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Constant leadership disputes produced political and administrative confusion in the year 2000 in areas of northeastern Congo, which the RCD-ML claims to control. The three top officials of the RCD-ML, Wamba dia Wamba, on one side, and his two deputies Mbusa Nyamwisi and Tibasima Ateenyi developed parallel political and administrative structures in Bunia, the RCD-ML's capital, and in the town of Beni. The military wings of the RCD-ML reflected the leadership splits: most recruitment for the RCD-ML armed forces was carried out on the basis of personal and/or ethnic loyalty. The political struggle exacerbated ethnic tensions in the region and, at times, spurred widespread ethnic killings.

By the time it was de facto absorbed into a newly established rebel front in mid-January 2001, the RCD-ML had yet to adopt a basic platform as a political movement, to define its internal structures and their respective attributions, or to choose a leader acceptable to the various factions. Apart from a broad non-militaristic philosophy voiced by Wamba and a rhetorical commitment to the peaceful resolution of the war in Congo, the goals of the movement in the national war and its position on the war's complex regional dimensions were far from clear. The wrangling among the movement's top leaders often focused on mutual accusations of political ineptitude, misuse of funds, and the manipulation of ethnicity for narrow political ends.

Wamba's two deputies attempted at least three times to overthrow him in 2000, although he was nominally president of the movement. Uganda, which backs the rebel faction, ultimately intervened. At each upheaval, the three contenders and their top aides were summoned to Kampala for "consultations." The "foreign allies," that is, the Ugandans, in the meantime acknowledged no clear victor on the ground. This created the perception locally that they were in fact siding with both parties to the dispute at the same time.

The Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD)
The roots of RCD-ML troubles began when it split off from the mainstream rebel movement, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which is backed by Rwanda and headquartered in Goma. At the beginning of the war Wamba dia Wamba, a professor of history, an opponent of former Congolese president Mobutu, and a long-time resident in Tanzania, emerged as chairman of the RCD after an initial struggle over the position. The foreign backers of the rebellion, Rwanda and Uganda, hastily assembled most of the fifty founding members of the RCD from exile. They wanted the RCD to front for their military intervention in the Congo by forming a government, which they expected to install rapidly in Kinshasa. But the lightning campaign to capture the Congolese capital failed and as the war dragged on the RCD was plagued by many defections. Commenting in February 2000 on the defection of senior RCD official Roger Lumbala, then RCD Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo remarked "some people joined the revolution thinking it would take weeks and they got positions, but now that the struggle is taking a long time, people like Roger Lumbala, who was a cadre, have fallen out."2

The failure to conquer Kinshasa sowed the first seeds of discord between the Ugandan and Rwandan backers of the rebellion. With a mind to preserving their stakes in the future of the DRC, the two allies initially battled over the political control of the RCD. While Rwanda appeared more focused on pursuing an outright military victory, the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni initially sought to foster the emergence of political and military organizations modeled on its own "movement system" and "people's army." It offered top RCD leaders, including Wamba, and carefully selected young Congolese intellectuals combined military and ideological training aimed at attaining that objective. In May 1999 Wamba was evicted by some of his RCD colleagues in Goma and moved with several founding members and military cadres of the RCD to Kisangani, which at the time was jointly controlled by the Ugandan and the Rwandan armies.

    The RCD faction based in Goma and known henceforth as RCD-Goma continued to control the Congolese military contingent of the rebellion and the Wamba-led faction, known then as RCD-Kisangani, initially had no significant military arm. Attempts by the Ugandan army, the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), to train some Congolese recruits for RCD-Kisangani angered the Rwandan commanders in Kisangani. They sought to dismantle the training camp, actually arresting dozens of recruits under the pretext that they belonged to the extremist Hutu militia that perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.3 Furthermore, RCD-Goma and its Rwandan backers prevented Wamba from holding public meetings to rally the support of the population. Rivalry over the enormous mineral resources commanded by Kisangani, the third largest Congolese city, as well as the political and military frictions over RCD-Kisangani contributed to the unraveling of the remaining trust between Rwanda and Uganda. This helped precipitate the first military confrontation between Rwandan and Ugandan forces for the control of Kisangani in August 1999. During the battle, which was a defeat for the Ugandans, some 200 civilians were killed in the crossfire.

The battle for Kisangani was also sparked by disputes over which RCD faction would sign the Lusaka ceasefire accord, an agreement meant to end the war in the Congo and negotiated under tremendous international pressure. During the battle, Wamba and other leaders of the RCD-Kisangani miraculously escaped death during a Rwandan assault on a hotel they used as a residence and headquarters. Because neither faction could be eliminated and because neither would acknowledge the legitimacy of the other, all fifty founding members of the RCD flew to Lusaka to sign on behalf of the "RCD." The founders affixed their names to the treaty in alphabetical order to avoid further squabbles on who should sign first. No one questioned how a movement, which could not even agree on its representatives, could carry out its obligations under the accord.

The Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML)
After the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) defeated Ugandan forces in August in Kisangani, Wamba felt insecure there and relocated his office to a presidential guesthouse in Kampala. There in September 1999 he established the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML), a reincarnation of RCD-Kisangani. He announced that Bunia, a small and until then quiet town in Orientale province near the border with Uganda, would be the headquarters of the movement.

Wamba appointed officials of his new government reportedly without much consultation with his aides, leading to the defection of several founding members of RCD-Kisangani in protest. While his stay in Kampala stretched into months, his two deputies took effective control on the ground. Appointed general commissar, or prime minister, of the RCD-ML, Mbusa Nyamwisi set up an RCD administration in his hometown of Beni, in the part of North Kivu province controlled by Uganda. Himself a businessman turned politician, Mbusa was a member of the economically powerful Nande business community. Tibasima Ateenyi, a former member of parliament from Bunia area and former chief executive of the Kilomoto gold mines, ran a parallel administration out of Bunia. Wamba entrusted Tibasima with the three important ministries of mining, finance, and budget. A leader of the economically and politically influential Hema community, Tibasima took office when Hema and Lendu were already in conflict in the hinterland of Bunia. Many local people saw his appointment as adding strength to the Hema and this perception further exacerbated ethnic tensions in the region.

The RCD-ML military
Neither Mbusa as general commissar nor Tibasima as minister of finance had the mandate to recruit soldiers, but both did so in early 2000, engaging in parallel and concurrent recruitment processes for the Armée Populaire Congolaise (APC), the military wing of the RCD-ML. They raised the army largely along ethnic lines, with Mbusa initially recruiting heavily among the Nande people and Tibasima enlisting mostly youngsters of his own Hema group.4 The two processes had one thing in common, though: the Ugandan army provided the instructors who trained and armed successive classes of hundreds of recruits at Nyaleke training camp in Beni and at Rwampara training camp in Bunia.

According to a senior aide to Wamba, concern grew among the non-Hema in Bunia over the preponderance of Hema recruits being trained at Rwampara camp and the RCD-ML felt pressured to diversify recruitment. They did this by recruiting several classes at Nyaleke with better ethnic balance. The Usalama Battalion,5 which was the first formed at Nyaleke, had about 25 percent Lendu recruits, 15 percent Hema, with the remainder being of other groups, like the Nande or the Alur.6

The APC had no chief of staff and battalion commanders were supposed to report directly to Wamba, who named himself defense commissar as well as president of the movement. Wamba reportedly suspected the loyalty of commanders identified with his deputies and so in early 2000 recruited his own Presidential Protection Unit (PPU). Elements were handpicked for the small PPU corps from experienced soldiers from the demobilized army of former President Mobutu or from deserters of President Kabila's Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC). Wamba's opponents claimed that he had favored his Wacongo kinsmen in the selection process but Wamba replied that only 2 percent of the PPU were from his home region of Bas Congo.7

The Ugandan army's sector commanders in fact exercised ultimate authority over all military and security matters in each district. Some RCD-ML units and cadres operated directly under their command. Even in Beni, Bunia, and Butembo, towns where RCD-ML administrative power was concentrated, UPDF sector commanders overshadowed the Congolese political and military leaders.

The Constant Coup d'état
In March 2000 Wamba sought to check what he perceived to be the too extensive military and financial powers of his two deputies. They then tried to unseat him in a first attempted coup d'état. In mid-April, Tibasima told Kampala newspapers that he had ousted Wamba and replaced him with Mbusa. With the conflict among the three leaders threatening to spiral out of control, President Museveni summoned them and all remaining founding members of the RCD-ML to Kampala to settle the dispute. They patched up their differences indeed, but only for a while.

Léopard Mobile
In July, some RCD-ML military elements, mostly Hema and including some Congolese Tutsis known as the Banyamulenge, left the RCD-ML to join local Hema militiamen in the bush.8 The defectors declared they would come to Bunia to oust Wamba, who blamed Tibasima publicly for this new coup attempt. On July 22, the Hema defectors attacked the village of Nyankunde, some twenty-two kilometers southwest of Bunia, killing four RCD-ML soldiers and wounding a civilian. During the attack, they reportedly looted the local hospital and confiscated the communications equipment of an international humanitarian organization operating there. The incident led the organization to quit the region.9 The attack appeared timed to exploit the temporary withdrawal of the UPDF battalion stationed in Bunia. Following a decision in June to withdraw its troops from Kisangani, Uganda was also redeploying troops elsewhere in the region.

Wamba's camp apparently circulated reports that the defectors were allied with the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), Ugandan insurgent groups based in the DRC. This persuaded the UPDF to send strong reinforcements to Bunia by air and road, including armored vehicles and a reconnaissance helicopter gunship.10 The UPDF forces did not attack, reportedly because President Museveni decided instead to accept the plea of a delegation of "parents of the defectors," who flew in from Bunia to ask that the surrender of their "children" be negotiated. The head of the delegation in a statement to the press identified the defectors as belonging to "Leopard Mobile," a group "composed of our children who have decided not to work with Wamba dia Wamba because of his poor administration."11 President Museveni agreed to the request on condition that the "parents" return to Bunia accompanied by a high-ranking Ugandan delegation and negotiate the peaceful surrender of the defectors. The Ugandans agreed in return to fly those who surrendered to Kampala for further military training.12

The offer transformed an imminent disaster into a reward for the perpetrators of the coup attempt. By the time the defectors returned to Bunia from the bush on August 24, their number, estimated initially to be 300, had grown to 700 as militiamen hurried from far villages to join the core group expecting to benefit from the Ugandan offer of training. In Ituri district new recruits were reportedly enrolled to augment the number of the beneficiaries of the offer. Local people had expected the UPDF to disarm the defectors when they arrived in town, but they did not. Their arrival caused another serious crisis because the defectors attacked a local prison on August 28, to free one of their leaders who was in detention for his suspected role in organizing the mutiny. A Ugandan and a Congolese soldier, as well as two of the attackers, were killed in the attempt.

The UPDF organized an air bridge to transport all of the 700 defectors from Bunia to Kampala between August 29 and 31. According to observers, many of the defectors were under fifteen years of age. 13 At a time when the United Nations had recognized the need to end the use of child soldiers, the departure of these children for military training took place in full view of the entire population, in a town where the U.N. Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) maintains military observers and where UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies operate assistance missions for victims of the ethnic conflict.14 A high-level Ugandan ministerial delegation, consisting of Uganda's national political commissar James Wapakhabulo, ministers for the presidency and security Ruhakana Rugunda and Muruli Mukasa respectively, and the presidential adviser on Congo, Colonel Kahinda Otafiire, was at hand to "promote reconciliation" and oversee the containment of the crisis. They too observed the airlift of the defectors.

Wamba cooperated with the Ugandan mediators by adding his voice to theirs in radio messages inviting the defectors to return to Bunia for the airlift. But he also used the crisis to try to rid himself of his deputies. In mid-August in a telephone interview with Human Rights Watch he suspended Tibasima and Mbusa for what he claimed was clear involvement in the organization of a mutiny in the rebel army, which he believed amounted to high treason and a total disengagement from the movement's objectives.15

Usalama Battalion
In late July, Kitenge Amisi, the commander of RCD-ML's Usalama Battalion and also senior military advisor to Mbusa, brought his troops from Beni to Bunia, apparently to replace the departing UPDF soldiers. They were deployed around town to dissuade the defectors from any attack. But Wamba was suspicious of the commander and ordered his arrest. The departure of the defectors did not restore order to Bunia because Kitenge was freed on September 1 by his junior officers. He then occupied the church-run Radio Candip and ordered technicians to air only revolutionary songs and calls for calm.

This attempt to take control collapsed and the Usalama Battalion's commander and his bodyguards took refuge, according to their own account, at the headquarters of MONUC.16 The situation had serious implications for MONUC because it looked like the U.N. force members, who numbered just four liaison officers and support staff, might be taken hostage. The crisis was only defused when Ambassador Kamel Morjane, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of MONUC, arrived in town, accompanied by a Ugandan delegation. He took MUNOC's uninvited armed guests back to Kampala on the same day where they reportedly remain at the time of this writing, following special training. Their departure left the battalion without a cohesive command structure and many of its men, particularly those of Lendu origin, drifted away, leaving a core of Mbusa loyalists standing by for the next round of confrontations.17

The November Putsch
They did not have long to wait, despite the relative calm that prevailed in Bunia during September and October as local and regional mediators scrambled to put the RCD-ML together again. A conference of customary chiefs in Bunia exhorted three of the feuding RCD-ML leaders to find a way to settle their differences.18 The three signed a declaration in Kampala on October 12 after negotiations mediated by the Ugandans. Delegations from Tanzania and Mozambique witnessed and countersigned the document, which confirmed Wamba's presidency and appointed Mbusa first vice-president in charge of administration and Tibasima second vice-president responsible for diplomacy. It tasked a "contact group," including the two deputies and representatives of Wamba's camp, with drafting the "basic documents" of the movement. The drafters were to restructure the movement and define the responsibilities of its officials.19 As a precondition for reconciliation with his rivals, Wamba reportedly insisted on dismantling the Usalama Battalion - which remained deployed in Bunia - and restructuring the RCD-ML military in one battalion, under one commander.

The accord unraveled before any of its provisions was implemented. Reacting to rumors that Col. Charles Angina, then the UPDF sector commander in Bunia, was about to be replaced, the Wamba supporters staged demonstrations on October 30 and November 1. Protesters denounced what they called unilateral actions by the UPDF and, at the same time, called for the Ugandan officer to be maintained in his position. In an apparent move to profit from the unrest, Mbusa, just back from Kampala, accused Wamba's rival camp of being anti-Ugandan and of having incited ethnic hatred. Usalama Battalion soldiers loyal to Mbusa surrounded Wamba's residence after Mbusa announced on the local radio that he was deposing Wamba and taking over himself as president. The "putschists," as they came to be known, attacked the residence at least three times in early and mid-November, but were each time repulsed by the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU). On November 11, Mbusa stated to the Monitor of Kampala that his forces would continue to attack Wamba until he was captured alive or killed.20 Meanwhile, the movement's third official, Tibasima, maintained a low profile during the crisis, and publicly distanced himself from the coup attempt.21 Sources differed in their reports of casualties in these clashes. Some said as few as one, others as many as twenty civilians had been killed, along with an undetermined number of soldiers.22

The UPDF said it was committed to protecting Wamba and sent two tanks to guard his residence where he was holed up with six of his ministers and several other cadres of the movement. According to Wamba's supporters, however, the UPDF did not intervene in the fighting when the residence came under attack.23 Major Katirima, the UPDF spokesperson, told AFP on November 6 that the mandate of the Ugandan army in the Congo was to maintain law and order in areas where it was present, adding "we cannot accept that changes in the leadership of the RCD-ML be through violence."24 General Katumba Wamala, the UPDF's commander in the DRC, told the population of Bunia in a radio message that the UPDF was trying to resolve the RCD-ML problems "without the shedding of civilian blood."25 On November 17, the UPDF's Colonel Otafiire told the Monitor that he had returned to Kampala from a short trip to Bunia accompanied by the town's "entire leadership," a total of sixty top officials of the competing factions. In their absence, the UPDF took over the administration of Bunia.26

Abuses Related to Political Rivalries

As each political tremor shook the RCD-ML during 2000, rival leaders typically detained officials of the rival faction, often subjecting them to ill treatment. Following the failure of the August mutiny, Wamba ordered the detention of senior military and civilian aides of Tibasima Ateenyi. Among those detained at the time were commander Mukalayi and Tibasima's deputy commissioner for mines and energy Michel Rudatenghua. Their faction claimed at the time that the two, together with other members of the group, were first held at Rwampara military camp and later transferred to underground cells in the backyard of Wamba's residence. Faction leaders also claimed that the detainees were being severely beaten on a daily basis. Wamba told Human Rights Watch that the detainees were being investigated for mutiny, and would be well treated. The two detainees were later released.27 This and similar pressures from Amnesty International, according to Tibasima Ateenyi, led to a marked improvement in the treatment of those detained, and to a faster release from detention of businessmen accused by Wamba's camp of supporting the defectors: Mbameraki, Hindura, Bahimuka, and others.28

Three of Wamba's aides went missing after the November 3 coup attempt. A UPDF officer reportedly intervened to release two of the aides, Jonas Kabuyaya and Mbula, from unacknowledged detention on November 27, but the third, Mokili, remained unaccounted for at this writing.29

The Congolese Rally for Democracy-National (RCD-National)
The disorganization within the RCD-ML spawned even smaller splinter groups with limited personal or local agendas. Roger Lumbala, the founder of RCD-National and its only prominent member, originally belonged to the mainstream RCD-Goma and defected in February 2000 to Kampala. There he reportedly joined the RCD-ML and was deployed as mobilization officer to Bafwasende, northeast of Kisangani. Lumbala later told Human Rights Watch that the RCD-ML military unit that Wamba had placed in Bafwasende felt that it had been neglected for too long. "I gave them food and medicine, and they joined me in launching the RCD-National. Now the entire population of the district supports me. That is why I created the RCD-N," Lumbala said.30 Asked about where he stood on the division between the RCD-Goma and RCD-ML, Lumbala told us that his faction observed strict neutrality because it was based in a district falling between the two zones of the larger factions.31

At each defection, Lumbala was accused of financial misconduct by spokespersons for the faction he abandoned. He, in turn, accused the RCD-Goma of corruption. After the initial bout of accusations, however, none of the parties said much about the nature of the alleged financial misconduct.32 For example, the primary importance of Bafwasende appears to be its location in a diamond-rich area. A spokesperson for the RCD-ML, Jean-Ernest Louis Kayiviro, in October accused the breakaway cadre of involvement in "diamond dealing."33

The Congolese Rally for Democracy-Populaire (RCD-Populaire)

    A faction calling itself the RCD-Populaire made its appearance under the gloomy skies of the Congolese rebellion in November and then was not heard from for a while. Nyonyi Bwanakawa, the governor of North Kivu for the RCD-ML, who is based in Beni, and Poley Swako, who is a founding member of the RCD and served as Wamba's official in charge of overseeing public expenditures, pledged continued support to Wamba and resistance against Mbusa at the peak of the November putsch.34 Rather than accept Mbusa's control, the two had threatened to launch a new faction, the RCD-Populaire, which would limit its territorial ambitions to the territories of Beni-Butembo. Supporters of the would-be faction traveled to Kampala to make their point at the reconciliation talks and returned to their base when the talks failed to materialize.

    Mbusa reacted bluntly to this direct challenge to his authority in his own power base. According to a Congolese journalist who interviewed him in Kampala on November 21, 2000, Mbusa considered the RCD-Populaire as a "suicidal adventure."35 He invited its founders to join forces with him; otherwise, he said, their resistance would lead only to armed confrontations in Beni and Butembo. Mbusa, according to the journalist, suggested that a new faction would expose the population of the two towns to further deadly confrontations as the APC was determined to take control.36

The Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC)
As the RCD-ML stood on the verge of collapse at the end of 2000, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) appeared to offer all that its Ugandan backers had hoped for and failed to get in their alliance with the RCD-ML. Under the firm grip of its leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, the MLC had a unified political and military command with none of the internal dissentions and spectacular defections that regularly rocked both the RCD-Goma and RCD-ML. According to reports by journalists and other visitors to its home area, the MLC enjoyed a measure of popularity in the northwestern province of Equateur that none of the other rebel movements could claim in the territories they controlled.

A handful of Congolese exiles led by Jean-Pierre Bemba told the Ugandan president in October 1998 that they wanted to change their government at home, but did not want to join the RCD. Ugandan authorities sent the group to a crash military and ideological training course and weeks later flew them to Equateur to launch what would become the MLC. Less than two years later, "Bemba commended Ugandan soldiers for training 20,000 soldiers" for the MLC.37 Reporting on the September 2000 press conference at Gebadolite during which Bemba acknowledged the UPDF's assistance, the New Vision quoted him as urging the UPDF to continue withdrawing troops from the DRC: "We are proud of the Ugandans. But why should they die for us when we (Congolese soldiers) are doing quite well at frontline positions?"38 Unlike the RCD-ML, the MLC was fighting an active war directly against the government alliance. With crucial battlefront support from the UPDF, the MLC was able to roll back a major government offensive in the second half of 2000. In contrast with the other two major rebel groups, the MLC was also reported to be financially self-sufficient, mainly from taxes levied on local produce.39

The Front for the Liberation of Congo (FLC): A Merger or Takeover?

Kampala Negotiations
As a way out of the RCD-ML crisis, Uganda in late November proposed a merger of all the Congolese rebel groups under its patronage: the MLC, RCD-ML, and RCD-N. Col. Kahinda Otafiire, UPDF chief of staff and advisor on the DRC to President Museveni, justified the proposed merger by arguing that "[i]t makes it easier for us and easier for the rebellion and that way the Congolese people can take care of their own matters," and adding "[w]e are tired of running the show for them. Let them assume their own responsibility entirely."40 Underscoring the urgency of the unification process from the Ugandan perspective, Lt. Col. Noble Mayombo, chief of military intelligence, and one of the leading mediators in the talks, declared: "Uganda wants the rebellion in Congo to merge and to have one territory, one army, one programme, one enemy and to sustain itself economically by organizing the resources it controls."41 Wamba insisted that the Congolese partners be allowed to discuss this among themselves and complained that a solution was being "imposed" by Uganda, but to no avail.

The Ugandans were determined to create the unified front, to be named the Front for the Liberation of Congo (FLC), because a hotly contested presidential election campaign was propelling all aspects of Uganda's involvement in the Congo war to center stage. In addition, the conduct of Ugandan troops in the Congo had drawn closer and more critical international scrutiny following the third battle for the control of Kisangani in June 2000. The fighting had left some 760 Congolese civilians dead, and 1,700 wounded, in addition to totally or partially destroying 4,000 houses and crippling essential infrastructure.42 That attention was increasingly focused on the troubled Ituri region. As merger-maker Lt. Col. Mayombo commented, "any group that refuses to sign is not conscious of the pressure Uganda is facing over Congo from the population and the global community. Ethnic clashes in Bunia could also end under a merger."43

The RCD-ML and the MLC had signed a previous protocol of agreement in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam on July 30, 1999. It failed because its sole objective was to provide for the sharing of public resources in areas each control, "so as to equitably cover the expenses of the liberation."44 The MLC, with an active war front, was to receive 70 percent of the resources with RCD-ML getting the remainder. A prestigious list of witnesses countersigned the agreement: Colonel Otafiire, Brigadier General Kazini, Major Mayombo, and Tanzanian ambassador Marwa.45 But the RCD-ML ultimately refused to deliver the promised funds.

The merger agreement in late 2000 appeared to vindicate Bemba. In fact it hardly masked a move to what could have been an MLC take-over of the RCD-ML, which was sorely weakened by political divisions, a splintered military, and disorganized finances. It provided for the establishment of a joint executive committee for the three movements, with an annually rotating presidency that Bemba assumed for the first year. The agreement provided for the unification of the armies of the three movements, but guaranteed that each of the MLC, RCD-ML, and RCD-National parties would preserve its autonomy for the purposes of the inter-Congolese dialogue mandated by the Lusaka accord. The MLC is said to be readying to launch itself as a national political party in the post-war era.

The new FLC leaders certainly expected that Mbusa and Tibasima, originally from northeastern Congo, would facilitate its establishment in that region. The two command the loyalty of some military units, - however disorganized - and have been able to tap at least some of the tremendous resources of the region. However, the FLC will be required to address problems of enforcing financial transparency and accountability measures previously faced by the RCD-ML. Without naming culprits, Lt. Col. Mayombo had indicated this problem in late July 2000 when he accused "personalities in RCD-Kisangani leadership" who resisted "strict financial accountability" of being behind the July mutiny.46

In return for Mbusa's help, the FLC gave him new legitimacy by naming him executive coordinator, or prime minister, of the new movement, reinforcing his strength in the face of the challenges mounted by RCD-Populaire on his own home turf in Beni. At the heart of this quarrel was the issue of control over the revenue collection at the various border customs posts in this region. The FLC would thus inherit in Beni the many enemies that Mbusa has created for himself in the course of a tumultuous year and a half of political confusion and military adventures, as detailed below.

In the volatile Ituri district, Tibasima's return as national secretary, or minister, for mining of the FLC pleased his followers but worried others because it seemed to indicate new power for the Hema constituency that he represented. In effect, news of the establishment of the new front and the power alignment sustaining it led to further instability in Bunia and its region.

Local Consequences

    As the FLC arrangement was being negotiated in Kampala, the armed standoff between the Presidential Protection Unit, loyal to Wamba, and the Usalama Battalion, linked to Mbusa, continued in Bunia town. Heavily armed units guarded the residences of their respective chiefs, with many child soldiers visible among the fighters for both sides.47 A team of Wamba supporters, led by Jacques Depelchin, and another group, the "cabinet" of Mbusa, each claimed to be the only legitimate authority. In fact, neither administration really functioned, parents kept their children home from school, and market activity languished as the town awaited word from Kampala for resolution of the political quarrels. The two contending military wings of the movement were wholly absorbed in their rivalry and lacked clear political leadership, leaving the UPDF the only force available to keep order, a responsibility that it failed to fulfill.

    The standoff had terrible effects on the population. During a group meeting with civil society representatives in Bunia in December, one explained to visiting Human Rights Watch researchers: "Wamba, the Ugandans, and Mbusa are in the 'red zone'; people avoid the area where the two headquarters are located, and do not circulate after 5 p.m. anywhere else. Even sports activities are suspended out of fear."48 Another added: "The calm you see now is a suspicious one. It can be upset any moment."49 Speaking for an organization that cares for displaced children orphaned by the Hema-Lendu war, a young activist gave a grim account of what she and her colleagues encounter in their daily work: "Since June 1999, the inter-ethnic conflict has exacerbated children's malnutrition. Children are also traumatized after seeing what they saw and for example what happened to their parents. The number of unaccompanied children has increased. There are girls who prostitute themselves because of the misery they face, particularly with the armed foreigners." She talked of increased rape of women and girls, resulting unwanted pregnancies and abandoned girls, increased AIDS rates, and the increasing number of widows. "If you look at it objectively, since the war with Kabila people have been abandoned. They have no economic power, no salary, no control." 50

    Conflict between the Lendu and the Hema resumed in December, as described below, proving the premonitions of the population well founded. Representatives of the Hema and the Lendu from the Djugu zone, the area most troubled, came to the UPDF sector commander in Bunia as the ultimate authority in the region and called on him to contain a series of spiraling clashes in rural areas around Bunia.51

The Ugandan sector commander, Col. Edison Muzoora, who took over the post after the eventful departure of Col. Angina in late October, initially maintained a semblance of neutrality by regularly visiting the two headquarters of the feuding RCD-ML factions, but kept a symbolic distance from both. By early December, he changed his position and removed Ernest Uringi Padolo, a staunch supporter of Wamba, from his post as Ituri governor and named the province's general administrator as acting governor.52 As he explained to Human Rights Watch researchers at his headquarters at the airport, the population could not wait indefinitely for the administration to start functioning again. To point out the risks of the continuing administrative confusion, he criticized the attempt by Mbusa loyalists to take the lucrative border customs post of Kasindi by force, without waiting for the outcome of negotiations in Kampala.53

    On January 8, the colonel placed the ousted governor Padolo under house arrest and four days later sent him with no advance notice to Kampala. Although the Ugandans had talked of an international arrest warrant, Padolo later told Human Rights Watch that he was not detained when he arrived in Kampala, but was simply left at the airport.54 As the ethnic conflict increased in mid-January, the colonel placed Depelchin under house arrest for nearly three weeks. On January 28 UPDF soldiers led by the colonel searched Wamba's residence and confiscated a computer and a satellite phone. The soldiers arrested Depelchin on the same day, and later sent him also to Kampala after accusing him of having instigated the latest round of ethnic violence.55

2 U.N., IRIN, "DR CONGO: Defections not a threat, rebels say," IRIN Update 870 for the Great Lakes, February 28, 2000.

3 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Kisangani, May 1999.

4 Tibasima told Human Rights Watch he recruited mainly Hema because those available for enlisting in Bunia were mostly from that group. Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Kampala, August 2000.

5 A battalion for the RCD-ML is composed of 750-1000 soldiers.

6 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Kampala, December 22, 2000.

7 "Communiqué tres important à l'attention de tous les members du commissariat général," office of the président, RCD-ML, Bunia, June 14, 2000.

8 See below on the Hema militia.

9 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Wamba dia Wamba, Bunia, August 4, 2000.

10 Human Rights Watch interviews with eyewitnesses, Bunia, December 8-14, 2000.

11 "DRC: Anti-Wamba group named," IRIN Update 986 for the Great Lakes, 10 Aug 2000.

12 Human Rights Watch interview, Mme. Akiiki, head of the parents' delegation, Kampala, December 22 and 23, 2000.

13 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bunia, December 8-14, 2000.

14 The airlift took place exactly four weeks after the U.N. Security Council held a special debate on children and armed conflict.

15 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Wamba-dia-Wamba, August 2000.

16 Human Rights Watch interviews, commanders of Usalama battalion, by telephone, Kampala, September 2000, and MONUC's military observers, Bunia, December 2000. The U.N. military observers, it should be noted, had established their residence and headquarters in a rented property that had served as Tibasima's primary residence until their arrival.

17 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bunia, December 8-14, 2000.

18 "Wamba, Tibasima et Mbusa se confient aux notables et chefs de collectivites," Le Millenaire, No. 008, octobre 2000, p. 8.

19 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bunia, December 8-14, 2000; see also "Vendredi saints macabres à Bunia: plus de 20 morts," Les Coulisses, No. 85, Novembre 2000, p. 9.

20 "Nyamwisi orders Wamba out of Bunia today," the Monitor, Kampala, November 11, 2000.

21 "UPDF rush to rescue Wamba," the Monitor, Kampala, November 6, 2000.

22 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bunia, December 8-14, 2000. See also: "Calm restored in northern Congo," Associated Press, November 7, 2000; "Four dead, one wounded in fighting between DR Congo party factions," AFP, November 6, 2000, and "Vendredi saints macabres a Bunia: plus de 20 morts," Les Coulisses, Ibid.

23 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Wamba and Colette Ram, director of cabinet affairs in the RCD-ML, Bunia, November 2000.

24 "UPDF rush to rescue Wamba," the Monitor, Kampala, November 6, 2000.

25 IRIN wire, CEA weekly roundup, November 10, 2000.

26 "UPDF takes over Bunia," the Monitor, Kampala, November 18, 2000.

27 See Human Rights Watch letter to Wamba dia Wamba, and accompanying press release, August 9, 2000.

28 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Tibasima Ateenyi, Kampala, August 15, 2000.

29 See: "DRC: RCD-ML officials freed by rival faction," IRIN Update 1063 for the Great Lakes, November 30, 2000.

30 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Roger Lumbala, Kampala, August 16, 2000.

31 Ibid.

32 See: "DR Congo: Defections not a threat, rebels say," IRIN Update 870 for the Great Lakes, February 28, 2000, and "DRC: "New" rebel group operating in northeast," IRIN Update 1042 for the Great Lakes, October 30, 2000.

33 "DRC: "New" rebel group operating in northeast," Ibid.

34 A north Kivu governor for the RCD-Goma is based in Goma.

35 "Mbusa Nyamwisis: Wamba n'est plus à l'ordre du jour," Le Millenaire, No. 009, Novembre 2000.

36 Ibid.

37 "Bemba hails UPDF," the New Vision, September 19, 2000.

38 Ibid.

39 Human Rights Watch interview, Dominique Kanku, MLC commissar for foreign affairs, New York; June 20, 2000; See also: Prof. Herbert Weiss, "War and Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," American Diplomacy, Vol. V, No. 3, Summer 2000, an article based on findings from a June 2000 mission to all three rebel areas.

40 "DR Congo rebels in unity talks again," AFP, Jan 6, 2001.

41 "Congo rebels agree to merge," New Vision, Kampala, January 16, 2001.

42 U.N. Security Council, "Report of the inter-agency assessment mission to Kisangani," S/2000/1153, December 5, 2000.

43 Ibid.

44 RCD-Kisangani, internal memorandum signed by Wamba dia Wamba, September 30, 1999.

45 "Protocole d'Accord," signed by Jean-Pierre Bemba for the MLC, and Prof. Wamba dia Wamba for the RCD-Kisangani, Dar es Salaam on July 30, 1999.

46 "New rebel group formed in DR Congo," the New Vision, Kampala, July 27, 2000.

47 Human Rights Watch field observations, December 8-14, 2000.

48 Group meeting with civil society groups in Bunia, December 11, 2000.

49 Ibid.

50 Ibid.

51 Information received from members of the joint delegation, December 10, 2000.

52 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Jacques Depelchin, Bunia, December 11, 2000.

53 Ibid.

54 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, governor Ernest Uringi Padolo, Kampala, January 2000.

55 "RCD-ML/ Bunia: Kidnappings and deportations," electronic communication from the RCD-ML, January 29, 2001.

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