Congolese soldiers, most of whom are former rebels have not been paid for the last six months, have revolted. They now disregard orders to attack Hutu rebels and are stealing from the locals. Yesterday, the revolting soldiers fired at the UN army base in northern Congo.
The act of mutiny by the soldiers is said to be taking place because Congolese senior army commanders are keeping the wages of the lowly-ranked soldiers.
As a result of having no pay, the soldiers have been reported to resort to stealing and looting from the villagers they are assigned to protect. The locals in the region are worried about their safety, possesions as well as their food supplies.
On Wednesday, the soldiers in Ngora village refused to follow orders and pursue Hutu rebels from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) into a neighboring village. They rather fired in the air for almost an hour-and-a-half.
About 27 of the renegade soldiers have been arrested after firing on the UN base in northern Congo. Reports claim that such insubordination has become common amongst the soldiers in the last week in North Kivu, Congo. “There is a risk of a potential disintegration of the Congolese army. The situation needs to be dealt with urgently,” a UN insider in Congo is quoted.
Most of the Congolese soldiers are former members of the Tutsi-dominated rebel militia, the Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), who were integrated into the national army. “There has been a fast-track integration of the CNDP and we are now seeing the results. The commanders are getting the money but not distributing it,” a UN spokesperson has said.
In may, Congo passed a law granting amnesty to militias in the east of the country. The new law includes acts of war committed since 2003 but does not offer amnesty to those accused of war crimes such as rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.
The former rebel leader General Nkunda remains in detention in Rwanda since his arrest in January. His rebel movement has appointed a new head and is to be officially recognised as a political party.