Congo: Less Violence, More Electioneering


: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
July 20, 2006: The FNI militia organization, in Ituri, decided to turn in its arms and apply for amnesty. The FNI (Front des Nationalistes et Integrationnistes) had earlier gained some notoriety when it abducted several UN peacekeepers. The FNI leadership requested that their gunmen be integrated into the Congolese Army. The FNI fielded 1000 militia fighters. The FNI surrender means over 4000 militiamen have turned in their arms since mid-June.
July 19, 2006: CIAT (International committee to Support the Transition, ie , transition to democracy) issued a statement that said the Congolese Army and the presidential guard should be confined to their bases on election day, July 30. Many NGOs and observers have concluded the Congolese Army is "too politicized" to be trusted to keep the peace on election day. The presidential guard has 15,000 troops -- so it is a sizeable force. CIAT recommended that international peacekeepers and Congolese police handle the security duties. As it is, there are too few real security troops available to fully protect voters on election day.
The July 30 election is a huge political event. The ballot in the capital city of Kinshasha is also big-- literally. Western press sources reported that the ballot will be six pages long with the names and photos of 800 candidates. That's right, 800 candidates for 17 seats. 500 seats in parliament are up for grabs nation-wide.
July 18, 2006: The German troop contingent, for the Congo election, is now deployed. Germany has 780 soldiers serving with the EU election-protection force in Congo.
July 17, 2006: Pre-election violence is increasing and in a country the size of Congo, there just aren't enough peacekeepers and trained police to go around.. Unidentified gunmen shot and killed seven people who were participating in an election rally in the town Rutshuru in Kivo province (eastern Congo). The rally was being held for independent candidate Jean-Luc Mutokambale. On July 17 four people died when a gunfight erupted at a political meeting in Kinshasha.
July 14, 2006: Uganda claimed that the rebel Allied Democrstic Forces (ADF) is recruiting child soldiers inside Congo. The successful amnesty program has reduced the number of rogue militiamen operating in eastern Congo. That means there are fewer counter-militia operations by UN peacekeepers. Uganda claimed that the ADF is "using the break in operations" to rebuild and regroup. Ugnda fears the ADF will use the eastern Congo as a base area.


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