Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
October 15, 2007: Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has
refused to obey a government ultimatum that he surrender control of his Tutsi
militia. Nkunda insists that negotiations continue, and his demands that
illegal Hutu militias, led by war criminals who fled neighboring Rwanda a
decade ago, be disbanded. The government refuses to negotiate any more, and
says it will now use force to disarm Nkunda's men. But Rwanda, run by a Tutsi
government, has indicated that it might react violently if Nkunda were harmed.
In the 1990s, a Rwandan invasion of eastern Congo triggered the current civil
war. The Rwandan Tutsi are the best soldiers in the region, but they are
outnumbered by the Congolese army and 17,000 UN peacekeepers.
October 13, 2007: Ituri province has been the scene
of some of the worst fighting in the country, with 60,000 people killed since 1999. Most of the dead slain in
"militia warfare." Over 500,000 people have been forced to flee their
homes. These are big numbers, in and of themselves. However, only four million
people live in the province. That means 1.5 percent of the entire population has
been killed. In the US that would translate into the deaths of four and half
million people. "Militia violence" is a bit misleading. Many
"militias" are simply gangs. Some militias, however, are
tribal-based. For example, the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) is really a
Heam tribal militia. Much of the worst violence has been between the Hema and
Lendu tribes. The Hema are cattle-raisers and herders (pastoralists). The Lendu
are primarily farmers (agriculturalists). That is an ages old recipe for trouble;
the pastoralists complain about the agriculturalists' take-over of their lands,
the agriculturalists object to the pastoralists' use of their farms as grazing
land. The Hema also consider themselves to be cousins to the Tutsis. The Lendus
regard the Hutus as their kin. This "ethnic split" adds another
dimension to the fight: the Tutsi-Hutu battles in neighboring Rwanda and the
1994 Tutsi genocide. In 1999, the Hema got a useful ally, the Ugandan Army. The
Ugandan military occupied portions of Ituri province, ostensibly as a de facto
peacekeeping force. It is worth noting, however, that many Lendu refugees were
given sanctuary in Uganda when they fled attacks by the Hema and other militias
operating in Ituri. The Gegere, Bira, and Ngiti tribal groups have also
deployed tribal forces that are nominally militia groups. In North Kivu
province, rebel general Laurent Nkunda claims he is fighting for the rights of
Congolese Tutsis, known as the Banyamulenge.
October 11, 2007: The government reported that its
troops had engaged Laurent Nkunda's forces in North Kivu province near the town
of Mushake. The government report said that Nkunda had received reinforcements
in "the battle for Mushake." Nkunda counts the Mai-Mai militia as an
ally. It appears Nkunda then launched a counter-attack. The fighting began on
October 10. Apparently a Congolese Army brigade moved into the area earlier
this week following a declaration on October 8 by Nkunda that the ceasefire
negotiated in September had been "abandoned." The UN and the Congo
government both said that negotiations are underway to restore the ceasefire in
the Mushake area. The Congolese government claimed that 85 rebels had been
killed in various operations in North Kivu this week.
October 5, 2007: Several guerrilla groups operating
in the eastern Congo seem to have a lot of money, and some of the militias are
"well paid," by Congo standards, with militiamen receiving up to $250
a month. This may all be rumor, but there are still a lot of people, countries,
and corporations interested in Congolese resources - organizations that could
afford to keep a militia on the payroll.
Fighting in North Kivu province had produced 5000
new refugees within the last week.
September 27, 2007: Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has
been again accused of recruiting child soldiers. Nkunda's rebel brigades
allegedly raided ten secondary schools and took "children by force."
The children are sometimes armed, but frequently they are used to carry
supplies like food and ammunition.