Congo: Outlaws In Charge

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June 6, 2016: A major political ally of Congo President Joseph Kabila has openly suggested holding a referendum to change the constitution and let Kabila hold additional terms as president. Changing the constitution and allowing Kabila to retain the presidency is a very contentious issue and it could ignite another civil war. Donor nations and the UN have demanded that Kabila obey the constitution and over power after the November 2016 elections. If he decides to run for a third term he will violate the law. Kabila, however, does not care. He and his supporters continue to argue for delaying the election. The ostensible reasons are lack of money (budget issues) and logistical problems. The real reason is that Kabila supporters control key government offices and they have intentionally failed to meet election support deadlines. As president, Kabila controls the government’s patronage system. He has insured that he has his supporters in positions to delay the election and prevent a new government to get elected and fire them (or worse) because of mismanagement and corruption. (Austin Bay)

June 3, 2016: Political tensions continue to increase in the Congo where opposition political leaders are now saying Congo needs a “national unity government” to replace Kabila. The constitutional limit on the number of presidential terms (no more than two) guaranteed all political parties that they would eventually have their chance to control the executive branch. Power would rotate, democratically. Limiting presidential terms was a key agreement that went a long way to ending the Great Congo War. The basic agreement was reached in December 2002. Now Kabila is undermining the constitution and violating the agreement. Many donor nations regard honoring presidential term limits as an indication of democratic progress and threaten to withhold aid if Kabila goes rouge.

June 2, 2016: The Congo government has agreed to register the former M23 rebel group as a legal political party. M23 has named itself the Alliance for the Salvation of the People.

June 1, 2016: Several towns and villages on the Congo-Uganda border have now been split between the countries. A joint border demarcation task force has re-drawn the border in an area where clashes have occurred frequently over land ownership. One area the new survey focused on was the border between Congo’s Oriental province and the Arua district in Uganda. Armed incidents occurred in these areas in 2009 and 2015. One Ugandan woman suddenly found her home in the Congo. She is a registered voter in Uganda and the rest of her family lives in Uganda. Apparently neither government has offered to help her move.

May 31, 2016: A federal court decision made on May 11 continues to cause political turmoil in Congo. Congolese security officials and international security advisers believe that the court decision will further radicalize Kabila’s opponents. They expect opposition demonstrations throughout the summer and fall. The federal constitutional court ruled that current President Joseph Kabila could remain in office past November 2016 if the presidential election does not take place on time. Opponents are howling and contend Kabila supporters influenced the decision (they probably did). For over three years opposition activists have said that they will not accept any move by Kabila to have a third term.

May 30, 2016: Moise Katumbi, Congo’s chief opposition leader and Joseph Kabila’s most powerful political opponent, has left South Africa and gone to Great Britain. Let’s follow the events. On May 5 Katumbi announced he would run for president in the November 2016 elections. Then a government prosecutor indicted Katumbi for alleged involvement with hiring mercenaries. The prosecutor involved then agreed to let Katumbi leave the country to seek medical care. On May 20 Katumbi left the Congo claiming he needed medical treatment. It appears Katumbi has opted for exile over jail.

May 28, 2016: Seven major Congolese opposition parties -- the so called G7-- are trying to find a temporary leader. Announced presidential candidate Moise Katumbi had been the leader. However, he left Congo on May 20 as a result of government pressure.

May 27, 2016: Men armed with AK-47s murdered a Ugandan man who as fishing on Lake Albert. Locals believe the gunmen came from Congo. The gunmen also took several local men hostage and then murdered one of them. There have been disputes over fishing rights on the lake. However, investigators were not certain about the motive for the murder though it could be tied to the May 23 incident where Congolese troops allegedly killed four Ugandan policemen. Bandits also occasionally extort money from fishermen.

May 26, 2016: The government claimed that a joint Congolese Army-UN operation in North Kivu has killed 23 rebels from the Ugandan ADF/MDI (Allied Democratic Forces/Moslem Defense International). The operation began in early May. Five rebels have also been captured as well as several weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Elements of the UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) are involved in the operation.

Congo opposition parties have called for more protests against President Joseph Kabila’s attempts to secure an illegal third presidential term and many Congolese voters responded. A political protest in the North Kivu city of Goma turned violent. One protestor was killed in what observers called a “running battle” between protestors and security forces. Two protestors were wounded and at least 59 arrested. In the national capital security forces fired teargas grenades and broke up an opposition political march.

May 25, 2016: Armed gunmen kidnapped two aid workers in North Kivu province.

May 23, 2016: Uganda claim Congolese soldiers killed four Ugandan policemen who were patrolling the Ugandan side of Lake Albert. The Ugandan government has called on the Congolese government to arrest the soldiers who committed the crime.

European Union governments are responding to requests by Congolese opposition political parties that increased international pressure be brought on president Kabila to obey the law. EU foreign ministers issued a request to the Congolese government to “revive” the presidential election process. Revive suggests the EU officials think the election process is almost dead.

May 19, 2016: A government prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Congo’s chief opposition leader, Moise Katumbi, who is also is a potential presidential candidate and one who could beat Kabila in a fair election. The prosecutor charged Katumbi with hiring foreign mercenaries. The charges are trumped up and intended to intimidate Katumbi and his supporters.

May 15, 2016: The security situation in Burundi remains unstable. Supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza continue to physically threaten and intimidate the political opposition. Several UN Security Council members still support deploying a UN police force to Burundi to help stop outbreaks of violence.

May 14, 2016: The UN Security Council is debating what to do about what UN investigation teams found when they looked into destabilizing activities in Central Africa. Allegedly, a Congolese Army general, (Muhindo Akili Mundos), recruited and armed members the ASF (Allied Democratic Forces) terrorist group and had them kill civilians in an area his forces were supposed to be protecting. He also provided his terrorist hit team with Congolese Army uniforms. If true, this is an explosive charge. This report may be a follow-up on allegations made in February 2016 after a UN-sponsored investigation found evidence that 18 Burundian rebel operating in eastern Congo were recruited from a refugee camp in Rwanda and then trained by military instructors. Rwanda denied the allegations and noted that several western nations had concluded that Rwandan government support for Burundian rebels ceased in 2015.

May 13, 2016: Congolese opposition leader and presidential candidate Moise Katumbi has hired an American law firm to help secure U.S. support for free and fair presidential elections in the Congo. Katumbi announced he would run for president on May 5.

May 12, 2016: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was sworn-in for his fifth term in office. Opposition political parties still dispute the vote results of his recent re-election. Museveni came to power in 1986 after waging a successful guerrilla campaign.

May 11, 2016: Congo President Joseph Kabila got the court decision he wanted. Congo’s constitutional court has ruled that he can remain in office beyond November 2016 if the presidential election is delayed. The ruling sparked protests in the capital, Kinshasa. Political opposition leaders denounced the court ruling as a sham.

May 8, 2016: Congo authorities now believe ADF/MDI l terrorists killed 38 in the May 3 attack on a village in the Bukavu region.

May 7, 2016: Congolese security forces have arrested General Leopold Mujyambere, the former deputy commander of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. He was traveling in a vehicle. Police arrested him in what was called “a routine stop.”

May 6, 2016: FDLR rebels in eastern Congo have freed three Red Cross workers they kidnapped on May 3. The Red Cross said the workers would return to the city of Goma (North Kivu province) within 24 hours.

May 5, 2016: Former Katanga province governor Moise Katumbi has announced that he will run for president in November. He will be a formidable candidate. However, on May 4 the government announced that it intended to arrest Katumbi.

May 3, 2016: An armed group attacked a village in the Bukavu area (North Kivu province). Local officials identified the attackers as members of the ADF, which now also calls itself the Moslem Defense International (MDI). The UN confirmed 17 people were murdered but the death toll could rise.

 

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