Congo: Peacekeepers And The Epic Fail

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

January 31, 2012: Poverty, corruption, and several low-level battles (which still result in thousands of refugees) continue to plague the Congo. The re-election of President Joseph Kabila proved to be another source of instability as his opponents claimed the vote tally was rigged and that Kabila’s supporters intimidated opposition supporters in order to reduce opposition turn-out. When Kabila was sworn in on December 20, 2011 the army had to deploy tanks through the capital in order to stop protests from becoming violent. The capital is a political strong-hold of chief opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi (who claims he actually won the November 2011 election). Tshisekedi heads the Union for Democracy and Social Progress Party (UDSP).

As 2012 began, UN peacekeeping officials with MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo) returned to the theme of creating stability in the Congo. Indeed, Congo needs stability. UN peacekeeping forces have been fighting and disbanding rogue militias with the aim of promoting stability. UN and other international groups have been training Congolese police, with the same aim in mind. However, the allegations levied by Kabila’s opponents, of vote fraud and misuse of national security forces, has heightened tensions. The fact that most Congolese political parties reflect tribal affiliations (some more so than others) adds another dicey dimension. Political squabbles become tribal battles. Arab Spring 2011 also had effects in sub-Saharan Africa. There have been demands in neighboring Uganda and Rwanda that long-serving presidents and officials step down. Some Congolese are making those demands, especially about corrupt officials, and they point to Arab Spring as a guiding example.

January 20, 2012: Militia attacks in North and South Kivu provinces, from early December 2011 to mid-January 2012, have displaced 100,000 civilians. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has continued to commit atrocities in the provinces (rape and murder). The core cadre of the FDLR consists of Rwandan Hutus who were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

January 4, 2012: An FDLR faction had murdered 26 people in several attacks in South Kivu province. The FDLR group attacked and burned several villages in the Shabunda region (jungle area) on January 2 and January 3.

January 1, 2012: Eight people were killed in an attempted mass escape from a prison in Bukavu (eastern Congo). Four of those killed were Congolese soldiers while 44 were injured. A jailed Congolese army officer had acquired a hand grenade. An accomplice was supposed to throw the grenade toward a prison door as the escape attempt began. The grenade blew up in the accomplice’s hands.

December 21, 2011: Congolese police have killed 24 people since November’s highly disputed presidential election with 20 of those killed in the capital.

December 19, 2011: Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi disputed official election results which claimed that President Joseph Kabila won 49 percent of the November vote total and Tshisekedi got 32 percent. Since Election Day Tshisekedi has accused the Kabila government of stealing the election. Tshisekedi has called on Congolese security forces (police and army) to quit following Kabila’s orders. Tshisekedi is reportedly considering forming a rival government and has issued a statement that he is the only legitimate authority in the Congo. The 79 year old Tshisekedi has been part of the Congo’s political scene for a long time. At one time he served as a minister in the government of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

December 18, 2011: The government has deployed 20,000 Congolese Army soldiers in and around Kinshasha. The government is worried that violence may erupt because of the disputed November 2011 election.

December 4, 2011: Several militias in the eastern Congo have acquired new weapons and are recruiting new members. That means the militias have new (or renewed) financial support, likely linked to sales of illegal minerals mined in the Congo. Corruption in the Congolese Army is also a contributing factor as poorly paid soldiers take bribes from mineral smugglers or engage in smuggling themselves. This is another indication that attempts to stop the trade of conflict minerals are not working as planned. Activists who advocated the legislation and sanctions to stop the illegal trading remind everyone that some of the stiffest laws do not take effect until 2012.

November 29, 2011: Several Congolese opposition political candidates for president of the Congo urged the government to completely cancel the election. Voting began on November 28 and continues but the opposition leaders said that the vote is rigged. There were also reports of violence marring the election, including the murder of four people in the city of Lubumbashi (Katanga province, southern Congo). There were also reports of seriously voting delays caused by threats of violence (numerous places around the nation).

 

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