Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
August 12, 2007: An estimated
30,000 to 35,000 children (usually defined as a combatant of 15 years age or
less) fought with various armed groups during the Great Congo War (1998-2003).
After two years of demobilization, it's believed that 4,000 "child soldiers" are
still in serving in some rebel groups and in militias. Most of the child
soldiers are located in the eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Ituri
provinces). There are also some child soldiers in Congo Army units. Many of
these Congolese brigades were rebel or opposition militias only a short time
August 12, 2007: The refugee situation in Ituri province
(northeast Congo) has improved. There are currently 153,000 refugees (aka
displaced people) in the area, down from
approximately 210,000 five months ago.
August 11, 2007: The UN
Security Council decided to honor a request made by the Congo government that
the government no longer be required to inform the Security Council's sanctions
committee in advance when it was taking weapons deliveries in the eastern
Congo. This may sound a bit technical, but the sanction was imposed in order to
encourage greater accountability of weapons transfers. The ban on sales and
transfers to rebel miltias remains in place. The Congo will still inform the UN
and MONUC of government weapons shipments in the east, but need not inform them
in advance of the shipment.
August 9, 2007: The government
admitted that its troops had fired on an oil exploration boat on Lake Albert on
August 3, killing a British geologist. The soldiers, however, were responding to shots fired from Uganda.
The government accused the oil company
(Heritage Oil) of "illegally exploring" for oil on Lake Albert. Last week, Uganda
accused Congo of killing the geologist and starting a firefight that at first
involved the oil company's security personnel and then Ugandan Army soldiers.
Congo at first said the attackers were "gunmen." Now the government admits its
soldiers participated in the shootout and one soldier died in the incident. The
government still maintains the oil boat was in Congolese waters. Four Ugandan
soldiers were captured after the incident. The soldiers were released and
returned to Uganda on August 6. Congolese are especially touchy when Uganda is
involved in anything that includes the potential theft or abuse of Congolese
natural resources. Congo has demanded that Uganda pay a ten billion dollar
indemnity for theft and plunder of resources during the Great Congo War.
Uganda, however, contends that the boat was in Ugandan waters. Uganda has
already produced a colonial era map that places Rukwanzi Island (in the
immediate area of the firefight) within Ugandan waters.
In eastern Congo, men in
uniforms detained and killed a Congolese photojournalist, on assignment for a
Congolese newspaper and the national news agency. Several Congolese journalists
have died this way recently.
August 8, 2007: Ugandan and
Congo agreed to conduct a joint investigation of the August 3 shootout on Lake
Albert. The Congolese and Ugandan militaries will form a joint investigation
team. The Ugandan and Congolese militaries also agreed to increase the number
of liaison officers operating with their respective forces.
The UN "suspended" five staff
workers. The staff workers are suspected of corruption involving contracts with
companies supplying or supporting UN operations in the Congo.
August 4, 2007: The UN began
the third phase of its Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
program in the Congo's Ituri province. There are nine DDR centers in Ituri.
Bangladesh soldiers are operating four of them, Pakistani and Nepalese soldiers
two centers each, and Moroccan soldiers are manning one.