Congo: No Pay, No Slay



Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

September 3, 2009: The UN and Congolese government are trying to forge a common strategy in the eastern Congo. The UN refers to the program as the “integrated joint strategy” for combating the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and other militias. If it sounds like a riff on counter-insurgency operations (COIN), that's because it is. The joint Rwanda-Congo offensive against the FDLR destroyed several FDLR units and scattered the rest, but the FDLR has reconstituted, and may have between 5-6,000 fighters (roughly the force it had in January 2009). The FDLR has used intimidation tactics and conducted reprisals against tribesmen who provided the government and UN with intelligence during the joint offensive. However, the fact the FDLR continues to operate in the areas indicates they have a support network. While some tribes are sympathetic, the logical support network for financing FDLR operations is “third party mineral buyers.” That's a bureaucrat term for traders illegally dealing in rare minerals found in eastern Congo (the term “trading in conflict minerals” is used to describe the illegal business). A genuine integrated strategy would use police, financial institution, and international agencies to seize the mineral buyers assets and eventually prosecute them.

August 31, 2009: A group of armed men attacked homes belonging to two government officials. Investigators said the attacks were direct attempts to intimidate the ministers and the attackers left messages warning them that they would die if they testified against former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is on trial in the International Criminal Court for war crimes.. Both government ministers had been members of Bemba's Congo Liberation Movement (MLC) political party. Bemba is regarded as current president Joseph Kabila's key opponent.

August 29, 2009: The UN reported that during the month of August, attacks by Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) fighters in Orientale province (north-east Congo) have forced 125,000 people to flee. The most intense assaults occurred in Haut Uele district, where the town of Dungu is located. The Dungu area has been the scene of several LRA attacks on homes and schools. The UN command estimates the LRA has killed 1,270 people in Orientale since December 2008, when Uganda and the Congo attacked LRA sanctuaries in north-eastern Congo. The UN estimates that 500 LRA fighters are still out there.

August 28, 2009: A Congolese Army unit in eastern Congo reportedly rioted over a pay issue. The unit was in the town of Uvira (South Kivu province) and had been involved in an operations against the FDLR. A Congolese government official described the trouble as “mutiny.” At least fifty soldiers were demanding four months back pay. The trouble began August 26 when the soldiers put up roadblocks around the town.

August 25, 2009: FDLR militiamen attacked the village of Nyakabere (South Kivu). The UN reported two Congolese soldiers were wounded and three FDLR fighters killed in the attack. The FDLR burned 50 houses. This was mainly about stealing cattle and goats, a looting expedition intended to get food for militia fighters as well as intimidate tribesmen.

The UN reported that a number of former Burundian National Liberation Forces (FLN) fighters appear to be joining the FDLR in the Congo. The men are ethnic Hutus and the FDLR is a predominantly Hutu organization. FDLR leaders played major roles in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where Hutu extremists killed Tutsi tribesmen and moderate Rwandan Hutus. The FDLR allegedly promises to pay former Burundian guerrillas $500 to join up. That is big money.

August 19, 2009: The UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) headquarters announced that it expects substantial reinforcements to arrive by October 31, 2009, with 2,785 soldiers and 300 more police officers selected for duty in the Congo. Most of the military contingent will come from Egypt (an infantry battalion with attached special forces), Bangladesh (an infantry battalion with additional engineers), and Jordan (a special forces unit). MONUC requested additional troops for service in eastern Congo and in the north-east (the area where the LRA is active).

August 13, 2009: Suspected Mai Mai militiamen allied with the FDLR attacked the town of Mpama (North Kivu province). At least 16 people died in the incident and several dozen were injured, though a UN estimate said “up to 40” people were killed. Mpama is near the big Bisie tin mine (cassiterite). According to a government report the militia force did not attack the mine. Actually attacking mines in the Congo is considered to be stupid, even by the militias. It is something akin to the “don't attack oil facilities” rule that operates in the Middle East, at least among Middle Eastern governments (though that rule is frequently broken). Militias still manage to extort money from the mines by threatening to launch attacks on mineral shipments (attacks on convoys) or threatening to mine the roads.




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