Nkunda’s Larger Plan

November 30, 2008

The ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo held only long enough for Laurent Nkunda to find another target of opportunity, this time the town of Ishasha on the border with Uganda. His successful attack there expands the territory under his control eastward from Rutshuru.

Some big questions remain about what Nkunda is trying to accomplish. His avowed goal was first to protect the minority Tutsi population in the DRC, the Banyamulenge, but that morphed into his stated ambition to take his army across the country and topple Joseph Kabila’s government in Kinshasa. On a more prosaic note, some believe Nkunda’s goal was simply to regain control of the Lueshe Mine, a source of the strategic mineral niobium that at its peak employed 3500 men. That might be a nice side benefit, but my guess is he and his backers have their eyes on a much larger prize: control of the entire North Kivu province with its rich cassiterite, gold, and coltan deposits.

As Amnesty International explains:

Most of North Kivu’s mineral resources are found in Walikale territory, in the west of the province, an area so far unaffected by the fighting. At least some of these minerals are transported through Goma and into Rwanda. The Walikale mining sector is outside effective state control and many mines are under the physical control of unintegrated national army forces or armed groups, including the FDLR. The commercial interests in these mines are shadowy but reportedly extend to important figures in government circles as well as to Congolese Tutsi businessmen. These latter are rumoured to be the financial backers of Laurent Nkunda’s rebellion.

The tip off is Nkunda’s demand that Kabila’s government make a place for him and his army in the hierarchy governing the country. Having the imprimatur of Kinshasa on his army–even a false one earned under duress–would lessen the danger that MONUC or other outside forces would interfere with his plans. That legitimacy would also clear the way for him to attack other outlaws like Congolese Colonel Samy Matumo, who controls the rich cassiterite mines in Walikale territory with the renegade 85th Brigade of the FARDC, supposedly part of the DRC army. Kabila’s government has been unable to manage Matumo even though he technically reports to Kinshasa. He’s believed to be operating the mines in an alliance with the FDLR.

Nkunda has also demanded that Kabila’s government renegotiate contracts recently made with Chinese mining concerns for development in the region.

Nkunda’s original excuse for rampaging through the eastern provinces was to protect the minority Tutsis from the depredations of the remnants of the Interahamwe (FDLR) that committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide and then fled into the DRC. If Nkunda becomes the semi-legitimate military governor of the entire province, there would be nothing to prevent him from moving against them–and the mines they control.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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First Battle In New Congo War

November 29, 2008

The Battle of Rutshuru is over and Laurent Nkunda is the clear winner. The foreign diplomats have come and gone, their sound bites dutifully recorded by the reporters, most of whom will soon be gone themselves. The United Nations has voted to send an additional 3,000 peacekeepers to the region, a noble thought but likely irrelevant to the current situation since it may take as long as four months for them to arrive on the scene.

The battle itself was fought over the last ten weeks between Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), the official Congolese army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), and local mai-mai militia groups. The CNDP conquered as much new territory in the mineral-rich North and South Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as they could swallow in one bite. As they were destroying refugee camps and pushing the boundaries of their domain outward, the wrongly-mandated and thinly-deployed UN troops stood by and watched while the corrupt, ineffectual FARDC troops ran away, looting, raping, and pillaging as they went. The mai-mai militias, dislodged from their own little territories, skirmished with the CNDP, but spent most of their time murdering the civilians they claimed to be protecting and attacking the government troops who were supposed to be their allies.

As the one-sided battle unfolded, UN Commander Lieutenant General Vicente Diaz de Villegas y Herreria of Spain resigned for “personal reasons” and DRC President Joseph Kabila sacked his defense and interior ministers.

Nkunda stopped at the outskirts of the regional capitol of Goma, declared a ceasefire, then withdrew a few kilometers to consolidate his winnings. He’s now in the process of installing loyalists in village government positions, collecting taxes from the civilian population, and exacting tribute from commercial interests attempting to operate in his territory.

Nkunda not only won control of much valuable territory, he also gained a seat at the head of the bargaining table. Joseph Kabila and other heads of state may refuse to negotiate with the renegade general, but Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, serving as Special Envoy from the UN, sat down with him during his latest foray into the region.

The first battle has been won. Now Nkunda will solidify control over his territory, build up his army with supplies from Rwanda and child soldiers impressed from the villages he’s conquered, and prepare to swallow another piece of Congo. Goma could be next, but he will probably find it easier to simply surround the capitol and win the entire region through negotiation from a position of strength.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Slash and Burn

November 29, 2008


Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Arrest Nkunda Now Petition Online

November 28, 2008

The following guest post is by Joseph Robert:

The web site, http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org , provides information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by troups under Nkunda ‘s command since 2002 . The website is also launching a petition calling on concerned people around the world to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N.’s biggest peacekeeping mission will soon be over 20,000 in Congo “must ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are brought to justice” said Mr. Kyubwa.

Nkunda is accused of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity of which most cases are well documented by various human right organzations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In September 2005, the Congolese government issued an arrest warrant for Nkunda, accusing him of numerous war crimes and crimes against human rights. Human Rights Watch, for example, which has been calling for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity since February 2006 has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under the command of Nkunda in Bukavu in 2004 and in Kisangani in 2002. Also armed groups loyal to warlord Nkunda have been repeatedly accused of using rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of child soldiers, some as young as 12 after the abduction from their homes.

According to Mr. Kyubwa, NKunda continues to be involved in the committing of crimes in DRC, and in particular in the province of North Kivu, where again groups armed acting under his command are reportedly responsible for killing civilian systematically in the town of Kiwanja. The continuing horrific killing of civilians testifies that Human Rights Watch was absolutely reasonable in its warning then in 2006 and it’s today. “So long as Nkunda is at large, the civilian population remains at grave risk”

The website http://www.arrestNKUNDAnow.org encourages concerned people around the world to sign a petition to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For more information please call the project coordinator in the United States , Amede Kyubwa at (916) 753 5717 or email: arrestkundanow@hotmail.com.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Refugees Flood Uganda

November 25, 2008

One of the areas I visited while researching Heart of Diamonds was Ishasha in Uganda, which is located about five km (three miles) south of Lake Albert on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. That region is today overrun by refugees from the clashes between Laurent Nkunda’s rebel forces and militias backed by the Congolese army.

abandoned hut in Ishasha

“There was an influx of 2,000 people who crossed into Ishasha last evening (Tuesday),” said Roberta Russo, the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)in Uganda.

Most of the Congolese in Ishasha wanted to be transported to the Nakivale, a large refugee camp in Uganda’s Mbarara district, she added. We traveled through that region, too, just a little over a year ago.

The latest influx brought the total number of refugee arrivals in Uganda since the ceasefire in Congo broke down to more than 14,500. They are part of the estimated 250,000 civilians displaced by the fighting since August.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Heart of Diamonds Interviews and Reviews

November 23, 2008

Interviews and reviews highlighted this week’s Heart of Diamonds virtual book tour.

The Printed Page
Review Your Book
The Plot – An Interview with Valerie Grey
The Plot – An Excerpt from Heart of Diamonds
The Book Connection
Fiction Scribe

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Hazy Hot

November 22, 2008

Hot Uganda Village
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds