Congo: The Chinese Deal

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

April 16, 2009: The UN believes that the situation North Kivu province is improving, albeit slowly. The arrest of General Laurent Nkunda by Rwanda and his removal from power in the CNDP is one reason, but other armed groups have also indicated that they are now willing to negotiate with the government. As a result, armed incidents have decreased. That said,  the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) still have scattered groups in North and South Kivu -- and may have as many as 800 fighters still at large. Northeastern Congo, however, still has significant security problems and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is responsible for many of them. An LRA band struck a village in the Ituri region. The government and UN both report that small groups of LRA fighters have dispersed from Garamba National Park in a violent arc stretching west into the Central African Republic (CAR). Congolese in the region fear that the LRA is regrouping and could try to move back into the national park. The UN now says that the LRA has killed 1,100 Congolese civilians since mid-December 2008 when Uganda and Congo (with the aid of South Sudan) launched a joint offensive against the LRA.

April 14, 2009: The UN reports that the FDLR has put together a "hit list" which targets civilians who helped the Congolese government and Rwanda attack earlier this year. The "reprisal list" is a typical tactic for gangster militias as well as terrorist organizations. For that matter, more than a few genuine guerrilla groups and authoritarian governments fighting them use the tactic as well. The Rwandan Army seemed to have pretty good intelligence during its operations inside Congo and that suggests they had good intel from locals tired of FDLR depredations.

April 9. 2009: UN peacekeepers have complained to the Security Council that they do not have enough helicopters to do the job in the Congo. For example, MONUC does not have the helicopters it needs to send troops quickly to areas threatened by LRA rebels. MONUC commanders argue they need 18 additional troop-carrying helicopters in order to provide a minimum of "rapid reaction" protection in eastern and northeastern Congo. UNAMID (UN peacekeeping effort in Sudan) has a similar problem and has been asking for helicopters for almost two years. MONUC also wants member nations to contribute more special operations soldiers. The SOF troops would deploy in the eastern Congo and conduct surveillance missions as well as liaison missions with local defense and security forces.

A Congolese Army unit fought with a Mai-Mai militia near the town of Bukavu (South Kivu province, eastern Congo). The government believes that some Burundian rebels belonging to the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) were also involved in the firefight. The Mai-Mai force attacked a jailhouse and freed several prisoners. A running gunbattle developed. Two Congolese soldiers were killed and eight militia died in the gunbattles. An attack was also made on a Congolese Army supply depot-- suggesting that the militia and perhaps the Burundians were after weapons. Over in Burundi the FNL has a very uneasy relationship with the Burundian government. The Burundian Army recently found a large FNL arms cache and the FNL may be asking its "friends" for assistance in acquiring new weapons.

April 3, 2009: The UN said that MONUC is focusing on protecting civilian populations in the Congo. The UN said that in the wake of successful government and UN operations against them, militias and rebel forces were threatening reprisals against civilians. The UN is emphasizing training of local police. UN peacekeepers will take an active role in stopping attempts by the FDLR to resupply its remaining fighters in eastern Congo.

April 2, 2009: Fighting began breaking out on March 30 in the Ituri district (northeastern Congo). a militia calling itself the Popular Front for Justice in the Congo (FPJC) attacked two villages southeast of the city of Bunia. The FPJC is a splinter faction of a larger force, the Revolutionary Front for Peace in Ituri (FPRI). A UN refugee coordinator said that the FPJC and FPRI have been fighting with one another and that the FPRI had launched what was described as a "counter attack" south of Bunia. If the situation sounds confused that's because it is. Most of the reports come from frightened refugees fleeing the militia violence.

March 30, 3009: The government has sent an additional 3000 Congolese Army troops to the Garamba National Park area. Around 100 UN soldiers are also part of the new deployment. The reinforcements are tasked with providing security to villages in and around Garamba threatened by Ugandan LRA fighters.

March 28, 2009: Despite the mounting criticism from opposition politicians, and the dismay of international lenders and donors (including the International Monetary Fund), the government insists it will go ahead with "the Chinese deal." China has agreed to build infrastructure in the Congo in exchange for mining concessions. The agreement, reached in 2007, is valued at nine billion dollars.

 

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