Foreign aid officials in eastern Congo are accusing the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militia of illegally burning trees in the Virunga National Park in order to produce charcoal. Charcoal for cooking is an important product and one that it easy to sell. FDLR fighters market the charcoal in eastern Congo. FDLR’s charcoal turns up in markets elsewhere in Congo. How much does the FDLR make from its charcoal operation? No one is quite certain, but it could be as much as $30 million a year. Other militias and private armies also make and sell illegal charcoal but FDLR is the most prolific operator.
June 25, 2016: In the east (South Kivu) soldiers arrested 75 men belonging to the Jesus’ Army militia and accused them of participating in the mass rape of 30 young women. One of those arrested was Frederic Batumike, a member of South Kivu’s provincial legislature and believed to be one of the senior leaders of Jesus’ Army.
June 23, 2016: Foreign aid groups are organizing an emergency yellow fever vaccination effort on the Congo-Angola border. This is supposed to start in early July and contain a yellow fever outbreak in a 100 kilometer long border area to protect Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. So far 15 million doses of vaccine have been delivered to Angola to support the operation.
June 21, 2016: The International Criminal Court sentenced former Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison. Bemba was convicted of allowing his subordinates in the MLC (Movement for the Liberation of Congo) militia to commit war crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.
June 20, 2016: Foreign aid workers identified at least a thousand cases of yellow fever in the east. So far five people have died from the disease.
June 17, 2016: In the east (North Kivu) UN peacekeepers killed seven (and wounded 11) local Kobo and Nande tribesmen belonging to a rogue tribal militia. The militia was trying to interfere with food aid shipments to Hutu refugees in a refugee camp. The Kobo and Nande contend that the Hutus in the camp support the violent Hutu FDLR rebel group. A local Hutu leader claimed that on June 13 a Kobo and Nande militia attacked a village and killed four Hutus.
In the south (Katanga province) at least nine people (six M23 rebels and three soldiers) were killed in a fight outside a demobilization camp for former members of the M23 rebel movement. The soldiers were trying to stop former rebels from leaving their demobilization camp when one of the rebels killed a soldier with a machete. The rebels claimed soldiers shot first and killed M23 men.
June 15, 2016: Burundi’s security situation remains unstable and a repetitive cycle of violence is apparently already in progress. Political supporters of President Nkurunziza who physically intimidate members of the political opposition are the chief culprits.
June 13, 2016: In Congo opposition parties are once again trying to unite to stop what they say is President Kabila’s inevitable attempt to secure a third term. The Congolese constitution limits a president to two terms. Kabila’s second term ends on December 19. The national election to replace is scheduled for November 2016. A group of opposition political leaders gathered in Brussels, Belgium and signed a new unity pact on June 10. Since the pact was signed Kabila’s government has accused the opposition leaders of attempting to overthrow the government.
June 12, 2016: Rwanda has expelled 400 Burundians back to Burundi. That brings to 1,700 Burundians expelled in the last five weeks. Rwanda argues that the expelled Burundians are security risks. Rwandan authorities accused one individual in the latest group of being a spy. Burundi contends that Rwanda is expelling Burundian refugees in order to trigger unrest in Burundi.
June 8, 2016: France has punished five of its soldiers who were accused of beating up two civilians while deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital of Bangui. The French government said that it has three on-going investigations into accusations that French soldiers in the CAR sexually abused children. France has its own peacekeeping operation in the CAR, Operation Sangaris. The CAR was once a French colony. Operation Sangaris began in 2013. At one time 2,500 French soldiers participated in Sangaris. Currently 900 are deployed in the CAR. France announced in March that it will terminate Operation Sangaris in December 2016. At that time some 300 French troops will transfer to the UN MINUSCA peacekeeping operation in the CAR.