Special Reports

EXCLUSIVE: The Forgotten Story of M23 and Rebel Commander, Brig Makenga

In early 2013, recipe http://debbiehowes.com/wp-content/plugins/contact-form-7/includes/upgrade.php then Colonel Sultan Makenga received a telephone call that his comrade in arms, http://ceris.ca/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/json-endpoints/class.wpcom-json-api-get-post-endpoint.php General Bosco Ntaganda was in danger.

Earlier, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, had met with President Joseph Kabila.

Reynders told Kabila in the wake of the disputed 2011 elections that warlord Gen Bosco Ntaganda had to face trial for human rights abuses in DRC.

In short, Reynders was delivering a message from the international community that to turn a blind eye to the rigged election; Kabila had to deliver Ntaganda for prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Kabila had tactfully decided not to interfere with Ntaganda’s businesses as long as rebel leader kept the movement inactive.

This derailed the M23 cause, with many including then M23 spokesperson Vianney Kazarama accusing Ntaganda of betrayal by cutting deals with Kabila.

Kabila had to make a choice between sacrificing his ally in North Kivu – Ntaganda; and risking the wrath of the international community at a time when opposition forces were holding protests, throwing stones at riot police and setting tyres on fire in the streets in the wake of the controversial election.

With mounting political pressure and  Tshisekedi’s announcement that he was the elected president of DRC, Kabila decided to go after Ntaganda.

On 4 April 2012, it was reported that Ntaganda and 300 loyal troops had defected from the DRC and clashed with government forces in the Rutshuru region North of Goma.

Ntaganda’s forces were badly beaten by the government soldiers, a development that surprised many regional observers.

On 11 April 2012, president Kabila called for Ntaganda’s arrest.

It will be recalled that both Ntaganda and Makenga served under General Laurent Nkunda who led the CNDP movement.

It’s around this time that Makenga received a call to save Ntaganda

Knowledgeable sources say Nkunda was largely a political leader while Ntaganda served as Chief of Staff.

The donkey work that involved espionage, war planning, execution and field command was under Col Makenga.

“He is one of the finest war strategists and commanders in the region,” said a knowledgeable source.

When Rwanda arrested Nkunda before confining him in a safe house, Ntaganda took charge of CNDP which would later be renamed M23.

Makenga continued to serve as the military chief of the Movement.

However, Makenga stayed in South Kivu while Ntaganda commanded North Kivu. The two leaders did not enjoy friendly relations due to the difference in ideology.

While Makenga believed CNDP was created for a cause, Ntaganda and his cronies including General Boudine Ngaruye embarked on a self-enrichment agenda.

The UN Group of Experts reported in late 2011 that Ntaganda controlled the Mungwe and Fungamwaka mines, near Numbi, through the Great Lakes Mining Company.

Ntaganda also derived profits from mineral exploitation at Nyabibwe and at Rubaya, he gained large revenues from taxation levied by “parallel” mine police.

So when Kabila moved to arrest Ntaganda, Makenga came to his rescue.

Some commanders who never respected Ntaganda promised to support Makenga’s move but never turned up for battles. To them, Ntaganda was a schemer.

Crisis

Nevertheless, Makenga seized Goma, the provincial town of Eastern Congo.

This sparked off a crisis with international leaders threatening sanctions on Rwanda and Uganda for reportedly supporting the rebels.

The then Rwanda Army Chief Lt Gen Charles Kayonga and Ugandan army officials from the Embassy in Kinshasa met Makenga in Bukavu where the rebel commander was told to quit Goma.

Makenga would later travel to Kampala for a meeting with Museveni who reaffirmed the region’s view that the rebels had to vacate Goma.

Museveni promised to dialogue with Kabila and regional leaders to find a lasting political solution to M23’s grievances.

Sources say it’s for a large cause than himself that Makenga decided to leave Goma.

“Makenga was very conscious of moving out of Goma because he was very much aware that people who promised him support would possibly abandon him. Indeed, the causes of the war were later forgotten by the regional leaders,” said a source who preferred anonymity so as to speak freely.

Nevertheless, Makenga agreed to withdraw from Goma in phases. At one point, Makenga’s men maintained their deployment around the hills overlooking Goma.

Ntaganda was opposed to the idea of abandoning the city, saying Kabila would never honour his promise to look into M23’s concerns.

These included segregation, low and delayed wages for soldiers, poor social services and infrastructure in Kivu and massacre of CNDP soldiers who had been integrated in the army in 2009.

Return to Base

Nonetheless, Makenga pulled out his men who returned to their bases in and around Bunagana on the border with Uganda.

This worsened the bad relations between Makenga and Ntaganda.

On March 1, 2013, as Makenga was about to take a rest at his Rumangabo base, he received intelligence that Ntaganda had assembled fighters under Zimulinda Brigade to kill him.

“Makenga acted swiftly in that dangerous moment to alert and mobilise his men to defeat Ntaganda,” recalled the former M23 Kampala delegation leader, Rene Abandi in an interview with ChimpReports two years ago.

Makenga was already in control of Bunagana, Cyanzu, Runyoni, Bukima, Rugari, Mabenga, Kinyadonyi, Busanza, Kitagoma, Rwanguba, Rangira, Tchengerero and Jomba – making it difficult for Ntaganda to defeat him in one night.

That’s why Ntaganda mobilised forces to surprise Makenga by attacking the latter’s base at Rumangabo.

Ntaganda received a bloody blow, forcing him and an estimated 200 fighters into Rwanda and eventual surrender to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. He was later handed over to ICC.

Congo War

Following Ntaganda’s defeat, Makenga continued to fight the allied forces comprising troops from Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa and DRC.

In November 2013, Makenga’s men fled under heavy artillery fire to Uganda where he lived until early 2017 when he returned to DRC.

The Uganda government says Makenga escaped from a safe house to an unknown area while other M23 combatants also ran away from Bihanga Barracks.

UPDF spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said it was not their role to look for Makenga but that they had informed the Kinshasa government about his escape.

“We have communicated to the DRC authority. They also sent a delegation to Kampala and we held meeting in relation to the matter,” said Karemire.

Why Now?

Sources told ChimpReports that M23 were sick and tired of being in the barracks when the situation at home was getting out of hand.

The demobilised rebel Movement said last year it would not look on idly as the government of President Joseph Kabila fell short of addressing the ‘deteriorating security situation’ in the Eastern part of DRC.

“The M23 Movement’s Political Directorate is very concerned about the socio-political and security situation prevailing in the province of North Kivu that seriously undermines regional peace and stability,” M23’s political head, Bertrand Bisiimwa told ChimpReports in July 2016.

He revealed that militia groups continue to commit atrocities in Beni (Mabu, Eringeti), Lubero (Miriki), Masisi (Kichanga), Rutshuru (Bwito, Busanza), which includes burning of houses, ravaging farms, looting livestock, and routine kidnappings.

Bisiimwa further stated that robberies, hold-up of transport vehicles and inter-ethnic conflicts in Goma, Masisi, Walikale, Lubero and Rutshuru were getting out of hand.

The rebels and government signed in Nairobi a peace declaration calling for the neutralization of different national and foreign armed groups that roam the Eastern part of the country.

Government pledged to work with the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) to improve security in conflict areas, protect civilians and address the problem of negative forces.

For each of areas of returning refugees, the Government undertook to secure, service and make these areas attractive; accelerate the deployment of the Community policing and implementation of basic development projects and social reintegration; revitalize and expand local conciliation committees.

But Bisiimwa said this never happened.

The Government further committed to setting up a National Reconciliation Commission with a mandate to promote national reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of conflicts; address and recommend appropriate legislation against ethnic discrimination and incitement to hatred; settle or resolve ethnic conflicts, including land disputes; provide civic education to promote peaceful coexistence, to better understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and to strengthen patriotism.

This too was not realised, according to Bisiimwa.

Informed sources in M23 told this investigative website that Makenga has since returned to Congo to make a point to the DRC government that failure to address M23’s issues as agreed in Nairobi has consequences.

The rebels have since established bases inside DRC from where they hope to operate in case war break out.

“Makenga’s return to DRC is meant to remind the region that the origins of the movement have never been dealt with,” said a source.

“If you don’t deal with them; they will come back later.”


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