FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebels are in bad shape since UN (MONUSCO) peacekeepers and Congolese soldiers began an offensive against them during the last week of January. The government made an official announcement on January 29, but troop deployment started earlier in the month. The UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) is expected to play a major role in the operation. The UN had set a January 2, 2015 deadline for the FDLR to surrender unconditionally or face the consequences. The FDLR failed to surrender.
FDLR leaders and political supporters (most of them based in Europe) have had several meetings in Tanzania since December 2013. Two senior FDLR commanders met in Tazania in March 2014. The UN investigators reported that in October 2014 they asked the Tanzanian government about the visits and Tanzania assured them that it is not hosting rebels and its military has not met with any rebels. The Rwandan government and international investigators claim to have evidence that FDLR commanders have traveled outside of Africa using Tanzanian passports. Those could have been obtained illegally. Rwandan media still point out that in the past Tanzania referred to FDLR rebels as “freedom fighters.” The FDLR’s radical Hutu founders played central roles in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
February 2, 2015: Now another potential problem regarding Tanzania’s relationships with the FDLR is worrying MONUSCO administrators. Tanzanian officials have given the UN a mixed message about confronting the FDLR. An elite Tanzanian infantry battalion serves with the IBDE. Other Tanzanian units serve with MONUSCO. However, Tanzania’s foreign minister recently told African media that if the Congo government failed to use its forces to expel the FDLR then Tanzanian forces would “not comply with the UN directive to take immediate military action against the rebels." Tanzania’s president then told the UN that his country’s troops will support efforts to stop the FDLR. However, he did not define “support.”
January 29, 2015: Central African Republic (CAR) rejected a purported ceasefire agreement signed by several violent local militia groups. The militias want amnesty in exchange for a ceasefire. The government, however, contends the militias are responsible for the carnage and devastation they caused over the last year. Most of the militias are religion based.
January 27, 2015: European media claim that witnesses saw Burundian Army shoot and killed rebel fighters who were trying to surrender in a recent incident. The Burundian Army troops allegedly killed 17 rebels after they surrendered on January 5.
January 26, 2015: South Sudan’s government reported a particularly brutal attack on a convoy near the town of Raga (Western Bahr al-Ghazal state). 11 people were slain in the attack, four were wounded. The dead were hacked to pieces by the attackers. Security officials believe the attackers were members of the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA used to regularly launch raids in South Sudanese territory. Over the last three years the number of attacks attributed to the LRA in South Sudan has declined. Most LRA attacks in 2014 occurred in the Congo or the Central African Republic (CAR).
January 25, 2015; The Congolese parliament approved a new electoral law. The law does not have the highly controversial clause that the Congo’s political opposition feared would give president Joseph Kabila the power to delay the 2016 national election. Parliament’s decision was seen as a political defeat for Kabila. The UN and many nations who supply Congo with loans and donations had opposed the controversial provision which called for completing a national census before the next presidential election. When Kabila proposed the law earlier this month, riots broke out in several parts of the country.
The parliament also passed a law that officially increases the number of Congolese provinces from nine to 26. The increase, authorized by the 2006 constitution, had already occurred unofficially. The change is an attempt to improve government administration. The change however is vehemently opposed in Katanga province. Katanga is large and wealthy (all the mines) and does not want its power diminished.
Ugandan security officers have seized a major shipment of illegal ivory. Officers discovered boxes containing over 700 kilograms (1,6oo pounds) at Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport. The boxes had labels which claimed they contained communications gear. One container had 76 tusks. The boxes were supposed to be shipped to Amsterdam. Officials estimated that the ivory was worth $1.5 million on the black market. Officers also seized around two tons of pangolin skins. Chinese traditional medicine practitioners prize pangolin.
A senior CAR official was kidnapped in the CAR capital, Bangui. The government minister’s abduction follows the abduction of a UN staff member and a French NGO worker. Though the UN worker was released shortly after being kidnapped, CAR government and UN officials said the kidnappings reflect the chaotic situation in the country.
January 23, 2015: Two Rwandan police officers have been sentenced to 20 years in prison for their role in the murder of an investigator working for Transparency International (TI). The investigator was looking into corruption allegations. He was murdered in July 2013 in the town of Rubavu (Rwanda-Congo border). The TI investigator reportedly discovered that the policemen were involved in smuggling minerals. TI officials told the Rwandan government that the sentence is too lenient given the crime was murder.
January 22, 2015: European and American diplomats urged the government of Congolese president Joseph Kabila to reconsider an electoral law that has led to nation-wide protests. Of course “reconsider” is diplo-speak for “don't do it!” The government recommended the law to parliament on January 19. Since then demonstrations have broken out in several Congolese cities. The protests have been deadly. One opposition group claimed government forces had killed 42 demonstrators. The government said that police had shot 15 looters. This is just about the perfect example of the opposition press release versus the government press release in sub-Saharan Africa.
January 20, 2015: The U.S. government congratulated the Central African Republic for transferring control of arrested LRA commander Dominic Ongwen to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The U.S. has consistently claimed that Ongwen turned himself in to security personnel serving with the African Union Regional Task Force (AU-RTF). It is very likely he turned himself in to UN soldiers, though Ugandan troops may have been aware that Ongwen had decided to defect. However, rebels belonging to the CAR’s Seleka movement claimed they played a role in Ongwen’s capture and demanded the U.S. give them the five million reward money the United States had placed on Ongwen’s head. The Americans said, very firmly, no.
January 19, 2015: The very low-level insurgency in Angola’s Cabinda enclave rates little media attention. However, it still occasionally flares up in violence. The FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda) recently issued a press statement claiming that its fighters attacked two Angolan Army units in Cabinda on December 20, 2014. This FLEC ambush of an army vehicle killed four soldiers. On December 22 its fighters skirmished with an army unit near Ntataba and killed one Angolan soldier.