Congo: Chaos, Cash And Criminal Conspiracies

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April 24, 2018: The UN is trying to raise an additional $1.7 billion for emergency aid in Congo. The aid will be directed toward helping refugees and internally displace people (IDPs) who have fled fighting in northeast Congo (Ituri province) and the southwest (Kasai region). An estimated 13 to 14 million people have fled the violence. Some have begun returning home but right now Congo has almost six million IDPs. The refugees have fled to Uganda, Angola, Tanzania and Zambia. A few thousand fled into the Central African Republic (CAR) which is in many respects experiencing more chaos than Congo. Congo's situation has led foreign aid agencies (both secular and sectarian) to call for new economic and political reforms. A couple of aid groups claim they have evidence that the government of President Joseph Kabila is stirring violence in order to justify an delay in national elections. There are also allegations by Congolese opposition groups and UN personnel that some of the recent fighting in Ituri province was stirred by corrupt Congolese elites (to include members of the military) who want to retain control of Ituri's mineral deposits. Ituri, like Katanga province in the southwest, has several large mining operations.

April 23, 2018: The UN has called for "urgent reconciliation" among tribes in Congo's Ituri province. Foreign aid groups claim in the last month another 300 people have been murdered in Ituri.

April 22, 2018: The Angolan government is continuing to pursue the anti-corruption program it began in late 2017. Earlier this month government officials accused the son of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos of stealing $1.5 billion from Angola’s sovereign wealth fund. The fund is currently valued at $5 billion. The government also charged a former governor of the Bank of Angola with being involved in the theft. The International Monetary Fund recently praised the Angolan government for taking significant steps to improve the country's "macroeconomic stability." That noted, anti-corruption activists say bribery is still a common practice in Angola. Government bureaucrats seek “facilitation payments." Dos Santos was president from 1979 to 2017. When he left office in 2017 one of his daughter's was worth an estimated $2.6 billion.

April 20, 2018: Botswana has become the first sub-Saharan Africa country to directly criticize President Joseph Kabila for remaining in office illegally. Botswana's president asked Kabila to refrain from running for office again in the national election scheduled for December 23, 2018. Then he added that Kabila should not attempt to retain power in any fashion. Botswana had previously accused Kabila of being responsible for Congo’s humanitarian crisis.

April 19, 2018: Rwanda is still trying to address the issue of property stolen or destroyed during the 1994 genocide. The government recently acknowledged that 54,160 cases remain unsettled. Of that number almost 29,000 will never be resolved because the perpetrators are either dead or have no way of paying off the just claims. Most of the claims are being addressed in community courts, called "Gacaca courts."

April 18, 2018: The U.S. said that Congo's recent decision to establish a fund to manage aid donations was a good one. Actually, the decision was long overdue. Donor nations and private aid groups have been demanding the government provide more transparency and accountability for aid that flows through Congolese government channels. Theft by bureaucrats is a concern, however, the biggest worry is redirection of aid donations from region's needing humanitarian assistance to areas controlled by supporters of the Kabila government.

April 17, 2018: Foreign aid groups are accusing the Burundi government of using violent attacks and murder to intimidate political groups who oppose a referendum that would extend presidential terms from five years to seven years. If it passes, President Pierre Nkurunziza could remain in office through 2034. The foreign aid groups are asking for an investigation into "state sponsored crimes" committed by police and members of the ruling party's Imbonerakure youth organization.

April 12, 2016: Political opposition groups are criticizing Congo's national election commission (CENI) for insisting on using electronic voting machines. So far CENI has held two demonstrations and the electronic machines have failed to function properly.

April 11, 2018: UN officials claimed protestors in the CAR have used dead bodies as "propaganda" in order to accuse UN personnel of murdering civilians. The UN responded after a group of protestors placed 17 dead bodies outside the UN headquarters building in Bangui, capital of the CAR and claimed the dead had been slain by UN troops. The UN said the dead were "armed criminals" who had launched attack on UN peacekeepers and CAR security personnel. Some of the dead were killed on April 10 when UN peacekeeping troops disarmed militiamen (vigilantes according to one report) who were operating in Bangui's PK5 district. PK5 is a predominantly Muslim area. The UN operation in PK5 began on April 8. UN sources reported 21 people died in clashes in PK5. A foreign aid group reported that it had treated over 40 people for gunshot wounds.

April 10, 2018: Some 6,000 refugees have left a refugee camp in Betou (northern Republic of Congo-Brazzaville) and returned home to the CAR. The refugees are from an area in the western CAR. Several of the returning refugees have been living in Republic of Congo since 2013.

April 9, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) a militia operating in Virunga National Park murdered five park rangers. The militia is involved in the "illegal charcoal trade." In other words, militiamen cut down trees and turn the wood into charcoal. The charcoal is then sold throughout eastern and northeastern Congo. It may not seem like a big business, but it has become a major problem in Virunga. The militias involved in the trade are usually involved in other smuggling operations.

April 8, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) the Catholic Church in Congo reported gunmen attacked a church and killed the priest after he had finished Mass. Over the last six months attacks on priests and church workers have once again increased. Catholic bishops mediated the December Accord (December 31, 2016) that was supposed to frame a process for removing Kabila from power.

April 6, 2018: The Congolese government accused political opposition leader Moise Katumbi of maintaining Italian citizenship from October 2000 until January 2017. The move is an attempt to keep Katumbi from running for president. Many Congolese have dual citizenship. However, the constitution says Congolese cannot hold dual citizenship. If they do they must petition the government to have their Congolese citizenship reinstated.

April 4, 2018: In northeast Congo (Ituri province) fighting continues. The UN and the Catholic Church claim nearly 400,000 people have been displaced by renewed violence. More than 40,000 of them have fled Congo to Uganda. Security officials report that someone has supplied warring ethnic groups with light weapons. The weapons may have come from South Sudan.

April 1, 2018: The government of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and rebels in the Pool region have reached a disarmament agreement. Between April 5 and mid-May, fourteen sites in the Pool region will be established where rebels may assemble and disarm. They will also be eligible for re-integration training.

March 31, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) Islamist rebels killed at least 11 civilians in an attack on the city of Beni.

 

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