The UN continues to criticize Congolese security forces. The UN has had some success putting pressure on Congolese officials to prosecute soldiers for theft, rape and murder. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also prosecuted several high profile cases involving militia leaders. However, the problem created by employing children in combat units (child soldiers, nearly all of them teenagers) continues. A recent UN study documented the case histories of 996 child soldiers over a 20 month time frame (2012-2013). Far more children were used as child soldiers, but the UN wanted to provide accurate data on who was recruited as well as when and where the recruitment occurred. The study provides a basis for looking at long term psychological effects.
September 2, 2015: Congo banned a documentary film about a Congolese doctor who founded and ran a medical program to care for women who suffered severe sexual abuse (usually starting with rape) by rebels and soldiers. Rape has been a major problem in areas where there has been a lot of fighting and the government likes to play down that aspect of the violence.
September 1, 2015: Eight Tanzanian Moslem clerics (imams) who were kidnapped in the Congo in early August have escaped to freedom. The men were seized in North Kivu province and confirmed that they had been kidnapped by the Rwandan Hutu rebel FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). A Congolese Army unit had engaged the FDLR band holding the imams. In the confusion, the imams ran and got away safely.
August 31, 2015: An armed group ambushed and killed six Congo Presidential Guard soldiers who were traveling in vehicles approximately 40 kilometers north of Goma (North Kivu province).
August 28, 2015: Reports from remote areas indicate the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is fading fast because of UN, Congolese and Central African Republic (CAR) efforts to find and destroy the decade’s old terrorist organization. In 2010 the LRA had 800 to 1,000 fighters while now they have fewer than 200. That said, LRA commander Joseph Kony still remains in the field. LRA fighters still raid villages in Congo and the CAR. LRA bands are involved in selling illegal ivory (blood ivory) gathered from poaching elephants in the Congo and the CAR. Ugandan authorities suspect the LRA was involved with a large 2014 shipment of illegal ivory seized in the capital. LRA bands still have access to safe havens in Sudan (South Darfur) where they can avoid surveillance by Uganda and the U.S. coalition. Reports continue to crop up that Sudan provides some supplies to LRA fighters. There are also reports that former Seleka rebel fighters in eastern CAR are in contact with bands of LRA fighters. Observers speculate that CAR Seleka (Moslem) rebels may trade with the LRA bands or provide them with food. (Austin Bay)
August 26, 2015: President Kabila signed parliamentary legislation that allegedly keeps the Congo on an election track recommended by the UN, Congo’s Independent National Electoral Commission and international observers. Local elections will be held October 25. Presidential elections are scheduled for November 2016. However, many Congolese believe Kabila still intends to find a way to evade the constitutional limitation and run for a third term.
August 21, 2015: The UN estimates that 180,000 Burundians are now refugees in Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Congo.
Under pressure from the UN a Congolese military court charged 18 Congolese soldiers with murder and rape. The crimes were committed in the east during the numerous battles with rebels there.
August 18, 2015: The ICGLR (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Regional Certification Mechanism) certified that 141 of 180 mines in the Congo are “conflict free.” To be certified a mine must not have armed groups on its premises (including the army). The mine may not employ child labor. The certification process is funded by several international sources.
August 15, 2015: A Congolese court charged 34 people in Katanga province with genocide. The accused are connected to ethnic violence between the Batwa (Pygmy) and Luba tribes. The UN estimates that since 2013 several hundred people in the Manono region (north Katanga) have been killed in inter-tribal warfare and scores of villages have been destroyed, most by burning. In 2013 Pygmy group objected to what it called Luba demands for forced labor from the Batwa tribe. Pygmies have long complained of secondary status in Congo and other Central African countries. The Katanga Pygmies also said other tribes were stealing their territory. The Pygmies demanded fair treatment and protection from the government. Many of these battles went unreported, though an attack by Luba fighters in April 2015 got some international headlines. Luba militiamen killed at least 30 (possibly 40) Pgymy adults and children living in a refugee camp. Pygmy fighters have launched their own attacks. Luba families report raids by Pygmies armed with machetes and bows and arrows.
Colonel Jean Bikomagu, a former senior officer in the Burundian Army, was murdered outside his home in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. Bikomagu is a Tutsi. Burundian Tutsis believe President Pierre Nkurunziza, a Hutu, is consolidating his grip on power.
August 14, 2015: Uganda and Kenya will work with a consortium to build a 1,500 kilometer long oil pipeline that will carry Ugandan oil across Kenya to the seaport of Lamu. The project has been discussed for a long time. Now the two countries have reached an agreement on the route. Originally Kenya planned to build a pipeline that ran through Narobi and on to the seaport of Mombasa. The Lamu route will make it easier to connect pipelines from South Sudan. Ethiopia will also play a role in the project. The pipeline will be heated so it can handle Uganda’s thick, high parafin oil.
August 12, 2015: On August 2 gunmen suspected of belonging to the FDLR kidnapped eight Tanzanian Moslem imams. Their Congolese driver is also missing. The FDLR gang is demanding $20,000 in ransom. A Congolese Moslem organization reported the imams were traveling through the Rutshuru in North Kivu province. Congolese officials feared the kidnapping would damage their good relations with Tanzania, which provides an infantry battalion for the UN’s elite Intervention Brigade (IBDE). The IBDE is helping Congolese forces target rogue militias, like the FDLR.
The UN has fired the head of its peacekeeping operation in the CAR. Officially Babcar Gaye resigned, but he was fired for failing to forcefully investigate allegations that some peacekeeping troops had raped CAR civilians. One peacekeeper is accused of raping a 12 year old girl. Gaye will be replaced by Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, a citizen of Gabon who previously headed the UN peacekeeping mission in Burundi. There are currently some 11,800 peacekeeping troops in the CAR.
August 11, 2015: Both the upper and lower houses of Rwanda’s parliament have ratified the constitutional amendment which allows President Paul Kagame’s to run for a third term.
August 8, 2015: A Rwandan peacekeeper in the CAR killed four other Rwandan peacekeepers and wounded eight before killing himself. The murders occurred at the Rwandan contingent headquarters in Bangui.
August 6, 2015: Burundi police reported five government ministers were murdered between August 2 and 5. The police said the government officials are being targeted by unknown assailants. However, the murderers were reportedly wearing the uniforms of various security forces. One of the men murdered on August 2 was General Adolphe Nshimirimana. He was at one time the head of military intelligence and Burundian Army chief of staff. He also served as an adviser to President Pierre Nkurunziza. Civil rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was murdered August 3.
August 5, 2015: The UN believes that security in the CAR is fragile. Though there has been some political progress, armed groups are able to take control of parts of the country. The Seleka movement controls a large swath of territory in eastern CAR. The UN’s peacekeeping force, MINUSCA, has troops deployed in 40 different locations.
August 4, 2015: Congo’s electoral commission said that elections for governors in Congo’s new provinces will be held October 6. Last month Congo increased the number of provinces from 11 to 26. The increase had been planned for over a decade.