Congo: Presidents Are Forever

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December 31, 2015: The UN believes that the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) has lost nearly half of its personnel in 2015. The FDLR was organized by radical Rwandan Hutus who were involved in the 1994 Rwanda genocide of the Tutsi minority. Driven out of Rwanda by the Tutsi counterattack the FDLR continued to operate in eastern Congo on the Rwandan border despite constant Rwandan complaints (and occasional military action). Congo was never able to muster the will or military forces to shut down FDLR. UN peacekeepers helped change that in the last few years and by early 2015 FDLR was believed to have less than 2,000 members. By the end of 2015 over 700 FDLR members had surrendered or been captured. Most of these happened in the last two months of 2015. Several hundred FDLR members had been killed in combat, died or deserted in 2015. There were some new recruits, but not many. FDLR is fading away, but not yet gone.

December 30, 2015: Across the border in the smaller Republic of the Congo the government announced a new date (March 20 2016) for presidential elections. These were originally planned for July 2016. In October voters approved a constitutional change that allow the current president (in office 1979-1992 and from 1997 to now) to run again. Being president-for-life is popular (at least for presidents) in Africa.

December 29, 2015: Congo’s November 2016 presidential election is definitely the coming year’s big event. The UN’s entire peacekeeping effort hangs in the balance if president Kabila decides to run for a third term. Though the Congolese constitution forbids a third term, it looks like running for a third term is exactly what Kabila intends to do. In the past two months many close allies have left the ruling coalition and accused Kabila of seeking to delay the elections or delay preparation for the elections. The tactic is called glissement (sliding or slippage). Kabila is hesitating because another batch of politicians are threatening to leave to coalition if he does announce he will seek a third term. The political scene is being set for a renewed civil war, one fought on tribal and regional lines. The tribal breakdown is immediately evident. However, Kabila has firm allies in various provinces. This could lead to intra-provincial civil wars, fought on tribal but also political lines. That creates a situation where Congo’s neighbors might decide to intervene --again-- in provinces on which they border. The current constitution helped end the Great Congo War of 1998-2003. It was a tool for establishing trust in the central government. Kabila has been in power since 2001. Supporting honest elections and peacefully turning over power would make Kabila a statesman. Instead, Kabila is showing every sign of undermining the constitution and destroying trust, for the sake of retaining power. (Austin Bay)

December 26, 2015: Several thousand supporters of Burundian president Nkurunziza protested the African Union’s (AU) announcement that it may send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi.

December 24, 2015: The Central African Republic has decided to postpone elections until December 30 because ballots are late in arriving at polling stations.

December 22, 2015: Burundian security forces are accused of systematically killing dozens of people on December 11. The entire death toll for the day is now put at 87. Eight of the dead were members of security forces (police and military). The majority of the dead are Tutsi, the minority tribe in Burundi. As usual, the government disputes the accusations. It agrees that 87 people were killed. Most of them were rebels who were killed attacking three military installations. Two of the installations were located in the capital, Bujumbura.

December 19, 2015: Congolese political leaders (27 so far) have formed a coalition (Citizen Front 2016) to prevent president Kabila from obtaining a third term. The coalition includes a potential opposition candidate, Moise Katumbi.

December 17, 2015: Colonel Bayanda Mkula is the second in command of the UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) and the commander of South Africa’s contingent serving with the IBDE. In a recent interview he said that many armed groups in the eastern Congo wear uniforms that are indistinguishable from those worn by the Congolese Army. This has led to some problems. One wonders if misidentification of rebels played a role in the November 30 Allied Democratic Forces attack on a UN garrison and two small villages in North Kivu province.

December 16, 2015: Over 200,000 Burundians are now refugees in other countries. The vast majority of refugees are in three neighboring countries: Rwanda, Tanzania and the Congo.

December 15, 2015: The UN and Congolese government still must demobilize and reintegrate over 11,000 current and former rebels and militiamen. UN advisers argue that job training for former rebels is critical, otherwise they will be tempted to return to the bush as either rebels or bandits. Members of the rebel groups who surrendered are complaining that they were promised job and skill training. The UN estimates that it needs over $100 million to fully fund the program. Distrust in the Kabila government and its notorious corruption is making donors wary.

December 11, 2015: Unidentified armed men launched pre-dawn assaults on at least three military bases in Burundi. Some police garrisons may have been attacked as well. Two of the military installations assaulted were in the capital, Bujumbura. After the attacks, government forces restricted movement throughout the city. However, scattered gunfire continued throughout the day. The government claimed that 12 attackers had been killed and 20 arrested in the Bujumbura area. There are reports of several civilians being killed in the city.

Security forces in Congo arrested a former radical Hutu leader who was involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Ladislas Ntaganzwa is accused of murdering several thousand people and of organizing mass rapes. International organizations have called him one of the chief instigators of the genocide, which was largely aimed at Rwandan Tutsi tribespeople. The U.S. placed a $5 million reward on his head.

December 10, 2015: The Congolese Army operation in the Beni area (North Kivu province) continues. In the last two weeks a Congolese Army unit has engaged members of the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group and claimed it killed at least 21 rebels. Meanwhile, the UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) also continues anti-ADF operations in the area. The UN is coordinating all operations in the area with the Congolese Army.

December 9, 2015: At least seven people were killed in the Burundi capital of Bukumbura, in violence authorities said was related to the political turmoil incited by president Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term in office. Five of the people were murdered by men in police uniforms.

December 8, 2015: The UN is investigating allegations that Uganda purchased weapons on behalf of the South Sudan government. Uganda bought at least four Mi24 Russian attack helicopters (from Russia). The aircraft are now allegedly in South Sudan.

December 7, 2015: The Burundian government claimed that “assassins” are targeting government political supporters, opposition party members, journalists and senior members of the military. There has been a lot of speculation about who is behind the sporadic murders and occasional attacks on security forces. Security forces have raided several sites throughout the country and have seized numerous weapons. The government has been reluctant to name a single rebel organization. One reason is that there are members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party who oppose President Nkurunziza's decision to change the constitution in April 2015 and then seek a third term. His decision to remain in office threw the country into turmoil. Nkurunziza won an election in July 2015. His critics now refer to his third term as Nkurunziza’s presidential extension.

December 6, 2015: India confirmed that it is deploying 140 members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force to the Congo. This is the tenth rotation of members from the elite border police unit. It is a paramilitary police organization. The contingent will be based in Bunia.

December 4, 2015: Muslim fighters allegedly aligned with the Seleka movement killed eight people in a CAR (Central African Republic) refugee in central CAR. Peacekeepers in the area killed five of the attackers and wounded two. One peacekeeper was wounded.

December 1, 2015: South African Rooivalk attack helicopters participated in attacks on Ugandan ADF rebels in North Kivu province. The helicopters are part of the UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE). The UN did not confirm or deny press reports that the helicopters had struck ADF base camps in the area. This looks like a case of quick payback. The IBDE helicopter attacks came the day after a particularly gruesome attack by the ADF on the town of Eringeti. The ADF also attacked the garrison at Makembi and at least one other village in the area. The UN peacekeeper killed in the attack was identified as member of the Malawi battalion of the IBDE. The UN confirmed that other members of the IBDE were wounded in the attack and added that ADF attacks in the area continued for ten hours. The attack on the garrison pinned down the peacekeeping contingent so it could not aid the civilians. The ADF killed at least 31 civilians in its various attacks.

November 30, 2015: The Congolese Army reported that Ugandan ADF rebels killed 24 people when they launched a surprise attack on the town of Eringeti (North Kivu province). The dead included one UN peacekeeper and four Congolese soldiers. Seven civilians who were in a hospital clinic were hacked to death with machetes. Eringeti has a population of around 2,000 and is the site of a small medical facility. There is a small military garrison in the area at Makembi that is sometimes used by the UN’s IBDE. The ADF launched a similar terror attack on the town in October 2014.

 

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