DR Congo armed forces chief fired

The military chief of staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been sacked after the army lost territory to rebel forces in the east.

The reason for Dieudonne Kayembe’s dismissal was the urgency of the conflict, a TV statement said.

President Joseph Kabila named navy chief General Didier Etumba Longomba as the new head of the armed forces.

Meanwhile, a UN peacekeeping commander says he cannot defeat the rebels because of his rules of engagement.

General Bipin Rawat, who commands 6,000 troops, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that his forces were denied any element of surprise by having to go into the jungle with white trucks and white armoured vehicles.

UN troops also have to fire warning shots and shout verbal warnings before engaging the rebels.



  1. #1 Dunc
    November 18, 2008

    I’m having huge trouble deciding whether the UN are on the “right” side in this conflict. Would you be able to clarify exactly what the “rebels” are rebelling about? The whole “government vs rebels” narrative seems suspiciously simplistic…

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 18, 2008

    The rebels are insisting that the DR Congo expel, disarm, or otherwise invalidate Rwandan forces more or less hiding out in the Congo, who were, in turn, the ones who carried out the Rwandan genocide. The assumption is that if the pressure does not keep on these Rwandans and they are not disbanded or wiped out, they will reorganize and go back into Rwanda.

    This conflict is imprinted on an age-old conflict whereby there was a corrupt oppressive regime in charge for 30-some years, with rebel opposition building in this region (eastern Congo) all that time. That opposition is now in charge (but I oversimplify).

    Meanwhile, the as this is all operationalized on the ground, there are regions of the Eastern Congo that, if you have an army surrounding it, you get to dig up the gold and/or diamonds. So this pays for the incursions into the region, and makes incursions (by whatever country wants to do that) profitable.

    The UN is not on anyone’s side, really. But that may make them very ineffective.

    Nor am I on anyone’s side, at this point, by the way. (Well, I’m not on the side of the Rwandan doers of the genocide!)

  3. #3 Christian
    November 18, 2008

    I was under the impression, that the conflict was mostly about the question, which country would ultimately profit from the Coltan mining operations in Eastern Congo. As far as I understand, the conflict today is mostly financed by Coltan profits made by local militias with Aziza Kulsum spearheading the entire mining operation (and financing Hutu rebels).

    The French-German TV channel “arte” recently broadcast a very interesting multi-part series of reports about the economic background of the DRC conflict, some of which can be reviewed here (unfortunately not in English):


    and here:


    as well as here:


    It is still an interesting watch, since, unfortunately, no such reports can be found on CNN or Fox News, which is probably why most people don’t even know that there is a conflict in the DNC (and why not too much is done about it). Sigh. We really need that kind of background reporting in the regular media – 30 minutes of just maps and political commentary – imagine that kind of in-depth reporting in the mainstream media…

  4. #4 anon
    November 18, 2008

    Greg, could you clarify what you mean some?
    Corrupt regime is gone. That’s good. Problem solved. The only problem left is the rwanda rebels. That’s no explanation for why a different group of rebels is fighting the government.

  5. #5 Christian
    November 18, 2008

    Some breaking Congo news from Germany: German president Köhler has just demanded that German troops be sent to the DNC to pacify the situation and has issued an idirect request to other European countries to sent forces as well. Any such mission would, of course, have to be cleared by the German parliamant. Still, it might be a first step in the direction of a joint EU mission to the DNC.

    For what its worth (link in German language), the SPIEGEL has the Köhler speech on the front page today:


  6. #6 Greg Laden
    November 18, 2008


    Sorry, your first comment (above) was stuck in moderation for several hours owing to the links.

    Your explanation is absolutely correct, even though it looks totally different than my explanation, which is also correct (except to note that gold and diamonds are factors as well). These are just explaining things on a different level. I was addressing the on the ground motivations and the kinds of issues that the UN would use to characterize the conflict, not the actual ultimate causes.

    Anon: the simple version is that a) this conflict is far more complicated than, say World War I, which was pretty freakin’ complicated; b) as Christian points out, there is an overarching mineral (i.e. Coltan) driven benefit to any force that gets in there and holds ground; c) The mostly two part Rwanada (Hutu-Tutsi) conflict is being played out here; d) There is a major parallel conflict between two other sets of groups, usually refered to as the “hama” and the “lendu” (but it is more complex than that); e) armies have a life of their own.