For the last two years the big news in Congo is the same sad news: opposition political leaders are certain that President Joseph Kabila will ignore the constitution and seek a third term in office. Though Kabila argues otherwise, if he seeks a third term he will violate the constitution. The constitution was very much part of the peace agreement that ended the 1990s civil war that brought Kabila to power. Ignoring the law is a recipe for reigniting the Great Congo War. Kabila’s supporters scoff at the notion that a new Congo-wide war would erupt. However, violence would definitely occur in several provinces. The Congolese Army could see several battalions rebel. The UN and donor nations are worried so they have pressured Kabila’s government to hold talks with the opposition. The goal is reaching some sort of political agreement that will limit the chaos that will occur if Kabila remains in office after his term expires on December 20, 2016. Those AU (African Union) sponsored talks are scheduled to begin sometime in early to mid-September. The situation, however, is tense. Several large anti-Kabila protests and labor strikes have already occurred in major cities and towns. Since April Kabila’s supporters and the opposition have traded accusations of treason. Kabila is touting the Congo’s constitutional court ruling earlier this year that he can stay in office if no election is held this year. The political opposition contends Kabila forced the court to make a favorable decision. Kabila, his supporters and the government’s election bureau all argue that Congo isn’t logistically prepared to conduct the election. The political opposition say Kabila and his supporters have been stalling as an excuse to keep him in power. The opposition is also accusing the AU’s international “election facilitation team” of favoring Kabila. (Austin Bay)
August 26, 2016: The emergency yellow fever vaccination program in eastern Congo is almost finished. As of late August some 90 percent (6,925,276 people) of those living in the capital, Kinshasa, had been vaccinated. In July another two million were vaccinated in the Kinshasa area and between the capital and the Angola border. WHO, the Congo government and the Angolan government intend to vaccinate 14 million. Yellow fever has killed an estimated 400 people this year in Congo and Angola.
August 24, 2016: Two Hutu women were lynched and their bodies burned in an ethnic clash in the town of Butembo (North Kivu province). The area has seen several massacres within the last few months. Butembo is primarily a Nande tribe town. The women were dragged from a mini-bus by a mob.
August 23, 2016: A strike led by Congo’s opposition political parties has shut down Kinshasa’s business district. There are other strikes around the country, including one in Goma (North Kivu province), one of eastern Congo’s most important cities.
August 21, 2016: Senegal announced it will send 270 troops to serve with the UN peacekeeping operation in Congo. This is a troop rotation not a reinforcement as these troops serve in the Congo for 12 months before returning home.
August 20, 2016: Congolese paramilitary police fought with a rebel militia in and around the town Tshimbulu (Kasai-Central province). Most (11) of the 19 killed were police. The militia commander, Kamwina Nsapu, was killed and around 40 militia fighters were arrested.
August 19, 2016: The Congo government has given pardons to 24 opposition political leaders and human rights activists. The individuals who received pardons had been jailed on a variety of charges, but their basic crime was opposing President Joseph Kabila and his policies. Opposition political leaders said the pardons are an attempt to “ease tensions” in the country.
In Burundi the government believes that at least ten (perhaps 13) Burundian Army and national police officers have defected to the rebels. Several of these defectors are members of the political opposition. The main cause of the current unrest is that Burundi’s ethnic Tutsis face increasing repression from the Hutu-dominated government. In May 2016 the government arrested several soldiers on charges of supporting a failed coup but it has been pointed out that many of those arrested were ethnic Tutsis with no record of disloyalty.
August 16, 2016: Three Catholic Church aid workers have been kidnapped in North Kivu province. The government believes FDLR (the Rwandan Hutu rebel group) is responsible for the kidnappings.
August 15, 2016: UN peacekeepers in CAR (Central African Republic) revealed that earlier this month they exchanged gunfire with a convoy of 35 heavily-armed militiamen. The militia convoy of seven vehicles left the capital, Bangui and ran through several peacekeeper and police roadblocks before peacekeepers stopped it near the town of Sibut (about 50 kilometers from Bangui). Peacekeepers arrested ten militiamen and seized a number of weapons and munitions.
August 14, 2016: In Congolese the army claims Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels are responsible for the murder of at least 35 people near the town of Beni (North Kivu province) and that body count is expected to increase. The rebels attacked a small village because the rebels believed villagers had given the government information about their activities. Apparently over fifty were killed in at least two attacks.
August 10, 2016: Congo has revoked the work permit of a foreign aid worker who has been in Congo since 2008 but has been highly critical of the Kabila government. More and more foreign aid workers hostile to Kabila are being pressured to be quiet or be ordered out of Congo.
August 7, 2016: Uganda and Congo have agreed to better coordinate their efforts to defeat the ADF. The Ugandan Army may be given permission to pursue ADF fighters across the border. They will also improve their efforts to share intelligence on the ADF.
August 3, 2016: Burundi rejected the UN’s decision to add 228 policemen to the UN peacekeeping force in Burundi. Burundi said the UN did not have its permission to do this and that the UN was violating the fundamental principles of sovereignty. In late July Burundi indicated it might accept a token force of 50 policemen. President Nkurunziza’s April 2015 decision to seek a third term ignited trouble throughout Burundi and political violence continues.
August 1, 2016: Congo rejected opposition demands that President Joseph Kabila step down from his office by December 20, 2016. That is the date the constitution calls for him to vacate the office.
July 30, 2016: Over 1,000 Burundians participated in a government-sponsored demonstration in the capital, Bujumbura. The crowd was protesting a proposal by France that the UN deploy a special police force to Burundi to monitor violence in the country. That really means violence perpetrated by the government against its political opponents.