In late 2016 Congo intends to begin construction on what is known as the Inga 3 dam at Inga Falls on the lower Congo River. Inga 3 is the first section of the Grand Inga “mega-dam” project that will produce hydro-electric power. Inga 1 and Inga 2 dams already exist but are old (1980s) in need of repair and not nearly as effective as the new Ingo 3. The entire Grand Inga project will eventually be able to produce around 40 gigawatts of power, which will make it the world’s largest dam in terms of hydro-electric production. Inga 3 will produce as much power as 20 electricity-generating light water nuclear reactors. If all sections of Grand Inga are completed and operational Congo will be able to produce roughly 40 percent of Africa’s electrical power. This is more than Congo can use and much of the energy will be exported. South Africa has already agreed to be a major customer for power generated by the Grand Inga. The entire dam project is expected to cost about $100 to $110 billion. However, few people believe that and $150 billion is considered more likely. Despite the cost, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has been a major advocate for going ahead. Pro-development organizations say Grand Inga will “light Africa.” The large reservoir behind the dam complex will force resettlement of an estimated 60,000 people. Some have already been resettled. It is no surprise that the Grand Inga Dam Project (Inga 3 and the expansion) has produced another clash between development advocates and critics in donor countries. Some of these foreign critics are quite upset by the dam’s size and the resulting destruction of habitat. Some donor nations have complained about the resettlement process. The government says the country needs the energy. A Congolese economist recently pointed out that commodity prices are currently low and commodities are the backbone of Congo’s economy. Congo relies on selling minerals and agricultural commodities. Central Africa and the Sahel to the north need electricity. The Grand Inga Project can supply the electricity because only the Amazon River has more flow than the Congo River. Inga Falls is the largest water fall in the world in terms of volume of water. Congo will become an electrical energy exporter, which will be a more reliable, long term source of income. That is a good argument. However, endemic government corruption presents a problem. The dam and its hydro-electric facilities must be built to rigorous engineering standards. Many developmental advocates are aware of this. They point to the dilapidated conditions of Inga 1 and Inga 2 as evidence of poor maintenance and possibly poor construction, both the usual result of chronic corruption. (Austin Bay)
July 29, 2016: Chantal Ramazani, the judge who approved the June conviction of leading presidential candidate Moise Katumbi admitted that she was forced to convict. Katumbi was prosecuted for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to three years in prison. Latumbi is currently out of the country and within weeks of the conviction judge Ramazani distributed a letter revealing the government plot to obtain a false conviction by threatening her and her family. After releasing the letter on the 25th Ramazani and her family went into hiding. The government has denied Ramazani’s version of events but most Congolese believe it.
July 28, 2016: In Burundi (50 kilometers east of the capital) a group of uniformed and armed rebels entered a tavern and robbed the patrols of cash and cell phones. As they departed the rebels fired on their victims, killing two of them. Police later caught up with the rebels and killed one but the others escaped. Elsewhere in the area police arrested sixty men suspected of being rebels because they were using three busses to reach southern Burundi, where rebels are known to be assembling. Police also found 160 uniforms, four AK-47s and a thousand rounds of ammo. The government keeps claiming that all rebel groups have been destroyed but the rebels keep reappearing.
July 25, 2016: The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has sentenced opposition political leader Paulin Makaya to two years in prison for participating in a protest demonstration against the constitutional referendum held in late 2015. This unpopular change in the constitution allowed the current president (Denis Nguesso) to ignore term limitations and become president-for-life.
July 23, 2016: Six people were killed (three hacked to death with machetes) in ethnic violence in the Bwalanda area (North Kivu province) of Congo. Hutu, Nande and Hunde militias operate in the area.
Police in Burundi have arrested three people suspected of murdering a former government minister (Hafsa Mossi) on July 13 in the capital.
July 21, 2013: The UN demanded that Congolese president Joseph Kabila release all members of the political opposition currently in prison. The UN did not release a list of specific names but there are currently several dozen political opposition leaders and other critics in jail. Kabila may have gotten the message because within 24 hours he issued pardons to six pro-democracy activists. What the UN does not want to discuss too visibly is the main reason the corruption persists; illegal mining and export of valuable minerals (especially gold and rare metals essential for modern electronics). The main foreign player in all this are Chinese entrepreneurs and China based companies. The Chinese will do business with anyone and Chinese cash (for the valuable minerals) keeps Congolese politicians cooperative and many rebel groups well-armed and fit to fight. China now has the second largest economy in the world and plays by its own rules, especially in the UN. China knows the UN is pretty corrupt (China helped make it that way) and UN officials, corrupt or not, proceed carefully when Chinese interests are involved. This kind of support makes politicians like Kabila confident.
July 20, 2016: The World Health Organization (WHO) and Congo’ health ministry have begun vaccinating people living in the capital and plan to vaccinate around a million people in the next ten days. Ultimately they will vaccinate around ten million people in the city and the border area near Angola.
July 19, 2016: In Rwanda gunmen killed ten people in the village of Kibirizi then burned their homes. FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebels were believed responsible although other rogue militias are operating in the area.
July 18, 2016: The EU has begun a new military training mission in the Central African Republic (CAR). The mission will last for two years and be based in the capital, Bangui. Meanwhile, the French much reduced (to 350 troops) peacekeeping contingent will definitely leave the CAR by the end of 2016 fall. France had as many as 2,000 peacekeeping soldiers deployed in the CAR.
July 15, 2016: The UN expressed “deep concern” over restrictions on political freedom in Congo. If it sounds repetitive, it is. The Council statement also comes four days after opposition leader Moise Katumbi claimed the government tried to poison him. Congolese opposition parties claim that the Kabila government is using police power to intimidate the opposition. Despite that opposition parties are still trying stop what they say is President Kabila’s certain attempt to secure a third term. The united opposition candidate will likely be Katumbi. The Congolese constitution limits a president to two terms and Kabila’s second term ends on December 19. The presidential election is scheduled for November 2016.
July 13, 2016: An adviser to President Kabila said that the Congo president will leave office “eventually.” However, it may not be this year since the country isn’t prepared to hold the election. There aren’t enough ballots, there aren’t enough trained election monitors, there isn’t enough security, etcetera. The election, however, is required by the constitution but that doesn’t make any difference to Kabila.
July 11, 2016: Congo presidential candidate Moise Katumbi claimed that in May the government tried to kill him using poison. Katumbi is President Joseph Kabila’s most formidable opponent. Katumbi said police manhandled him in May and in the process injected him with an “unknown substance.” Katumbi believes Kabila is personally responsible.
July 9, 2016: The UN and African Union continue to assess Burundi’s security situation as unstable. Foreign diplomats are criticizing President Pierre Nkurunziza for failing to curb attacks by his supporters on members of the political opposition.
July 6, 2016: In Congo UN peacekeepers are preparing contingency plans for dealing with wide-spread violence during the November election. Even if the election does not occur violence may erupt. The government says that it doubts it will hold the election in November because of logistical problems. Political opponents say that is a ruse by president Kabila to remain in power.
July 5, 2016: In Congo a group of unidentified armed men attacked the villages of Tenambo, Nzanza and Mamiki (North Kivu province) and killed at least nine people. Homes were looted and cattle stolen.
July 2, 2016: In Congo a UN peacekeeper offensive against rogue militias in North Kivu province appears to be continuing. In mid-June UN forces engaged two rogue militias near the town of Bulesa.
July 1, 2016: The World Health Organization (WHO) is now indicating that its emergency yellow fever vaccination operation on the Congo-Angola border will begin in mid-July. There are shortages of syringes and medical personnel. The goal is to establish an “immunity buffer” shielding Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.