Congo: The Rot At The Top

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November 30, 2015: Congo opposition leaders insist president Kabila is preparing to remain in power even if he is prevented from running for a third term. Article 220 in the Democratic of Congo constitution limits a president to two terms. Kabila is trying to get it changed. His opponents are pointing to Kabila’s recent visit to Zimbabwe. He met with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe who is basically Zimbabwe’s president for life. Opponents claim Kabila is seeking Mugabe’s help. Zimbabwe maintained a military force in the Congo during the Great Congo War (1998-2003). The opposition views that meeting with Mugabe as an indication that Kabila might use military and police force to remain in power. That is what Mugabe does. Kabila is trying less violent political gambits. Several of his political allies are insisting that Congo must hold a valid census before it conducts a national election. That would delay elections at least six months. That would give Kabila more time to rig a constitutional referendum. Another delaying tactic is Kabila calling for a “national dialog” (meetings with the opposition to discuss the dispute). The opposition does not want a dialog they want the scheduled 2016 national elections and they want Kabila to abide by the results and not try and rig the vote. The opposition is also calling for Kabila to stop using the security forces to harass the opposition. This increasingly involves arresting opposition leaders on false charges.

November 29, 2015: Northwest of Congo Burkina Faso held its first elections in 28 years. This came after the 2014 overthrow of the dictator who ruled the country for 27 years. This is part of a trend in the region, a trend that is being resisted by dictators and elected leaders who want to keep the job for life.

November 27, 2015:  At least 11 people have died in fighting in eastern Congo. Authorities believe a Mai Mai militia fought with a group of FDLR rebels near a village in North Kivu province. This may be a case where a Mai Mai militia was defending its own turf or acting as a village defense force. One civilian was killed in the crossfire. Seven FDLR rebels and three Mai Mai fighters died in the battle. The army has been conducting an anti-FDLR operation in the area.

Burundi security police report seizing a large number of weapons following an attack on the Bujumbura home of a presidential adviser, Zenon Ndaruvukanye, who was not harmed. His bodyguard was slain. The attack is being called an attempted assassination. Police captured a truck used by the attackers. The weapons haul included automatic weapons, grenades and rocket propelled grenades. Police arrested two suspected attackers. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term ignited protests in April and sparked a coup attempt in May.

November 25, 205: France announced that it will deploy an additional 300 special operations troops in Congo. The French government said that the contingent will be tasked with helping destroy the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group. UN peacekeepers estimate ADF rebels have killed 450 people in the last year.

November 23, 2015: Heavy rains are threatening the lives of Burundian refugees in Tanzania. At least one refugee camp is flooded. Relief agencies report supplying the refugees with food and medical aid is difficult. There are 110,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania. Most of them fled the country after the May 2015 failed coup.

November 22, 2015: Rwanda and Congo have signed an agreement to co-develop natural gas deposits in the Lake Kivu area. The agreement stipulates that both countries will protect the lake’s water quality and environment.

November 21, 2015: Rwanda announced that it will ask Burundi to explain an allegation that an FDLR group is using Burundian territory. Burundi has denied the allegation.

November 19. 2015: The South African military has relieved 47 South African peacekeepers serving with UN forces in eastern Congo. The soldiers may face more than relief; the announcement call the action a dismissal. The soldiers allegedly violated a curfew which compromised the security of their unit and other peacekeeping forces. Media speculated that the soldiers were caught visiting a night spot in the city of Goma (North Kivu province capital) that also attracts prostitutes. South Africa has 1,388 serving with the UN peacekeeping force. The South African force is the backbone of the UN Intervention Brigade (IBDE).

UN officials have concluded that Congo’s peacekeeping contingent in the Central African Republic (CAR) has severe problems. The officials are using diplo-speak to reduce the sting but basically Congo’s peacekeepers are ill-trained. During a deployment assessment, the entire Congolese force was rated unsatisfactory. Congo has 809 troops and 123 police serving with the CAR peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA).  In August three Congolese soldiers were accused of raping three CAR women.

November 18, 2013: UN officials claim three Congolese Army soldiers raped 14 women in South Kivu province between September 20 and September 22.

Police in Kinshasha (Congo’s capital) have been battling violent student protestors for two days.  Protests began after students learned that school tuition will increase. The government denied that an increase will occur but student leaders have printed registration forms which show the increased tuition and increased fees.  One protest attracted a thousand students.

November 17, 2015: The UN said it will transfer 300 Senegalese soldiers to peacekeeping duties in the CAR.  Officials gave instability in the CAR as the reason for the decision. The UN command in the CAR has said it needs more soldiers to protect civilian areas from attacks by rebel militias. The Senegalese force is a light infantry unit currently serving with the UN quick reaction peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast.  Light infantry means it can be quickly airlifted to the CAR. The Senegalese contingent will serve in the CAR for at least eight weeks.

November 16, 2015: The International Criminal Court (ICC) said that it intends to begin the trial of former Lords resistance Army (LRA) Commander Dominic Ongwen in late January. Ongwen is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. There were rumors that Ongwen’s trial would be delayed.

November 13, 2015:  Gunmen in the CAR killed at least 22 people in a series of raids on villages. The report did not identify the attackers, but the gunmen usually belong to one of two types of militias.  The Seleka militias are predominantly Muslim. Fighters in the anti-balaka militias come from predominantly Christian tribes. Both groups are guilty of attacking innocent civilians.

November 10, 2015: Police fought with protestors in Lubumbashi, the capital of Congo’s Katanga province. At least 15 were arrested. The protestors were demonstrating against President Joseph Kabila and his alleged plan to ignore the constitution and run for a third term.

November 9, 2015: The UN Security Council ordered the UN Intervention Brigade (IBDE) to conduct joint operations with the Congolese Army to eliminate local and foreign armed groups operating in eastern Congo. The Security Council mentioned the following groups: the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR); the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF); and the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI). The FRPI would be classified as local (domestic). The other three have foreign connections. The FDLR was organized by radical Rwandan Hutus who were involved in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The LRA are Ugandan rebel organizations.

November 8, 2015: Authorities reported evidence of elephant poacher activity in Congo’s Garamba National Park.  No specific incident was referenced, which suggests security forces may have detected a band of poachers before they struck. The park has 120 rangers who serve as game wardens, trackers and occasionally as special forces. A small but permanently assigned Congolese Army contingent supports the park rangers. At least 200 elephants have been killed by poachers in Garamba since April 2014 when the park held an elephant census and counted 1,780 elephants. In 1995 the park and its surrounding area contained an estimated 11,000 elephants.

November 6, 2015:  Republic of Congo (the smaller Congo west of the much larger Congo) President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has claimed victory in the October constitutional referendum.  The amended constitution now permits Sassou-Nguesso to run for a third term. Opposition leaders continue to claim the referendum was seriously flawed. Only ten percent of registered voters voted.

November 3, 2015: An operation against the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) that began in October is continuing in eastern Congo. MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade is apparently leading the operation. The UN insists the operation is not a joint operation, though Congolese Army forces are in the area. At least one IBDE element is operating near the town of Beni (North Kivu province).  Beni is west of the Virunga National Park, where the ADF has had base camps.

November 2, 2015: Uganda officially confirmed that the Ugandan Army completed its withdrawal from South Sudan on October 30. The last departing convoy consisted of twelve trucks and five light armored vehicles.

 

 

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