By Keith Harmon Snow
Keith Harmon Snow is a war correspondent, photographer and independent investigator, and a four time (2003, 2006, 2007, 2010) Project Censored award winner. He is also the 2009 Regent's Lecturer in Law & Society at the
Resistance Patriots of Dongo
In March 2009 the western press reported a ‘tribal dispute’ and ‘ethnic clash over fishing rights’ in the little western Congo outback town of Dongo. The dispute reportedly began between two different ethnic groups. However, the newly announced “Resistance Patriots of Dongo” claim that President Kabila’s agents manipulated the parties of the dispute and thereby escalated armed hostilities.
In October 2009 President Kabila and John Numbi—one of his top military advisers—dispatched FARDC troops under the command of General Benjamin Alongaboni to Dongo to negotiate peace with resistance forces. General Alongaboni, a Congolese son hailing from Equateur Province, and the first FARDC officer on the scene, secured a negotiated peace with Dongo area combatants.
Soon after however, President Kabila sent RDF forces—in FARDC uniforms—who enraged Congolese in the region and provoked hostilities by killing some local people and destroying the possibilities of peace negotiations.
The Resistance Patriots of Dongo retaliated and FARDC under the command of General Alongaboni began defecting.
Now President Kabila is uncertain who is with him and who is against him. All FARDC troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo are on full security alert, prevented from leaving the country or taking leaves of absence.
General Benjamin Alongaboni and the few troops that did not defect to the resistance were moved to nearby Gemena military center where he is currently under surveillance by President Kabila’s security and intelligence operatives. General Alongaboni is an Adjutant General to Kabila’s trusted FARDC insider John Numbi, formerly the head of FARDC Air Forces and now Inspector General of the Police National Congolaise (CNP).
Meanwhile, the ‘Dongo Crises’ has blossomed into a full-blown Congolese rebellion against international occupation forces and the powerful Kabila-Kagame clique. Over the past three weeks civilians and former combatants have been flooding into the remote Dongo region to join a growing rebellion against the now hated military regime of President Joseph Kabila and his western corporate business and military partners.
Hundreds of Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC)—of ethnic Congolese origin—have deserted and joined rebellion ranks with Congolese civilians and various military elements of past rebellions. The Resistance Patriots of Dongo is reportedly comprised of Congolese-FARDC deserters, former Forces Armées Zaïroises (ex-FAZ), and former MLC rebels.
Thousands of ex-FAZ and elite troops of Mobutu’s former Special Presidential Division (DSP) fled Congo-Kinshasa to Congo-Brazzaville between 1996 and 1998 when the Pentagon-backed insurgency led by Rwanda and Uganda swept across the Congo (Zaire) and drove out Zaire’s long-time strongman Joseph Desire Mobutu.
Sources in Kinshasa say that President Kabila seeks to frame and accuse Mobutu’s former intelligence chief Honoré Ngbanda and ex-MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is already under arrest for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, in a propaganda ruse to justify the international intervention in Equateur and legitimize further military aggression by the Kabila-Kagame-MONUC nexus.
Kabila hopes for strategic gain by claiming that the Dongo uprising is purely an MLC uprising. By convincing his white international patrons that the MLC is the problem, Kabila hopes to further purge his government and the country of MLC supporters.
In September 2009, armed assailants shot up the residences of DRC Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexis Tambwe Mwamba and another minister, Olivier Kamitatu, both ex-MLC supporters who have joined Kabila, in a drive by shooting; other assassination attempts have also been reported.
Sources in Kinshasa say Kabila’s security apparatus staged these assassination attempts to create further international sympathy for Kabila, to discredit the MLC and manipulate the ICC proceedings against Jean-Pierre Bemba. Officials in Kinshasa have been threatened in response to fears that Jean-Pierre Bemba will wiggle and bribe his way out of the ICC war crimes charges and return to Congo. Given the highly political nature of the already corrupted ICC, the fear is not unfounded.
President Kagame and President Yoweri Museveni have a long history of ‘pseudo-operations’ and ‘false-flag operations’ that blame and punish the victims after secret operations and atrocities that are actually committed by disguised RDF and UPDF soldiers.
Joseph Kabila’s goal might be to follow the example of his allies, Paul Kagame and the extremist Tutsis in Rwanda, by blaming all exactions, tortures, assassinations, massacres and organized plunder of Congo on the Dongo forces who are today fighting against western imperialism and its agents in Central Africa—in the person of Joseph Kabila. President Paul Kagame’s success in this conspiracy is evident in the many awards he has received, for his absolute terrorism in service to western interests, with the coup de grâce being Rwanda’s acceptance into the Commonwealth of Nations last week.18
Congolese people everywhere were outraged by the eastern Congo FARDC military operations with RDF and UPDF forces early in 2009, but Kabila and partners heaped one insult on top of another by airlifting RDF across Congo to the far western Equateur to attempt to crush the Dongo resistance.
MONUC and AFRICOM supported the RDF airlift operations.
The Kabila government has reportedly agreed to base AFRICOM out of the remote east-central Congo River city of Kisangani, also the site of a secret U.S. military-intelligence ‘fusion cell’ linking Uganda, Rwanda, Congo-K in a tripartite cooperation agreement focused on minerals and mining. The details of the ‘base’ are unknown, but Kisangani will likely be one of AFRICOM’s many ‘lily-pad’ bases.
AFRICOM Lurking in the Wings
AFRICOM currently has cooperative security location agreements, commonly known as ‘lily pad’ operating agreements with a dozen African nations stretching from Algeria on the Mediterranean to Zambia and Botswana in southern Africa. The U.S. Seventeenth Air Force’s contingency and crisis planning and response team had already visited four African nations through April 2009 to carry out airfield surveys, with plans to visit seven more nations by September 30. 19
In January 2009, AFRICOM delivered four 200 hp Yamaha outboard engines to RDF marines in Gisenyi, Rwanda. The RDF maritime regiment was formed in 1995—“in response to Rwanda's genocide,” according to AFRICOM, “to control [Rwanda’s] water border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and prevent the infiltration of genocidal forces from the Congo.”
In May 2009, Brigadier General Mike Callan, vice commander of the new AFRICOM Air Forces AFRICA (U.S. Seventeenth Air Force), met with RDF Chief James Kabarebe—an internationally indicted war criminal—and Rwandan Air Force commanders in Kigali for talks focused on turning tiny Rwanda into central and east Africa’s leading ‘air hub’ for both military and civilian air traffic.20
Bound for the Dongo rebellion in mid-November RDF crossed from Gisenyi, Rwanda to Goma, DRC, and were then flown from Goma to Kamina Air Base in Katanga, a military transport hub used for the Belgo-American-U.N. mercenary occupations during the Katanga secession (1960-63) and ‘Congo Crises’ (1964–67). The RDF battalion was next flown to Bandundu Province and from there they joined President Kabila at his ‘farm’ security compound outside Kinshasa.
The RDF troops were reportedly next moved to the 42-acre campus of the U.S. Embassy-affiliated American School in Kinshasa (TASOK), near the notorious Camp Tshatshi military base, and then flown to Gemena airport in Equateur.
The Colonel Tshatshi Military Camp in Kinshasa hosts the defense department and the Chiefs of Staff central command headquarters of the FARDC. The TASOK campus was used for RDF troops because they would not be welcome amongst Congolese-FARDC at Camp Tshatshi.
There were at least three round trips in some legs of the RDF flight plan reportedly using both MONUC and Hewa Bora Airlines, an airline 70% owned by Belgian arms trafficker Philippe de Moerloose. In the ‘leaked’ November 2009 U.N. Panel of Experts Report on Illegal Exploitation in the Congo, Philippe De Moerloose and Hewa Bora Airlines were named for weapons shipments from Sudan to Congo in violation of the International Arms Embargo on the DRC.21
De Moerloose supplies Kabila with Presidential jets and other toys.
“Nobody in the Congo was aware of this operation except Kabila and John Numbi,” says one insider in Kinshasa. “Everyone was surprised to see Rwandan troops enter Kivu [Goma] from Rwanda. When the speaker of the Congolese parliament, Vital Kamhere, criticized the operation, President Kabila pushed for his resignation.”
Former DRC Air Force Commander John Numbi is reported to be Kabila’s main link to Rwandan military officials Paul Kagame and the indicted war criminal James Kabarebe. John Numbi, currently the Inspector General of the Congolese National Police, is a regular visitor to Kigali and described as ‘one of Congo’s most dangerous men.’
John Numbi reportedly orchestrated the joint military operations between RDF and FARDC that began in January 2009. The main overt military campaigns were ‘Umoja Wetu,’ a joint operation between FARDC and RDF, and the ‘Kimia I’ and ‘Kimia II’ operations, which were FARDC operations supported by MONUC.
“Just before the joint operation ‘Umoja Wetu’ [RDF General] James Kabarebe met Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, and they have spoken in secret,” says one Congolese insider. “Nobody knows what they talked about. The real story is that Rwanda took the opportunity to secretly inject at least 4000 and maybe as many as 10,000 Rwandan soldiers into the FARDC army.”
Congolese FARDC troops deployed by Kabila to the Dongo area refused to fight and instead defected to the rebel cause rather than kill their Congolese brothers and sisters for the private enrichment of foreigners and the pro-Rwanda alliance of Kabila and Kagame. Thus President Kabila has been forced to deploy to Dongo only those FARDC units comprised exclusively of ‘ex’-CNDP Tutsi units loyal to Rwanda.
By mid-November 2009 international humanitarian agencies began reporting thousands of refugees flooding across the Congo River to Congo-Brazzaville, with 54,000 now in Congo-Brazzaville and 38,000 IDPs in Congo by December 1, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Resistance Patriots of Dongo are claiming to have inflicted high casualties on the RDF-MONUC-FARDC forces dispatched to Dongo and surrounding areas. Several towns have been taken, lost, and retaken in pitched battles against RDF-MONUC-FARDC forces.
While the conflict in Equateur slowly escalated from March to October, and deteriorated quickly after that, MONUC’s press and information corps have been mute about the rebellion.
All official channels deny the presence of RDF troops, or that RDF troops fought in Equateur. Several very small media outlets are also reporting the RDF presence, their sources appearing to be connected with the Resistance Patriots of Dongo movement.22
MONUC issued one tiny press report on November 26, after resistance forces shot up a MONUC helicopter that flew to Dongo to resupply the RDF-MONUC-FARDC ground troops. Five of the 25 to 30 personnel on board were injured, and the pilot took off and flew the chopper to Congo-Brazza. None of the personnel (or their nationalities) aboard the MONUC chopper was identified.
A short western media propaganda blurb circulated by Agence France-Presse attempted to discredit the rebellion and cover for MONUC’s involvement in open military aggression against Congolese people. Titled “Armed group claims firing at UN chopper in DRC,” the AFP blurb also confirmed the Resistance Patriots of Dongos’ strike against a MONUC helicopter.
“In their confused statement,” AFP wrote, November 26, 2009, “the Patriots-Resistance [of Dongo] alleged that Rwandan occupation forces were in the region and they denounced the ‘complicity’ of MONUC ‘with the Mafia-like imperialists’.”
“Dongo was attacked on October 29 and 30 by a group from the Lobala community (also known as the Enyele), which targeted the Bamboma (or Boba) community,” the AFP reported. “Both sides have frequently disputed the fishing resources of the region. The violence, which has since spread to other villages, left at least 100 dead, mainly in Dongo, who were either hacked with machetes or shot, while a number drowned trying to cross the Oubangi river, which marks the border with the Congo Republic [Brazzaville].”
The AFP not only decontextualized the conflict, describing it as purely tribal, they also framed it as ruthless savage Africans killing with machetes. The MONUC chopper apparently was attacked on November 26. There was no mention of the major battles that occurred between foreign forces on November 22-24 or November 26-28. 23
On December 3, 2009, the Dongo resistance forces intercepted a tugboat pulling two big barges carrying 2,500 tons of arms and ammunition destined for Dongo RDF-MONUC-FARDC forces. The commander of the FARDC operations involved in moving the weapons, Colonel Nyav, was killed during the clashes; Nyav had previously been commanding RDF-MONUC-FARDC troops at Dongo. The ethnic Congolese FARDC under Col. Nyav’s command jubilantly defected to the resistance after seizing the boat and weapons.
Also on December 3, the strategic Congolese airport town of Libenge fell into the hands of the Resistance Patriots of Dongo. The resistance forces now control the towns of Dongo, Libenge, all the territory located along Oubangi River, the localities of Bomongo, Kutu, Kungu, Saba-Saba, Buburu and the Catholic mission of Bokonzi.
The Resistance Patriots of Dongo next plan to take Mbandaka, the major administrative city on the Congo River—and the end of the line for thousands of Hutu refugee women and children executed in cold blood by the RPF/A and the AFDL on the banks of the Congo River there in 1997.
“We take the engagement before God and before all the Congolese to topple the puppet regime currently in place in Kinshasa,” the November 26 resistance statement added, according to the AFP.
To be continued
18 See Wayne Madsen, “Admission of Rwanda to Commonwealth caps off assassination, genocide, and civil war,” Online Journal, December 4, 2009, <http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_5342.shtml >.
19 Stewart M. Powell, “Engagement in Africa,” airforce-Magazine.com, July 2009.
20 Eric Elliot, “U.S. Begins Flying Rwandan Peacekeeping Equipment to Darfur,” U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs, January 14, 2009, <http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=2457>.
21 United Nations: Letter dated 9 November 2009 from the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo addressed to the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004), ‘leaked’ November 2009.
22 “La radio Bendele reçoit Mr Ambroise LOBALA MOKOBE Porte-parole des Patriotes-résistants de Dongo,” Radio Bendele, November 22, 2009, http://www.radiotvbendele.com/vivvo_general/269.html .
23 Unsigned, “Armed group claims firing at U.N. chopper in DR Congo,” AFP, November 26, 2009.