Congo: Gold, Gorillas and Grievances

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September 1, 2023: Congo’s ruling party, UPDS, confirmed Congo President Felix Tshisekedi will be its candidate in the 2023 election. The general election is scheduled for December 20. The announcement was a formality. Tshisekedi will also head the UDPS through 2028. The UPDS intends to solidify its hold on power. UPDS will run 495 national legislative candidates for the 500 parliament seats. Martin Fayulu is Tshisekedi’s chief rival and has strenuously objected to the current electoral commission’s members and decision-making process. He says it is biased in favor of Tshisekedi. A substantial number of Fayulu’s supporters continue to dispute CENI’s (Independent National Electoral Commission) decision to name Tshisekedi the winner of the December 30, 2018 presidential election. Well into 2019 Fayulu maintained he won the election outright, and several independent election observer groups agree. Congo’s Catholic Church had evidence Fayulu was the landslide winner with about 60 percent of the vote. Moise Katumbi is also expected to run against Tshisekedi in this year’s election.

Uganda is repairing and upgrading a branch of the old British-built East Africa rail network. The network ran from the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa to Uganda. Parts of the network were built in the first decade of the 20th century. It has not been used for some 40 years. China was supposed to finance the new rail network. However, earlier this year Uganda canceled a contract with a Chinese firm to build a new modern standard gauge railway (SGR). That would have cost over $2.2 billion. The upgrade will cost about $56 million. Uganda is paying for the upgrade with government funds. The government is hiring a Chinese firm to restore the railroad. The restored 382-long kilometer section will run from the town of Tororo (eastern Uganda, near the Kenyan border) and run to the town of Gulu (northern Uganda). (Austin Bay)

August 31, 2023: In the east (North Kivu province) violent protests the city of Goma against the ineffective UN peacekeeping efforts left at least 48 died, including one policeman, and 75 people wounded.

August 28, 2023: In the east (Ituri province) CODECO rebels are believed responsible for an attack on a commercial mining camp near the Ugandan border. Thirteen people were killed and nine wounded. The attackers looted the camp and carried away gold, portable equipment and several workers to carry the loot.

August 27, 2023: In the east (Ituri province) CODECO rebels attacked a church in a fishing camp and killed nine civilians and one of the soldiers on guard. Four CODECO gunmen were also killed.

August 26, 2023: In the east (North Kivu province) near the Ugandan border, Ugandan soldiers killed a much wanted leader of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) rebels. Because ADF operates on both sides of the border, so do the Ugandan soldiers pursuing them. Congo tolerates this because the ADF is a problem on both sides of the border.

August 25, 2023: The U.S. imposed individual sanctions on six Congolese and Rwandans it accused of “exacerbating violence in eastern Congo.” The accused belong to militias operating in eastern Congo, with North Kivu province the primary operational area. Bernard Byamungu, chief of intelligence for the M23 (March 23 Movement) militia, is among the individuals sanctioned.

In Burundi the government continues to commit atrocities against citizens and refuses to hold perpetrators responsible. The government also refuses to allow foreigners to investigate the atrocities and interferes with those who do try to investigate.

August 23, 2023: In the east (North Kivu province) EU (European Union) began operating an “air bridge” to bring desperately needed supplies into the city of Goma. Eight flights from Europe will bring 180 tons of medicine and food by August 31.

Fortunat Biselele, a former private adviser to President Tshisekedi, was acquitted of espionage charges. Biselele was arrested in January 2023. The prosecution charged him with treason based on dealing with Rwandan intelligence officers. His lawyer said that the court completely cleared Biselele of the charges. Biselele favors economic cooperation between Congo and Rwanda.

August 22, 2023: Congo foreign observers report that since May 2023, the government has been targeting opposition leaders by restricting fundamental freedoms and arbitrarily arresting opposition party officials on false charges.

August 21, 2023: The Central African Republic’s (CAR) Constitutional Court validated the results of the July 30 constitutional referendum. The referendum ended presidential term limits. However, many CAR citizens and international observers think the referendum was rigged.

August 19, 2023: SADC (The Southern Africa Development Community) will deploy a new peacekeeping force in Congo. It will also extend its military mission in Mozambique. The announcement follows a UN statement that it will accelerate the withdrawal of peacekeeping troops serving with MONUSCO.

August 18, 2023: Congo is suffering from its worst cholera outbreak in six years. From January to the end of July 2023, Congo had 31,342 suspected or confirmed cholera cases. 230 died from the disease. North Kivu province had 21,400 confirmed or suspected cases. More than 8,000 of those cases were children under the age of five.

The Ugandan Army announced that its soldiers operating in eastern Congo have killed at least 548 ADF rebels and captured 50 while 31 surrendered. The Ugandans also rescued 156 civilians held by the ADF.

August 16, 2023: Uganda accepted 16 former LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) rebels after they were repatriated from the CAR and flown to Uganda.. The 16 arrived with their families. This is the second group of LRA fighters repatriated from the CAR. The first group of 14 arrived in July. A Ugandan government source said the fighters had denounced LRA senior commander Joseph Kony and their participation in the two decade long rebellion.

August 12, 2023: In the southwest (Kwango province, bordering Angola) Mobondo militiamen killed at least ten people in an attack on their village. The attackers used guns and machetes. The Mobondo belong to the Yaka tribe while the Ipongi are from the Teke tribe. Foreign observers believe that from June 2022 to March 2023 at least 300 people died in violence between the Teke and Yaka.

August 10, 2023: Malawi is seeking emergency funds and donations to feed more than 50,000 refugees who are crammed into the Dzaleka Camp. This is the only refugee camp in the country. Most of the refugees in Dzaleka are from Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia. The government says the camp will run out of food by December 2023. Foreign aid groups have already cut food supplies because of funding shortages. The government says it needs an additional $6.3 million in order to feed the refugees through June 2024. There are also about 8,000 refugees living outside the camp and are regarded as illegal migrants by the government that they are trying to relocate.

August 8, 2023: The vote count on the CAR’s constitutional referendum has been completed. The government said 95 percent of the voters backed all of the constitutional changes. However, evidently fewer than 10 percent of eligible voters voted. Opposition parties boycotted the election, calling it a “constitutional coup.” The major constitutional change: the president can run for office as many times as he likes. President Faustin-Archange Touadera has the backing of a contingent of Russian Wagner mercenaries.

August 7, 2023: in northeastern Congo (North Kivu) rebel and terrorist groups killed at least 21 people between August 4 and August 6. M23 rebels are responsible for most of the attacks while The ADF Islamic terrorists conducted at least one attack in the area.

August 2, 2023: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) there are an estimated 10,000 local Batwa tribesmen and their families living in makeshift encampments on the edge of the KBNP (Kahuzi-Biega National Park) nature reserve. The park was created in 1970 as a protected area for gorillas. But the park is on traditional Batwa land. Because Batwa are hunter-gatherers, not dedicated farmers, they depend on KPNP land. Since 2019 the government ordered the Batwa to move to protect the gorilla population. The government promised new land, healthcare and other facilities for the displaced Batwa but nothing has happened. The Batwa are angry and moving back into the KPNP.

July 30, 2023: The EU imposed individual travel and financial restrictions on nine people, seven of them M23 members, accused of atrocities in eastern Congo.

July 29, 2023: The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) declared an epidemic of cholera, shigellosis and salmonellosis in the city of Dolisie (western Republic of Congo). So far there are 30 confirmed and 63 suspected cases of cholera.

July 28, 2023: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) the government accused Rwandan soldiers of launching an attack to support the M23 rebel militia.

 

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