Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Kamuina Nsapu Insurgency Adds to Dangers in DR Congo

Kamuina Nsapu Insurgency Adds to Dangers in DR Congo


Conflict in the impoverished Kasai region was sparked by local grievances but has spread to reflect wider discontent, including frustration over the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis.

The Kamuina Nsapu insurgency arose last year as a locally rooted conflict in the Kasai-Central province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but has since gained intensity and is spreading to neighbouring provinces. By January, 216,000 people had been displaced, and more than 400 killed, according to humanitarian sources. In one town, Tshimbulu, at least 84 militia members were killed between 9 and 13 February 2017. Mass graves have beendiscovered in the area since.
Two recent events have drawn national and international attention to the crisis. In February, videos circulated on social media that appeared to show a brutal army crackdown in Kasai-Central. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the government to halt human rights violations, including apparent summary executions, by the armed forces. On 12 March, six people were kidnapped in Kasai-Central, including one American and one Swedish member of the UN Group of Experts investigating violations of international sanctions and international humanitarian law, and four Congolese working with them. The circumstances surrounding the alleged kidnapping, the first such incident in the expert panel's long existence, should be clarified as soon as possible, not least in light of the need for international journalists and researchers to access the country's increasingly troubled interior.
At the national level, a dangerous political stalemate continues following President Joseph Kabila's decision to stay in power beyond his constitutionally mandated term limit in December 2016. Despite the agreement mediated by the Catholic Church and signed by the government and opposition party leaders on 31 December, which called for a transitional government and elections by the end of 2017, significant issues remain unresolved. With the economic crisisdeepening, instability is rising, not only in the Kasai region but also in North Kivu, Tanganyika and Kongo-Central.
While much of this violence is rooted in local causes, it directly challenges state authority, and serves as a warning that the political crisis at the national level is further destabilising the country's provinces. Violence in North Kivu province, recently visited by Crisis Group, has already affected preparation for elections, and this could be repeated as voter registration rolls out across the country. It is vital that conflict resolution mechanisms are established or boosted at the local level in anticipation of further problems.
MONUSCO, the UN's largest peacekeeping mission, has only minimal capacity to respond to civil unrest or widening conflict. Nevertheless, UN troop and police presence in potential hotspots could deter security forces from committing abuses, and the mission's monitoring and good offices will remain important. In a welcome move, the UN Secretary-General on 10 March requested the Security Council to approve an additional UN police presence, including in the Kasai region, noting a "high risk of urban violence in the upcoming electoral period". The Security Council is scheduled to decide on possible changes to MONUSCO's mandate on 29 March.
he Kasai region, which was split from two into five provinces in 2015 in a policy known as découpage, is one of the DRC's poorest, and usually far off the radar of politicians and diplomats in the distant capital, Kinshasa. Since April 2016, it has experienced an increasingly violent insurgency by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, named after the title of a hereditary chief in Kasai-Central province. Fighting has rapidly spread from Kasai-Central to neighbouring Kasai, Kasai-Oriental and Lomami provinces.
This insurgency has its origins in local tensions in Kasai-Central province. However, it has quickly tapped into the long-running political and socio-economic frustration in the Kasai provinces, and is also tied to national politics. The national and provincial governments' legitimacy in the region is particularly weak. The crisis is now impossible to ignore and will require sustained effort on the political and development fronts to contain and eventually reverse.
Kasai: Frustrations in an Opposition Stronghold
Kasai-Central, the origin of the insurgency, ranks very poorly in its human development indicators, including high levels of child mortality and malnourishment, as well widespread illiteracy among women and girls. A 2012 World Bank report puts provincial per capita income below $200 per month, among the lowest in DRC, and an earlier study by the bank questioned the financial sustainability of the separated Kasai provinces. The province has diamonds and gold, but there is no industrial mining. Infrastructure and electricity supplies are inadequate. The province's only major industry, theBrasimba brewery, was recently closed, leaving the public sector as the largest employer.
Kananga is the birthplace of Etienne Tshisekedi, the historic leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition party, and, until his death on 1 February 2017, the head of the Rassemblement opposition coalition. In the 2011 national elections, Tshisekedi and the UDPS dominated in the region. In Kasai Occidental (now split into Kasai and Kasai-Central), he obtained 75 per cent of the vote, and in former Kasai Oriental (now split into Kasai-Oriental, Sankuru and Lomami), he won 70 per cent. When President Kabila was declared the winner of the deeply flawed polls, the feeling that the national vote had been stolen by the regime was particularly strong in the area, where Kabila remains very unpopular.
Current Prime Minister Samy Badibanga, originally from Kasai-Central, led the dissident UDPS parliamentarians who in 2011 took up their seats in defiance of the party line boycotting the parliament. They were consequently expelled from the party. The UDPS boycotted the 2006 elections (none have been held since at provincial level) and is therefore absent from the provincial parliaments and governments, all dominated by the ruling majority.
Despite the Kasai provinces being home to numerous other senior political figures, including Evariste Boshab, former interior minister and deputy prime minister, many locals are unhappy that no Kasaian has ever led the country. Many are also frustrated that their representatives have not invested in Kasai's economy, particularly in comparison to what they see as the better served Kivu and Maniema provinces.
The Kamuina Nsapu Phenomenon
It took a fairly commonplace local problem, the politicisation of the installation of a hereditary chief, Kamuina Nsapu, to ignite a cocktail of frustrations. With feelings against the government already running high, the chief managed to mobilise followers and to gain support for his anti-government cause.
Kamuina Nsapu is the hereditary title for the chief of Bajila Kasanga, or Bashila, a groupement containing several villages in Dibataie sector, Kasai-Central province, approximately 70km south east of Kananga. Since colonial times, the Bajila Kasanga chieftancy has spread and established several other groupements in the region, extending into Angola.
In the DRC, traditional chiefs are integral to public administration, receiving a salary and managing villages. They have a role in the control of land and may perform an important spiritual function. Chiefs are appointed according to local traditions, and then recognised by the state. In principle, the chief is apolitical, but, to be recognised and maintain his position and authority, he is often pressured to align with the regime. Politicians and officials have also increasingly challenged traditional authorities by creating, and even selling, new chiefdoms.
Tensions between state and traditional authority triggered the current conflict. In 2016, the state refused to recognise the traditional appointment of Jean-Pierre Mpandi as Kamuina Nsapu, and the provincial governor reportedly refused to meet him. This was considered an insult, and put the chief and the state authorities on a collision course, further aggravated by the state recognition of lower-ranked Bashila leaders. Subsequently, Mpandi criticised the regime in a nationalist diatribe using xenophobic language, decrying the presence of foreign mercenaries and what he called a government of occupation. Like many radical critics of the regime, he focused on its supposed Rwandan origin.
According to local observers, the decision not to recognise Mpandi as chief was prompted by the then Interior Minister Evariste Boshab, because Mpandi was considered close to the opposition and refused to support the presidential majority. In January 2017, the new Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari stated that Mpandi had taken radical anti-government political positions as far back as 2013. Crisis Group was told during a recent visit to Kasai that the relationship between Mpandi and provincial authorities deteriorated following the 2015 découpage, which led to an increase in harassment of the population by the provincial and territorial authorities.
In April 2016, while Mpandi was in South Africa, provincial authorities dispatched security services to the chiefdom to check for weapons. Mpandi later accused the authorities of entering sacred places, stealing traditional regalia and attempting to molest one of his wives. He accused the security forces of harassing the population and evicted them from the area. The chief increasingly considered the state and all its representatives, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), to be his enemies and incited his followers to rise up against them.
After months of escalation, Mpandi, some of his followers and several members of the security forces were killed on 12 August 2016. Several of his supporters do not believe Mpandi died. Since early December, Kamuina Nsapu militia attacks on state institutions have intensified, including in Kananga and Tshikapa, the capital of Kasai province, and violence has expanded to Kasai, Kasai Oriental and Lomami provinces.
In several Crisis Group interviews in Kananga, local observers said many young men and boys, some as young as five, had been conscripted or joined the militia. Its members wear red headbands or armbands, and like the Mai Mai groups operating in eastern DRC they undergo rituals and carry amulets that are believed to bring invulnerability. Some have guns, likely looted from the security forces. The government and several local observers claim some politicians support the insurgency.
With no identifiable leaders, their demands are hard to verify. However, four elements were repeated during Crisis Group's interviews in Kananga in January: calls for the return of Kamuina Nsapu's body for burial, to which thegovernment agreed after talks with the family mid-March; reparations to Kamuina Nsapu's family; repair of damaged hospitals and schools, to which the government has committed itself; social and economic development of the region; and the release of arrested militants and civilians, a demand the government partially met in February when it freed several prisoners and in March committed to continue the process.
However, when self-proclaimed spokespersons for the group appeared in local media in late February, the demands became national, including a call for the quick implementation of the 31 December agreement. This appears to reflect wider popular frustrations as the Kabila regime hangs onto power.
Political Dynamics
The Kamuina Nsapu insurgency has become a symbol of widespread dissatisfaction of both the Kasai urban and rural populations. The defence of traditional customs and practices found particular resonance among the public and other traditional chiefs. Optimism that a new UDPS-led government could calm the situation took a blow with the death of opposition leader Tshisekedi last month. Recently, in a further alarming twist, insurgents have also targeted Catholic institutions, for unclear reasons.
The government has created a new military zone covering Kasai, Kasai-Central and Kasai-Oriental provinces. Numerousarmy reinforcements have been deployed and Kananga is increasingly militarised. Poorly paid, badly led and trained, members of the Congolese security services are often accused of using disproportionate force, which the government denies. In December 2016, MONUSCO sent military reinforcements to the area, followed by human rights observers, and in March published a strongly worded statement denouncing the restrictions imposed by the security forces on its freedom of movement.
Following recent evidence of abuses by the Congolese armed forces and reports on the discovery of mass graves, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an investigation. In late February, responding to the mounting international pressure, the government dispatched a mission to investigate events and in mid-March announced the arrest of seven members of the armed forces, including several officers.
The political response was late and ineffective. Former Interior Minister Boshab visited in 2016, but took little action to follow up. The opposition, busy with the political dialogue in Kinshasa, has been mostly absent from the local scene. Aparliamentary question about the situation was tabled in December 2016. The provincial assembly has not yet visited the affected areas, citing a lack of resources. In late January, militia incursions in Kananga prompted Prime Minister Badibanga to abandon two attempts to visit the area. This painfully demonstrated his and his government's lack of popular legitimacy in his home region.
The government renewed its political efforts with the visit on 12 March of Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari, whose delegation included opposition members of parliament. He held talks with the Kamuina Nsapu's family. On 16 March, the parliamentarians published welcome recommendations, including the appointment of a new provincial administration and measures to manage conflicts with the customary authorities. On 17 March, the government announced a less far-reaching compromise, including burial of the Kamuina Nsapu, measures on detainees and an agreement on the procedure to select a new chief. However, this agreement is unlikely to solve the underlying issues, and even Shadari admitted that pockets of instability would persist.
Dealing with the Consequences
The conflict has considerable humanitarian and political consequences. If the displaced and other affected communities are not able to prepare the next planting season, food insecurity will increase. At the political level, the CENI is preparing to start voter registration in the Kasai provinces, but in conflict-affected areas, offices have been destroyed and staff threatened. Displaced people must vote where they registered, which can be problematic. Anti-state sentiments resonate strongly among local citizens, which may lead many to not register at all and would leave pro-opposition areas with low vote counts. A first important step will be the creation of adequate security and trust for the people, including the displaced, to participate in the process.
The 31 December political agreement called for simultaneous national and provincial elections by the end of 2017. Local elections are to follow at a later stage. Given the high stakes of the election and the troubling local conflict dynamics, legitimate mechanisms to resolve disputes should be put in place before polls are organised at the provincial and local levels. Local research, used by the UN, has identified no less than 79 potential conflicts in Kasai-Central province alone. More than half of these are related to tensions with traditional authorities.
Because provincial elections also add to the cost and to potential delays, consideration should be given to uncoupling them from the national polls. Intensified initiatives for voter and civic education that can counter violent, messianic and xenophobic messages, targeting specific communities, are also necessary. The national and provincial governments should strictly adhere to existing legislation on chiefdoms, and refrain from any divisive interference.
In the meantime, the government should demilitarise domestic policing and establish provincial mediation and conflict resolution mechanisms, constituted by local and provincial groups, with support, if needed, from the national government and international actors.
Stalled negotiations over implementation of the 31 December agreement, in particular the delay in installing an opposition-led government, are raising tensions and triggering popular unrest and insurgencies in pockets across the country. In January 2017, conflict between the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) movement and security forces occurred in Kongo-Central and Kinshasa. Like the Kamuina Nsapu militia, the BDK combines mysticism with a populist political message, and is rooted in the fragile legitimacy of national political institutions and in economic problems.
While none of these local conflicts alone are likely to fundamentally disrupt the national picture, they risk undermining the all-important voter registration process and thus the integrity and timing of the future elections. While local measures are important, maintaining the path toward elections to ensure representative government structures is ultimately the only way out of this quagmire.
International Crisis Group 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Why Glencore bought Israeli tycoon out of Congo mines

Why Glencore bought Israeli tycoon out of Congo mines

Group distances itself from Dan Gertler after he was implicated in bribery

Ivan Glasenberg, left, Glencore chief executive, no longer
 has Dan Gertler, right, as a business partner in
 two DRC copper mines 

After years of doing business together in one of the world’s poorest countries, Glencore has dissociated itself from Dan Gertler, an Israeli mining tycoon implicated in the payment of bribes to the ruler of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Glencore’s announcement last month that it would pay $534m to Mr Gertler to buy him out from their shared prize assets in the DRC — two giant copper mines — is designed to insulate the London-listed mining cum trading behemoth from the fallout of a widening corruption investigation involving the Israeli businessman, say people who have followed the saga.

The decision by Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore’s chief executive, highlights the risks of doing business in the resource-rich, war-torn central African country, where Mr Gertler wields influence by virtue of his close friendship with Joseph Kabila, the DRC president. 

Settlement documents released in September by US authorities in a scandal involving Och-Ziff, the New York hedge fund, alleged that an “Israeli businessman” — whose description clearly matches Mr Gertler — had paid bribes to Mr Kabila in order to obtain special access to mining rights in the DRC. 

One banker who does dealmaking in the mining sector and owns Glencore shares says the company’s purchase of Mr Gertler’s stakes in the two DRC copper mines is defensive. “Buying out Gertler is primarily about detoxification for Glencore,” he adds. “The Och-Ziff investigation in the US has made it very risky to have clear ties to him.”

Shareholders also say it makes sense for Glencore to buy out Mr Gertler from the two mines, partly because of the Och-Ziff case. Mr Gertler has denied wrongdoing, and says his efforts to bring billions of dollars in investment to the DRC deserve a Nobel Prize. 

The Financial Times has established a paper trail that shows how Glencore helped Mr Gertler maintain his shareholding in one large copper mine in the DRC — and how the Israeli went on to use that stock to raise funds for what US authorities say was a bribery scheme. The trail weaves through opaque offshore havens and the world’s leading mining bourses.

It begins with a takeover battle nine years ago, waged well before Glencore’s blockbuster initial public offering in London in 2011.

In late 2008, Toronto-listed Katanga Mining was on its knees. It controlled one of the planet’s highest-grade copper deposits, in the DRC’s Katanga province, but prices for the metal had tumbled. In the thick of the financial crisis, no one would lend the company money — except Glencore, which under Mr Glasenberg was hungry for high, and sometimes risky, returns.

Glencore’s largesse came in the form of a $265m loan to Katanga Mining in January 2009 that could be turned into stock.

With Katanga’s share price having collapsed, when Glencore converted the loan into equity, it amounted to a takeover. The other shareholders were all but wiped out — except Mr Gertler, whose interests the Swiss group’s actions helped to protect.

Mr Gertler at Katanga Mining's operations in 2012

Mr Gertler had built up a significant minority stake in Katanga Mining, and Glencore’s “loan-to-own” arrangement would have heavily diluted his shareholding.

But instead, Glencore issued a loan of $45m to Mr Gertler in February 2009, which was channelled through Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands and enabled Mr Gertler to preserve his shareholding in Katanga, according to corporate records.

Glencore made no such loan to other Katanga shareholders. Its loan to Mr Gertler emerged only in 2014 when the campaign group Global Witness was leaked the paperwork.

By the time of this loan in 2009, Mr Gertler and Glencore had already had shared ownership of a mining business in the DRC — and the Israeli was well known as a controversial figure in the country.

As far back as 2001, UN investigators probing the role of the mining industry in funding civil war in the DRC had pointed a finger at Mr Gertler. They reported that, in exchange for a monopoly on trading the country’s diamonds, he had supplied the then-president Laurent Kabila with funds to buy weapons. Kabila was assassinated that year and succeeded by his son Joseph, with whom Mr Gertler had struck up a friendship.

Mr Gertler embarked on a string of secretive mining deals in the DRC that deprived the country of $1.4bn in potential revenue, according to a 2013 report by the Africa Progress Panel, an advocacy body chaired by former UN head Kofi Annan.

Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic 
of Congo

Mr Gertler has used an array of offshore companies to amass his interests in the DRC. The BVI-registered vehicle he used for the Katanga Mining transactions with Glencore was called Lora Enterprises Limited. Its name would crop up again, last year, in a corruption scandal that has humbled one of New York’s leading hedge funds.

In September, Och-Ziff, a fund with $39bn under management, paid $413m in fines to US civil and criminal authorities after admitting complicity in bribery in five African countries. The fund and the authorities released an agreed account of Och-Ziff’s misconduct. The section on the DRC made uncomfortable reading for Glencore.

The US prosecutors’ account states that, between 2005 and 2015, an “Israeli businessman . . . paid more than one hundred million US dollars in bribes to obtain special access to and preferential prices for opportunities in” Congo’s mining sector. It goes on to describe loans from Och-Ziff to the Israeli that were allegedly used, in part, to pay bribes.

The descriptions of two of the unnamed recipients of the alleged bribes indicate they were President Joseph Kabila and his late right-hand-man, Augustin Katumba Mwanke.

The description of the Israeli businessman’s dealings makes it clear the source of the alleged bribes is Mr Gertler. His representatives said: “We dispute all accusations of wrongdoing in any of our dealings in the DRC including those with Och-Ziff . . . We dispute any allegation of bribery.” The DRC government also rejected the allegations and praised Mr Gertler’s commitment to the country.

Och-Ziff executive Michael Cohen 

According to the Och-Ziff settlement documents, in November 2010, Michael Cohen, the London-based executive who ran the fund’s African operations, emailed a subordinate to say that “[Mr Gertler] has asked for a margin loan on katanga shares which want u to handle”. Mr Cohen, who denies US civil charges of corruption, was referring to the significant minority shareholding in Katanga Mining that Glencore’s $45m loan had enabled Mr Gertler to maintain.

Within two weeks, Och-Ziff had sent $110m in credit via the Cayman Islands to Mr Gertler’s Lora Enterprises Limited. The same day, Lora repaid Glencore’s $45m loan, plus interest. Then, it appears from the Och-Ziff settlement statement, Mr Gertler is alleged to have used some of the remaining money for bribes, including four payments in eight days totalling $7m to “DRC Official 1” — Mr Kabila.

Glencore stresses that, unlike other mining companies, it did not secure its entry into the DRC’s vast copper belt through a deal with Mr Gertler, but rather ended up in business alongside him when they independently acquired interests in some of the country’s mining assets. The Swiss group accepts that it has helped Mr Gertler financially, but says its involvement in a string of offshore transactions that culminated in the alleged bribery by the Israeli ended well before any illicit payments were made.

Glencore said: “The loan that Glencore made to Lora was used by Lora in 2009 to fund its participation in a convertible loan to Katanga, which was ultimately exchanged for shares in Katanga. The loan was on commercial terms and was fully secured over the Katanga shares. The loan was fully repaid to Glencore in 2010, at which point the security was released. Following the release of the Glencore security, Lora was free to dispose of the Katanga shares or to use them as security for further financing.”

A spokesman for Fleurette, Mr Gertler’s group, declined to discuss the transactions involving Lora but said that, because the company had bought its initial Katanga Mining shares before their value collapsed, it had suffered an overall $190m loss on its dealings in the stock. He added the two mining operations in which Fleurette was an erstwhile shareholder with Glencore “have generated $3bn in tax for the people of the DRC”.

Last month, Glencore said it had bought Fleurette’s 10 per cent stake in Katanga Mining. Glencore also purchased Fleurette’s 31 per cent stake in the other shared DRC copper mining venture, called Mutanda Mining. 

The stakes were valued at $960m, but Glencore deducted the value of loans it had issued to Fleurette to help finance the two copper mines’ development, plus interest. This meant Mr Gertler received $534m in cash from Glencore.

Glencore now owns all of Mutanda Mining, and 86 per cent of Katanga Mining, and its increased ownership of the two assets gives the group greater exposure to copper, which is viewed as one of the most attractive commodities in the mining industry.

Glencore has not entirely cut its ties with Mr Gertler. He will continue to receive tens of millions of dollars in royalties each year from Glencore’s copper deposits under a deal with Gecamines, the DRC’s state-controlled mining company. However, his royalty rights at Katanga Mining are unlikely to bring in much: they expire in 2019, not long after the asset, currently closed for an upgrade, is due to restart operations.

Additional reporting by David Sheppard and Neil Hume in London

Glencore is one of the world’s bigger copper miners Glencore may be best known as a commodity trader, but the Swiss group is also one of the world’s biggest producers of copper, a key industrial metal. 

Last year, Glencore’s copper mines in Africa, Australia and Latin America generated about one-third of the group’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation — making them the single biggest source of profit. 

Copper is used in everything from household wiring to power grids, and is closely followed by the financial community because of its status as a barometer of the global economy.

Including its share of joint ventures, Glencore expects to produce up to 1.4m tonnes of copper this year, about 6 per cent of global output.

That figure will rise in 2018 when the company restores production at two key copper assets: its Katanga Mining operations in the DRC and deposits at Mopani in Zambia.

The two assets were taken offline amid the commodity slump in 2015 that unleashed a debt crisis at Glencore, and these African operations are currently undergoing efficiency overhauls.

Richard Wilson, of industry consultants Wood Mackenzie, says Glencore’s Katanga mining operations in particular will be a “transformed asset”, capable of producing 300,000 tonnes of copper each year, once a new $437m processing system is up and running.

Glencore will be able to extract more cobalt, a byproduct of copper mining that is used in the batteries that power mobile phones and electric cars. “Glencore have got themselves a long life, low cost mine,” says Mr Wilson. 

Neil Hume in London

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Congo risks 50 percent drop in power output due to low rainfall

Congo risks 50 percent drop in power output due to low rainfall


Congo Inga Falls

Power production in Democratic Republic of Congo could fall by nearly half in the next dry season as scarce rainfall has left the Congo River at its lowest level in more than a century, the state generating company said on Wednesday.
In a country dependent on hydropower for nearly all its electricity, the shortfall would affect the dominant copper industry and other businesses.
Water levels in the Congo - Africa's second longest river, normally its deepest and a vital artery across the center of the continent - have fallen 50 percent compared to last year, said Medard Kitakani, spokesman for national utility SNEL.
That meant levels for the November-February period were at their lowest in more than 100 years, he told Reuters.
SNEL currently produces about 850 MW of power, and "if there is not an improvement in the levels of rainfall, there is a risk that we will lose 350-400 MW" during the dry season, Kitakani said.
The dry season runs from May to September. Kitakani was unable to say how much power production typically falls during that period but said the potential drop was unusually severe.
The country's environment minister has blamed the fall in the river's level on climate change, Kitakani said.
Congo is Africa's biggest copper producer, and the region of Katanga where the metal is mined receives only about half the power it needs from the national grid, forcing operators to rely on expensive generators or power imports from neighboring Zambia.
Charles Kyona, president of the industry-led chamber of mines, told Reuters that miners were concerned about persistent power shortfalls. The chamber has repeatedly called for further liberalization of the energy sector to address the problem.
"Without electricity, we don't have the means to effectively work," he said.

Monday, 6 March 2017

« La menace djihadiste dans l’est de la RDC est une pure invention »

« La menace djihadiste dans l’est de la RDC est une pure invention »

Le chercheur Thierry Vircoulon déconstruit le mythe d’un mouvement djihadiste dans la région du Nord-Kivu, thèse « inventée » et exploitée par Kinshasa.


Des jeunes musulmans se rendent à l’école coranique de 
Beni, à l’est de la République démocratique du Congo.

A l’est de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC), dans la ville de Beni et ses environs, les massacres se poursuivent malgré la présence des casques bleus. Tout a démarré en 2010 avec des enlèvements qui se sont transformés en tueries quatre ans plus tard. Plus de mille personnes ont perdu la vie, selon la société civile, égorgées le plus souvent, parfois tuées par balles. A en croire Kinshasa, ces exactions sont commises par les combattants d’un mystérieux groupe armé ougandais d’obédience islamiste, les Forces démocratiques alliées (ADF), considérés comme des « djihadistes ».

Co-auteur d’une étude intitulée « L’islam radical en République démocratique du Congo » publiée par l’Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI), le chercheur Thierry Vircoulon déconstruit le mythe d’un islamisme djihadiste dans la région du Nord-Kivu.

Les autorités congolaises se disent en « guerre contre le terrorisme » à l’est du pays. Y a-t-il une véritable menace djihadiste dans cette partie de la RDC ?

Thierry Vircoulon C’est une menace inventée et exploitée par les autorités congolaises et ougandaises. Le prétendu visage de l’islamisme radical dans la province du Nord-Kivu, frontalière de l’Ouganda, ce sont les ADF. Or les ADF n’ont pas de prétentions ni de caractéristiques djihadistes. Les faits sont vrais : des tueries abominables commises sur le territoire de Beni. Mais leur interprétation, une implantation djihadiste au cœur de l’Afrique, est sujette à caution, voire tendancieuse.

Ce que vous qualifiez d’« invention » s’inscrit-elle dans une stratégie politique de la part de Kinshasa sous pression de la communauté internationale ?

Cette rhétorique de Kinshasa a pour but de surfer sur la vague globale anti-terrorisme et d’essayer de s’attirer les bonnes grâces de puissances occidentales qui luttent contre le djihadisme. Et ce dans l’espoir de provoquer des réactions de solidarité. Ce qui est loin d’être le cas.

Il faut rappeler l’histoire de ce groupe armé, qui était composé de musulmans en lutte contre le régime ougandais et s’était réfugié à la frontière congolo-ougandaise au milieu des années 1990. A cette époque, il était bien vu des autorités zaïroises [Mobutu Sese Seko est encore au pouvoir]. Il s’était allié à un autre groupe de rebelles ougandais (les NALU) et fut un groupe armé comme les dizaines d’autres qui opéraient dans cette région pendant presque vingt ans. Et puis en 2013-2014, il y a eu un tournant et les ADF ont commencé à cibler les populations de manière répétée.

« Si c’est du salafisme, c’est une version tout de même très tropicalisée. Il y a des vidéos où l’on voit des membres des ADF danser ! »

Les massacres qui ont lieu sur le territoire de Beni, dont la responsabilité est systématiquement attribuée aux ADF, ne sont jamais revendiqués et restent inexpliqués. Les ADF demeurent quasiment invisibles. Ils ne communiquent pas, ne font pas de propagande sur Internet et sont absents de la « djihadosphère ».

Alors que les autres groupes djihadistes en Afrique et ailleurs utilisent la violence dans leur quête de notoriété et d’influence à la fois dans et hors du mouvement djihadiste. La violence religieuse est la base de la propagande djihadiste, ce qui n’est pas du tout le cas avec les ADF.

Des musulmans de Beni, à l’est de la République
 démocratique du Congo, devant une école

Quid de la doctrine religieuse des ADF ?

Si c’est du salafisme, c’est une version tout de même très tropicalisée. Il y a des vidéos où l’on voit des membres des ADF danser ! Sur ces vidéos, les hommes ressemblent plus à des maï-maï [groupe d’autodéfense] qu’à des djihadistes, tant dans l’accoutrement que dans l’attitude.

Leur islamisme est finalement très discret. Ils n’arborent pas les symboles du djihad et ne semblent pas être dans une logique de défenseurs de la « vraie foie musulmane » face à des « apostats ». Ils ne prétendent pas vouloir créer un califat dans la région des Grands-Lacs, ne ciblent pas particulièrement l’armée congolaise ni des chefs religieux… Autant d’indices qui laissent à penser qu’ils sont finalement assez superficiellement islamisés.

A ses débuts, leur ancien chef, Jamil Mukulu, un Ougandais chrétien converti à l’islam, a été influencé par des mouvements islamistes radicaux…

Jamil Mukulu a effectivement embrassé l’islam de la secte tabligh. Il avait aussi noué des liens avec le Soudan d’Omar Al-Bachir et son éminence grise d’alors, Hassan Al-Tourabi. Puis les autorités ougandaises ont accusé les ADF d’être alliées à Al-Qaida, ont accusé Jamil Mukulu de s’être entraîné dans des camps au Pakistan. Enfin, selon Kampala et Kinshasa, ils auraient établi des contacts avec les djihadistes somaliens d’Al-Chabab.

Mais aucune preuve n’est venue étayer ces affirmations. Seules des relations entre l’un des fils de Jamil Mukulu et des organisations musulmanes radicales kényanes ont été découvertes au moment de son arrestation. Les ADF restent mystérieux et taiseux. L’arrestation de Jamil Mukulu en Tanzanie en 2015 n’a rien changé.

Comment expliquez-vous qu’un groupe armé ougandais ayant vécu des décennies en harmonie avec la population locale en RDC sombre dans l’ultra-violence en 2014 et multiplie les massacres ?

« Les ADF se singularisent des autres mouvements armés par leur absence de contact avec les organisations internationales »

Ce changement de comportement est l’un des mystères des ADF. On peut observer de leur part une stratégie de sanctuarisation de certaines zones du territoire de Beni qu’ils ont interdit d’accès aux villageois. Leur discours était simple : « Si vous passez là, on vous tue. » Ce qu’ils ont fait. Mais on s’interroge toujours sur la motivation précise de cette sanctuarisation. Eux revendiquent ces terres en affirmant qu’elles leur ont été données par Mobutu Sese Seko qui les avait accueillis dans les années 1990, mais ce n’est pas une explication suffisante.

Il y a une vingtaine de groupes armés toujours actifs dans la région des Kivu. Les ADF se singularisent des autres mouvements armés par leur absence de contact avec les organisations internationales. C’est par exemple le seul groupe armé de l’Est congolais qui n’a pas de relation avec la Croix-Rouge internationale.

Les habitants parlent de « vrais et faux ADF », soupçonnent la « main noire de Kinshasa », vilipendent la Mission de l’ONU en RDC (Monusco) accusée de collusion avec les « massacreurs »… Quelle lecture faites-vous des dynamiques qui poussent aux massacres ?

La situation n’est pas seulement opaque. Elle est volontairement opacifiée. Ce qui est assez classique à l’est de la RDC, où les conflictualités sont anciennes, se renouvellent mais restent peu ou prou les mêmes depuis plusieurs décennies.

Depuis plus de vingt ans, l’est de la RDC est une zone grise où il y a un entrelacs de conflits dont les enjeux sont les territoires et leurs ressources auxquels se superposent des réseaux de trafics régionaux et internationaux. A cela s’ajoutent des implications importantes de Kinshasa, car cette multitude de conflits locaux peut être instrumentalisée à des fins politiques à l’échelle nationale.

« Les casques bleus n’ont aucune réactivité et on se demande finalement à quoi ils servent. C’est tragique et cela démontre l’incapacité de la Monusco à voir, à entendre et à comprendre ce qui se passe »

Les ADF continuent d’exister grâce à des complicités, probablement des deux côtés de la frontière RDC-Ouganda. Ce groupe armé remplit sans doute une fonction utile pour des acteurs politiques, dont certains peuvent ainsi bénéficier de trafics frontaliers illégaux. La situation, comme les acteurs impliqués demeurent très nébuleux.

Plusieurs indices pointent des officiers supérieurs de l’armée congolaise qui ont servi dans la zone. Et un réseau clientéliste pourrait impliquer certains hommes politiques et hommes d’affaires. D’après les sources locales, les violences ne seraient pas seulement le fait des ADF historiques mais aussi d’autres groupes armés, voire de ce que les habitants désignent par l’expression « ADF FARDC » [Forces armées de la RDC]. Récemment, devant la cour militaire opérationnelle, des militaires congolais ont été mis en cause.

A Beni et dans les environs, les populations, elles, sont désemparées, traumatisées par les massacres qui se poursuivent malgré la présence importante de casques bleus de l’ONU dans la région. Et un dangereux sentiment anti-musulmans se développe.

Un jeune élève d’une école coranique de Beni, à l’est de
 la République démocratique du Congo.

Quel bilan tirez-vous de l’action de la Mission des Nations unies en RDC, la plus ancienne et la plus coûteuse au monde ?

Dans cette situation complexe, la Monusco joue finalement le rôle de l’imbécile utile. La Monusco a cru et croit encore – pour certains membres de son leadership – dans les récits des autorités congolaises et ougandaises qui assimilent les ADF à des djihadistes.

Des responsables onusiens croient voir la main de certains opposants derrière les ADF et d’autres responsables onusiens en RDC crédibilisent le discours des autorités, car ils ne comprennent pas ce qui se passe, bien que la Monusco soit présente sur le territoire de Beni depuis quinze ans ! Cette cécité évidemment arrange Kinshasa et Kampala.

Sur place, les Nations unies se révèlent incapables d’intervenir efficacement et se contentent de promesses vides, comme celle d’éradiquer les groupes armés de la région. Les casques bleus n’ont aucune réactivité et on se demande finalement à quoi ils servent. C’est tragique et cela démontre l’incapacité de la Monusco à voir, à entendre et à comprendre ce qui se passe. Il y a eu des tueries chaque semaine et cela reflète le bilan de quinze ans de présence d’une mission de maintien de la paix en RDC : un enlisement exemplaire.

Les Nations unies ont une capacité de renseignement extrêmement faible et se fient parfois à des informateurs non crédibles. La Monusco est devenue, au fil des ans et des massacres, extrêmement impopulaire. Les habitants ne comprennent pas leur très coûteuse inefficacité – le budget de la Monusco est de 1,4 milliard de dollars, elle dispose de 20 000 hommes, de drones et d’hélicoptères de combat – et ils finissent par leur en vouloir de ne pas agir contre ceux qui les massacrent.

Propos recueillis par Joan Tilouine