In Summary

When the DRC military establishment wanted to deploy them elsewhere in the country, M23 resisted. And when the DRC military establishment sought to punish them yani wali pinga order (refused to take orders), they mutinied

On Wednesday, the Congolese minister for Budget was quoted as saying that the government was unable to secure funds for presidential elections slated for this year. This statement flew into the face of a national consensus agreement that there must be elections this year.

President Kabila should be helped to understand that his tenure as DRC president ended in December last year. Kabila must quit. And dear reader, if it takes the M23 armed rebellion to convince him (in the only language he is likely to understand), I am willing to wink in their direction (uncomfortably though).

Yet I am familiar with M23 weaknesses as an armed group and a political movement. Although M23 would like to portray itself as a liberation movement, I am aware that it is difficult to rally the ekolo (nation) for whatever cause (if only because M23 is accused of being a client force).

As part of the Congolese national army, elements of what is M23 carried out government-sanctioned Operation Amani Leo (Peace now) in an attempt to pacify eastern DRC. Operation Amani Leo may not have been successful but it gave its commanders power, patronage and control over lucrative artisan mines.

Unfortunately, M23 were client forces for neighbouring countries. Even after integration, M23 could not be deployed outside what they considered their native provenance (with proximity to their benefactor states).

When the DRC military establishment wanted to deploy them elsewhere in the country, M23 resisted. And when the DRC military establishment sought to punish them yani wali pinga order (refused to take orders), they mutinied. Weeks later, the mutiny graduated into a rebellion: The mutineers declared war against the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. To end this rebellion, peace talks between the DRC government and the M23 rebels were initiated in Kampala. That’s where I came in; but to that later.
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In 2014, a friend from my Rwanda days (then working with BBC’s Great Lakes desk) called and asked me to fix for him an interview with M23 inmates at Bihanga.

Well, I did my best. We ended up at Dr Crispus Kiyonga’s country home in Kasese. I spoke all the Lhukonzo imploring him to allow these BBC guys interview the men at Bihanga. But Kiyonga refused.

Before I went to Kiyonga, some UPDF top brass had declined my request to allow the BBC interview the men at Bihanga.

Never the man to give up, I managed to interview (on audio-visual record) some M23 inmates at Bihanga in 2016. Given the particulars of this interview, I was not surprised when I learnt that the Bihanga inmates had escaped and returned to DR Congo. My only problem with them was that reports of their return to DR Congo coincided with my visit there.

Anecdote:
During the Kampala Peace Talks between the DRC government and M23, I found myself in a spot of bother. I had been asked to help the M23 delegation with something at Silver Springs Hotel.

While there, a need to hold a press conference at the hotel arose. Unfortunately, none of the M23 guys who were going to face the media knew how to knot a neck tie. I knoted all their neckties.

And like the tale of the Arab and the Camel, the rebels asked that I sit with them on the high table. I just died. What would I tell Ugandan journalists who knew me as a humble guy from Kiburara?

I convince them out of this high table thing and was retained to edit their English version of the press statement. That’s why Gaaki Kigambo (now of The East African) remarked: Senior, I will never understand you.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.