September 6, 2023, Bukavu — We were stunned to learn of the appointment of General Nduru Chaligonza to head up military operations in North Kivu, replacing the Military Governor of North Kivu, General Constant Ndimi, who was recalled to Kinshasa for consultations following the dispatch of the Interministerial Commission sent to Goma on the instructions of the President of the Republic to shed light on the large-scale massacre committed against civilians on August 30 by elements of the Republican Guard, and to establish who was responsible for this tragedy. 

On August 2, 2023, the day commemorating the Congolese genocide, the President “encouraged Parliament to pass laws to remove the perpetrators of crimes from positions of responsibility,” giving hope to the Congolese population in general, and to the victims and communities affected by decades of armed conflict in particular, that the immoral policy of promoting former rebel leaders would come to an end. In the same vein, less than a year ago, shortly after the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022, President Tshisekedi spoke out about the weakness of the Congolese army in an interview with RFI and France 24, saying: “In this army there is bravery, there are elements who deserve the nation’s homage and who are more numerous than the black sheep…We need to purge, separate the wheat from the chaff, and so on. (…) We need to find out which elements can continue their career in the company, and who we need to get rid of in order to create a new dynamic.” 

The recent appointment of General Nduru Chaligonza as commander of operations in North Kivu is far from inaugurating this long-awaited new dynamic: a former rebel leader is being replaced by a former rebel leader! General Nduru Chaligonza, RCD-K/ML and ex-UPC, is known to be close to Thomas Lubanga and Bosco Ntaganda, both of whom are being prosecuted and tried by the International Criminal Court! He has been named several times in ICC judgments against these two warlords. 

How is it possible to show such contempt for justice and for victims? Is it any wonder that the population has no confidence in the institutions that are supposed to defend them? After the appointments of Bemba and Nyamwisi to the government, this new nomination of a former rebel leader to a strategic post demonstrates to public opinion that the paradigm shift is not about to take place with the Tshisekedi administration. Tshisekedi’s words and deeds contradict each other on a daily basis, jeopardizing the Congolese nation and the chances of turning the country around. 

In a previous statement, we stressed the need for the current regime to demonstrate its ability to demonstrate an ethic of responsibility and respect for the principle of consistency. Our concern is heightened by the seriousness of the massacres committed by the army, which too often remains a threat to the population, as it is infiltrated by aggressors and contributes to the perpetuation of a war economy in the Eastern Provinces. 

Although the President of the Republic pledged to place transitional justice on the government’s agenda in December 2020, raising great hopes among victims and survivors, he has still not adopted a national transitional justice strategy, nor does it seem inclined to demonstrate a sincere political will to undertake the institutional reforms needed to remove the “black sheep”, despite the fact that the most obvious link between transitional justice and institutional reform is precisely the introduction of a vetting procedure for state agents, notably the security and defense forces. 

However, the only sustainable way to pacify and secure the provinces in conflict, and turn the page on more than a quarter century of recurrent and devastating conflict, is precisely to embark on a profound reform of the security sector. As Thomas Sankara, the famous leader of the country of men of integrity, said: “Without patriotic training, a soldier is a potential criminal”. Let’s hope that the population will show a real patriotic surge to save the Nation, which is in existential danger!

Dr. Denis Mukwege 

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

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