Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila's government is describing the defection of some lawmakers to join renegade army general Laurent Nkunda's rebel group treasonous. Two members of parliament from the ruling party, as well as dozens of other local leaders in the restive north Kivu province reportedly defected to join the rebels in a move generating intense controversy. This comes after the renegade general declared his rebels are ready to take over the whole country.
The defecting officials declared an end to any cooperation with the province's recognized government or to President Kabila's administration, a move political observers say would undermine the government's influence in violence-prone North Kivu.
Journalist Jack Kahora in the North Kivu capital Goma tells reporter Peter Clottey that Congolese are expressing shock over the defection.
"In fact, there are some members of parliament who decided to join the rebels, as well as some members of the military establishment who also decided to join the rebels. We also found out that some members of the local administration also decided to join the rebels within the last few days," Kahora pointed out.
He said the reasons for the defection are not apparent.
"In fact, this is the question that everybody is asking because if you see for instance a member of parliament belonging to the ruling party in Goma, they can get up to four thousand dollars, and would have a car and so many advantages and privileges. But people are wondering what pushed these people to decide to abandon the government and join forces with the rebels, where nothing is clear or concrete," he said.
Kahora said there is speculation that the rebels might have coerced these officials to join their ranks.
"I tried to speak to some members of the civil society who were of the opinion that the defection could be attributed to the fact that the rebels are promising some advantages since they are sure that in the coming days the country could be divided into two parts. So, if this is the case, then these guys who defected would be in a good advantage position of running some parts of the new administration, or they could be appointed to very important positions in the coming days. So that is why they decided to defect from the government and joined the rebels," Kahora pointed out.
He said although the national government has been silent over the defection, the local government is expressing its strong opposition to the defection.
"We have not yet heard any reaction from Joseph Kabila's side. But at the provincial level, there was a press release from the provincial government, stating that the defection amounts to treason because they were elected by the people. Adding that the defector would be seriously sanctioned is an unfortunate and reprehensible act. It is, however, quite hard to understand that people who were on the government's side would switch sides to join the rebels. Some people are speculating that it may be they are seeing some wrong coming into play," he said.
Kahora said it seems the renegade general's recent pronouncement of taking over the whole country is taking root.
"Obviously, people in Goma and the whole region understand that maybe the reason why some of the people defected, despite all the privileges and the thousands of dollars they were receiving from the government, if they decided to defect from the government and join the rebels, then maybe there is a plan by the rebels to take over the country. I think that is why there are so many of the lawmakers defecting and joining the rebels," Kahora pointed out