Troubles in the integration of armed groups

From Congo Siasa Wed Jun 15 2011, 06:42:00

The Congolese government is officially tired of negotiating with every new band of rebels that emerges in the Kivus. Defense Minister Mwando Simba has said that soldiers have one last chance to integrate into the Congolese army during the current "regimentation" process where existing units will be consolidated into regiments in the Kivus. After that, rebels' only choice will be demobilization.

But there are still probably around twenty armed groups in the Kivus - ranging from a few dozen to thousands strong - and their integration has suffered serious setbacks in South Kivu over the past weeks.

A striking example of these problems emerged at one of the regroupment centers in South Kivu last week. On June 7, the South Kivu commander General Masunzu visited the Kananda center in Fizi territory, announcing that the commander of the new regiment would come from outside of the 43rd sector. This infuriated officers from that sector, including its ex-PARECO Hutu commander, Colonel Kifaru Niragiye. Fighting almost erupted in Kananda, leading to a displacement of the local population, and Col Kifaru then deserted with reportedly around 150 soldiers, mostly Hutu from North Kivu.

This is troubling, not just because this is the largest desertion from the Congolese army in a while. Kifaru might be headed to Minembwe, the capital of the Banyamulenge-dominated area of the High Plateau, were Major Sumahili, another Hutu ex-PARECO commander and deputy commander of the FARDC troops in Minembwe, has also reportedly deserted. To make matters worse, the Congolese army unit that was sent to bring Col Kifaru back was apprehended and disarmed.

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