Congo: The Third Time Curse Continues

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April 6, 2016: The UN decided not to reduce its peacekeeping force. This is an intentional slap at the government of President Laurent Kabila. The political opposition and many in the diplomatic community are convinced that Kabila will seek a third presidential term. This will violate the constitution and could reignite the civil war. The UN supports the constitution and has told Kabila to keep his word and hand over power to an elected successor. Kabila, however, appears to be determined to seek the third term and remain in power. He and his government have been demanding the UN reduce its peacekeeping force because he sees it as a potential threat to his plans. His government wanted the 20,000 soldier force cut in half. Well, the peacekeepers are a threat to his plans. The Security Council made its decision official on March 30 and extended the mandate for a 20,000 soldier force through March 2017. The Security Council was considering reducing troop strength by 1,700. However, for the past six weeks UN advisers in Congo have said that at least through the November 2016 elections and the end of 2016, MONUSCO (the UN peacekeeping force) needs to keep as many boots on the ground as it can get. France’s UN delegation all but made that explicit when it told the Security Council that retaining the troop strength would help support holding credible, peaceful and democratic elections" in November.

April 5, 2016: Violence continues for a second day across the Congo River in the smaller Republic of Congo. In the capital, Brazzaville a rebel force attacked a police station and a government office building. There were reports of street demonstrators chanting “Sassou, leave.” This refers to President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who won disputed election on March 20. He also ran for a third term, which, until he got the law changed, was illegal. The two days of violence have left at least 17 dead and over fifty arrested.

Congolese opposition leaders said that President Joseph Kabila claims his allies won 14 of 19 provincial governorships in the election held March 26. This positions Kabila to run for a third term. The opposition claimed that the elections were rigged to favor Kabila’s supporters.

April 3, 2016; Central African Republic's (CAR) new president, Faustin Archange Touadera (a Christian), has begun appointing key ministers. Touadera was inaugurated on March 30. Toudera has vowed to end sectarian fighting in the CAR.

April 2, 2016: MONUSCO is investigating allegations that Tanzanian soldiers serving as peacekeepers have committed rape and other sex crimes while serving as peacekeeper in Congo. The charges are explosive but so are the politics. Tanzanian soldiers have a good professional reputation. Tanzania provides one of the battalions in the Intervention Brigade (IBDE, one of the few UN peacekeeping units trained for attacking, not just defending).

April 1, 2016: Rebels killed a Congolese park ranger in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (eastern Congo). Officials reported the ranger was returning from mission to track endangered gorillas and he discovered a stolen and looted vehicle.

The UN Security Council voted explore the possibility of organizing a UN-sponsored police force for Burundi, which is currently on the verge of a civil war. In April 2015 President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term. That violated key elements of the peace agreement.

March 31, 2016: Prominent Congolese businessman and politician Moise Katumbi urged Congo President Laurent Kabila to not attempt to seek a third term. Katumbi has emerged as a serious candidate for the president of Congo. Katumbi is wealthy. He has a political record; he was governor of Katanga province, Congo’s wealthiest province. But he also owns the most successful football club (soccer) in Congo, which gives him extra notoriety in Congo and throughout Africa. The team he owns, TP Mazembe., won the African Champions League crown in November 2015. It was its fifth league championship in a row.

March 30, 2016: Opposition politicians in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) are accusing the government of vote fraud in the March 20 election that returned President Denis Sassou Nguesso to power. Sassou has ruled the Congo Republic for 32 of the past 37 years.

March 29, 2016: The Congolese Army reported that its forces engaged rebels in eastern Congo (North Kivu province) in a series of firefights over the last three days. Four soldiers died as well as at least 12 rebels from the FDLR and two Mai-Mai militias allied with the FDLR.

March 26, 2016: Burundi rebels claimed to have assassinated a Burundian Army lieutenant colonel in his defense ministry office in the capital (Bujumbura). This indicates the rebel group has access to supposedly secure government compounds. The rebel group, the Burundian Republican Forces (FOREBU), is led by a former Burundian Army intelligence officer, Godefroid Niyombare. Niyombare was involved in an attempted coup d’etat in May 2015.

March 25, 2016: UN peacekeepers in Congo used helicopter gunships to attack Ugandan ADF rebels in North Kivu province, near the Uganda border. The UN helicopters were engaged in a joint operation with the army. This is one of the first joint operations in several months (possibly the first), since the UN refused to conduct operations in areas commanded by two Congolese general officers accused of war crimes.

March 24, 2016: The Congo Republic (Brazzaville) announced that president Denis Sassou Nguesso won over 60 percent of the vote in the election held March 20. This means he will be president for another five years.

March 21, 2016: The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, Netherlands, convicted Congolese leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of war crimes. The charges included rape and murder by members of Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). Most of the crimes were committed in 2002 and 2003 in the Central African Republic.

March 22, 2016: A dozen gunmen wearing Congolese Army uniforms attacked a peace convocation in North Kivu province. The gunmen murdered a Catholic priest named Vincent Machozi, who ran a website which documented attacks on the Nande tribe. This was apparently the seventh attempt on Machozi’s life.

March 15, 2016: Citing political instability, South Africa’s parliament is questioning the country’s investment in Congo’s huge Grand Inga hydroelectric project. South Africa is helping pay for the hydroelectric project on the Congo River and transmission lines from Congo to South Africa. The power lines would pass through Zambia and Zimbabwe, which South Africans also regard as unstable. South Africa may withdraw from the project.

March 18, 2016: UN investigators reported that Congolese soldiers participated in three murderous attacks on civilians in the town of Beni (North Kivu province) during October 2014 and March 2015. The Congolese government had blamed these attacks on Ugandan ADF rebels.

March 13, 2016: A militia group murdered two Congolese Park rangers in the Virunga National Park (eastern Congo, Uganda border area). The government described the militia group as a coalition militia operating on the shores of Lake Edward. An estimated 120 fighters are in the militia coalition.

March 12, 2016: Troopers in Uganda’s Police Special Operation and Military Intelligence Unit are tracking 13 suspected Allied Democratic Forces rebel fighters. Uganda believes the rebels infiltrated from Congo on February 23. The ADF fighters were sighted on February 28.

March 11, 2016: The US government condemned Uganda’s “post-election environment.” This is semi-polite diplo-speak for saying that the government is behaving badly. The Ugandan government has detained opposition political leaders and physically intimidated journalists.

 

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