The Congolese army can’t seem to do it, but will internal politics defeat the CNDP? A widening schism has opened between Laurent Nkunda, chief of the rebel militia that plunged the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo into chaos, and his chief of staff, Bosco Ntaganda. UN-brokered peace talks between the CNDP and the Congolese government hang in the balance.
Ntaganda claims to have overthrown Nkunda with the backing of other commanders, but the flamboyant general shows no signs of stepping aside, nor have there been any marked changes in his operation. Strangely, Nkunda says Ntaganda is still his chief of staff, although a meeting of top aides will be held “soon” to discuss his “dangerous decision” and Ntaganda “is no longer in a position to issue orders.”
Both men still command significant numbers of troops in their respective strongholds. The CNDP army of 5,000 men controls large areas of North Kivu following an offensive last fall that carried them to the edges of Goma, the provincial capital. One large question now, of course, is who controls that army.
What remains to be seen is what will happen to the direct talks between the Kinshasa government and the rebels that are being held in Nairobi. Nkunda sent the current delegation to the talks and met personally with UN mediator and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo last week. Ntaganda calims he would pursue peace negotiations with Kinshasa himself, although he would back the delegation if it brought peace.
Both men have been indicted by the Congolese government for various war crimes. Ntaganda is also under indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity that included recruitment of child soldiers and massacres of non-combatant civilians.