Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
August 29, 2011: MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) has a current strength of 18,997 uniformed personnel. The figure breaks down as follows: 17,010 military troops, 746 military observers, and 1,241 police. The uniformed personnel are supported by around 4,000 civilians (mostly UN staff and local staff).
August 25, 2011: A man who worked as an official vehicle driver for the UN’s Congo mission has been convicted of smuggling illegal minerals. He was sentenced to three years in jail. He tried to smuggle 1,200 kilos of cassiterite from Congo’s North Kivu province into Rwanda.
August 22, 2011: No big surprise. The Peoples Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) has nominated current president Joseph Kabila as its candidate in the upcoming November election. The PPRD is the ruling party.
August 16, 2011: Complaints from the Congo are growing about the U.S. legislation intended to stop illegal mineral sales. The Dodd-Frank bill (also called the Obama Law) has a clause that prohibits the sale of so-called conflict minerals may have been well-intentioned but it was not well-thought out. Rather than run the risk of buying any minerals that might have been smuggled from the Congo, many major mining companies are simply refusing to buy minerals from central Africa. The result is a de facto embargo. There are few buyers for Congo’s valuable minerals, especially tantalum and tungsten which have many hi-tech uses. This has damaged the Congo’s economy, because the nation relies on mineral exports. According to some sources, China, which does not have to meet Dodd-Frank standards, is snapping up many minerals at very cheap prices.
August 15, 2011: Debt is a global worry. However, Congo’s debt burden is particularly high. The country has a GDP of around $13 billion and international debt of $13 billion. Several international donors are trying to get the debt burden reduced. Congo can handle a debt of about four billion dollars. That will mean refinancing or cancelling from eight to nine billion dollars of debt.
August 5, 2011: UN investigators believe that they have sufficient evidence to prove that about a hundred Congolese Army soldiers participated in a mass rape of 47 women in January 2011. The rapes occurred in the villages of Kalambahiro and Bushani (North Kivu province, eastern Congo).
August 1, 2011: Government security forces arrested a Congolese Army colonel on charges of smuggling. The colonel was nabbed red-handed. He was leading a convoy carrying around ten tons of cassiterite. The convoy was in South Kivu province and was on its way to North Kivu province. Presumably the convoy was heading to Rwanda.
July 31, 2011: The Angolan government announced that it intends to improve its surveillance of the Angola-Congo border. For several years Angola has tried to stop a constant flow of illegal immigrants from the Congo. In 2009 Angola expelled almost 70,000 illegal Congolese immigrants.
July 27, 2011: Several aid NGOs operating in the Congo’s northeastern provinces have complained that the area remains unprotected. The Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army continues to launch raids in the area. The NGOs point out that the UN only has 850 peacekeeping troops in the region (out of over 17,000 in country).
July 25, 2011: Over 100 people fled the Congo and sought shelter in Uganda after what was described as a joint attack by the Congolese Army and the Ugandan Army on a rebel force operating along the Uganda-Congo border.
July 23, 2011: The UN Security Council condemned the Lord’s Resistance Army for launching more attacks in the Congo. The UN reported that the LRA launched 53 attacks in June 2011, killed 26 people, and kidnapped another two-dozen.
July 18, 2011: The government reported that over 30 million people are now registered to vote in the November 2011 presidential election.
July 15, 2011: The UN estimates that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) now has around 3,000 fighters operating in North and South Kivu provinces and in Katanga province. This makes the FDLR the largest rebel militia still operating in the country.
July 6, 2011: Criticism of Dodd-Frank conflict minerals bill continues to increase. Small, independent miners (artisanal miners) in the eastern Congo have been hit very hard. What little local economy existed has been severely damaged. There are also reports that corrupt soldiers have used the government directive to stop illegal mining as a reason to kick the independent miners out of the mining districts. The corrupt soldiers then take control of the mines and begin smuggling operations.