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The East African : June 30th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK JUNE 28 - JULY 4, 2014 31 benefited from $57m illegal trade in Kivu Congolese army tanks retreat through Rugari, a village 37km from Goma, following an attack by M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s restive North Kivu Province on July 26, 2012. Picture: AFP report. The killing provoked outrage among the Makenga faction of CNDP. Then Lt-Col Antoine Balibu- no was allegedly assassinated in Goma by former CNDP officers close to Ntaganda on his way to the general’s home. He was a close member of Nkunda’s inner circle during the CNDP rebellion. At the time of his death, he was in charge of civil-military affairs in the Amani Leo operation. Makenga said he recruited all Above: Rebel soldiers patrol Nyamilima in North Kivu, as a charcoal trader carts his load to the market. Below: A rebel fighter controls workers at the gold mine in Ituri region, northeast DRC. The rebels made a lot of money from charcoal and mineral trade. Pictures: AFP loyal soldiers and by February 2012, he had about 850 fighters. He then gained the support of the Republican Forces (FRF), a rebel faction in Kivu under Colonel Michel Makanika, a warlord. Makenga’s next move was to find political backup for his mission. “My business was to man- age the army, but to succeed we needed more educated and respected leaders to manage our political affairs,” Makenga told The EastAfrican. “We had enough dollars to pay salaries. This money came from our supporters inside and outside Congo, but we had plans to raise more money to finance our operations.” The plan was to introduce a $28M CHARCOAL BUSINESS In 2010, the UN Group of Experts estimated that charcoal trade in Goma town was valued at $28 million annually. In Goma, a sack of charcoal weighing 90kg was sold at $25. “Local environmental NGOs informed the Group that charcoal from the park constituted at least 80 per cent of the Goma market... As charcoal made from the hardwood found in the Virunga National Park has a longer burn capacity, its value is much higher than that of charcoal made from eucalyptus trees,” the group’s report said. The biggest casualty in this man-made environmental disaster inside the Congo was Virunga, where the rebels as well as the Congolese national army soldiers were competing for the $28m charcoal trade. This plunder cost more than three million cubic metres of trees a year, according to UN statistics. In 2010, at least five FARDC commanders made $700,000 from the illicit trade, according to the UN. A comprehensive study by an international NGO and a Congolese university indicated that, during the war, nearly 50,000 tonnes of charcoal were sold each year in Goma alone, where over 97 per cent of the population of half a million people relied on it as the only source of energy. Virunga National Park alone produced about 80 tonnes of charcoal every week between 2009 and 2011 — all belonging to ex-CNDP rebels and FARDC commanders. “Residents in Kitchanga stated that nearly all the charcoal from the park was sold to the wives of high-ranking FARDC officers within the 22nd Sector,” said the UN report. toll on all trucks that entered their territory and on business people who traded there. By October 2012, Makenga and his troops were earning an estimated $10,000 a day. But that was not all: Mak- enga had a network of mineral dealers using Kampala and Kigali cities to transact their business. But he would not disclose to The EastAfrican how much this network contributed to theorganisation. To succeed we needed more educated and respected leaders to manage our political affairs.” Sultani Makenga, M23 leader Charlotte Kemigyisha tween the two: Makenga viewed Ntaganda as a liability because of his ICC case and therefore having him in the newly proposed organisation would tarnish its image. After Gen Nkunda was ar- rested and detained in Rwanda, a sharp division emerged within CNDP. Although Ntaganda was senior, Makenga viewed him as an outsider. Colonels Boudoni Ngaruye, Innocent Zimurinda and Innocent Kiaina supported Gen Ntaganda, while Col Makenga, who was the deputy Amani Leo commander for South Kivu, retained the support of CNDP and FARDC officers loyal to Nkunda. To weaken the Makenga-led faction, Ntaganda, a man referred to as “The Terminator” for his brutality, launched a series of assaults targeting prominent local leaders and top soldiers loyal to Nkunda. “On June 20, 2011, the most respected leader of the Congolese Tutsi community, Denis Ntare Semadwinga, was murdered at his home in Gisenyi... According to human-rights investigators, a group of men, including a bodyguard of Ntaganda, entered Ntare’s home and stabbed him to death,” said the UN Group of Experts in their But with earnings from ille- gal mineral and charcoal trade estimated at $57 million annually, financing the M23 rebellion was easy. “Congolese army units are competing among themselves for control of the mineral-rich areas,” the UN group’s report said. There was also another net- work: Arms smugglers within the Congolese national army. After Makenga mutinied and walked away with enough weapons to stage the war, he continued getting supplies from the smuggling network. “I have been receiving strong support from the Congolese national army, and also from some government officials in Kinshasa, who are not satisfied with the way things have turned out under President Kabila,” he told The EastAfrican in 2012. “When the Kinshasa government buys new weapons, I also get a share through my contacts within the army. The Congolese army is the most corrupt, weak, divided military in the world.” The UN experts claimed in 2011 that top Congolese army officers were behind the trade in “conflict minerals.” The UN report specifically named Gen Gabriel Hamis Nkumba, the then second in command of the army, as the man at the centre of the illegal trade in the east of the country. The report quoted President Kabila as publicly stating that “the involvement of criminal networks within his forces, the FARDC, in illegal exploitation of minerals has caused conflict of interest in the army’s constitutional mandate.” When pressure mounted over the trade in “blood” minerals, the rebels turned to the charcoal trade. During our brief stay at an M23 stronghold at Rumangabo, a few kilometres outside Goma town, we came across dozens of trucks carrying charcoal and timber from the rebel-controlled areas. Biggest casualty The M23 had a battalion monitoring the charcoal and timber business and collected money from the traders. In 2010, the UN Group of Ex- perts estimated that charcoal trade in Goma town was valued at $28 million annually. In Goma, a sack of charcoal weighing some 90kg was going for $25. The biggest casualty in this man-made environmental disaster inside the Congo was Virunga National Park, where rebels and the national army soldiers were competing for the $28 million trade. So, with a network of arms smugglers, control of lucrative mineral areas, illegal trade in charcoal and timber, a web of businessmen interested in illegal deals in the Congo, introduction of levies and knowledge of the Kivu region, Makenga launched a rebellion against the Kinshasa government for what he termed as “failure by President Kabila to fully honour the Nairobi peace deal.” By July 2012, when the UN group released its interim report on Congo, Makenga’s army had more than 2,500 soldiers. The M23 had effectively become the centre of the Congo crisis, especially when the rebels captured Goma town in November 2012.
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