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, and in Kenya relating to the Westgate shopping center attack.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who described the journalists’ killings as “cold and calculated assassinations,” declined to comment on whether suspects had been arrested, but reports by AFP and AP indicate that some number of individuals had been detained. The arrests were reportedly made by French forces operating in the country and the suspects were transferred from the Kidal area, which remains disputed and a key element of peace negotiations between the government and Tuareg militants, to Gao, which is more firmly under government control.
Meanwhile, Kenya authorities have charged four men in connection with the Westgate shopping center attack. Kenyan officials named them as Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah, Adnan Ibrahim, and Hussein Hassan and said that they were foreign nationals. Their nationalities were not disclosed, but it is believed that they are ethnic Somalis. One of the possible reasons that Kenyan authorities may not have disclosed the nationalities is that American citizens or permanent residents may be among them. Recruiting by Al-Shabaab among the Somali diaspora in the United States has become a more pressing concern and reporting about the Westgate incident as it was happening suggested that Americans could have been among the attackers.
An official with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) told Voice of America’s Somali Service yesterday that the AU force had launched an attack on training camp used by the Al Qaeda-linked militant organization Al-Shabaab Somalia’s Dinsoor region in the south of the country.
The Kenyan Defense Ministry said that its contingent specifically was responsible for the attack, which it said consisted of an airstrike that “completely destroyed” the camp. It was estimated that over three hundred recruits were in the camp at the time of the attack and that many of them had been killed.
The Kenyan Defense Ministry indicated that militants responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in September had been directly linked to the camp. The attack followed a strike in the town of Jilib on Monday, believed to have been a US strike involving an unmanned aerial vehicle. This strike was reported to have killed Ibrahim Ali Abdi, said to be the mastermind behind Al-Shabaab’s suicide missions. The US also provides considerable training and material support for AU forces deploying to Somalia as part of AMISOM through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program, which is led and funded by the US Department of State.