Congolese President Kabila said his government has managed to gain control of eastern Congo's armed groups, but the emergence of new armed groups undermines his success.
Yesterday, in a speech to the nation, President Joseph Kabila announced, "There is no more fire in the East, just some embers." While it is true that fighting has ebbed this year – largely due to a decrease in operations by the Congolese army – new armed groups have been popping up in South Kivu.
In the run-up to elections, we reported on efforts by the Congolese army to co-opt and repress various remaining armed groups in the eastern Congo – groups that are commonly euphemized as "residuals" by the government. The government struck deals with the FRF (Fizi/Uvira), Mai-Mai Kapopo (Mwenga), Mai-Mai Kifuafua (Kalehe) and has launched an offensive against the Mai-Mai Yakutumba (Fizi). (The army said it would no longer broker deals with groups after last June)
These efforts had been built on relatively shaky grounds – most of the deals involved cash buyouts and promises of positions in the new regiments. At the same time, the Congolese army had to reassure the previously integrated armed groups – especially PARECO and CNDP – and the national army that their power would not be diluted.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen these efforts crumble. First, some existing deals have fallen apart, while at the same time new groups have emerged. One MONUSCO official in South Kivu spoke of "the mushrooming of new groups" there, in particular in the highlands of Uvira territory.