Optimism About Regrouping Among Disbanding Congolese Rebels

Remember those other rebel groups  operating in the Eastern DRC who aren’t rebel-groupthe FDLR? Apparently, they no longer exist. According to IRIN, 18 rebel groups signed an agreement declaring their simultaneous dissolution.

Mai Mai spokesman Didier Bitaki is optimistic about disbanding, particularly because it offers the opportunity to re-band:

“We have signed this document, which some are calling a death certificate for armed groups, but that does not mean that there are no more [armed] groups on the ground because each one justifies itself through patriotism, either for families or villages or to protect goods. Once threatened, they tend to take up arms,” said Didier Bitaki.

“Mayi-Mayi is a state of mind that means we can sign ourselves into non-existence today but tomorrow, because of dissatisfaction or frustration or a threat, we cannot, as Congolese people, be stopped from organising ourselves to resist,” he added.

Nothing more trust-inspiring than an implicit promise to regroup.

Bitaki makes an important point though: rebellion and violence have become an embedded social logic in the Congo. Mayi-Mayi is a way of life. It is a structured social system with a complex moral cosmology historically grounded in the Simba movements of 1960s Katanga, the Masisi rebellion of 1930, and early 1900 rebellions of East Africa that is’t going to disappear with another proclamation.  The same goes for many of the signatory groups.

That said, this new declaration will give time for these militias to rest and regroup. And on top of that, I’m sure they made cool commemorative pens for the event.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Optimism About Regrouping Among Disbanding Congolese Rebels

  1. Maybe. Bitaki’s only a spokesman for his specific Mai Mai group. The Mai Mai aren’t a centralized organization in the same sense as the other armed groups in the region. It’s a catch-all term for local defense militias, some of whom are willing to disband for now. Others I strongly suspect are not.

  2. grant

    Absolutely, there are many different Mai Mai factions and it is unclear which Mai Mai groups signed up at the showing and who is still marauding around armed. I do think there are some interesting unifying elements among all of the Mai Mai groups – identification with the ‘Congo’ as a historical motherland, medically-oriented protection cosmologies, etc – that will be useful in exploring if, and when, disarmament takes place.

    It will be interesting to see how this proclamation re-orients and shifts alliances between different Mai Mai factions.

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