Congo: Another Plague Hits Congo


July 3, 2018: There has been a rare outbreak of polio in Congo, apparently connected to the outbreak in Somalia and Nigeria. So far in 2018, there have been 28 cases of polio detected in Congo combat zones, including one case near the Uganda border. In all three nations, a major part of the problem is not being able to get vaccination teams to war zones. In Somalia and Nigeria, you had the additional problem of Islamic terrorists who oppose vaccination because they believe it is a Western plot to poison Moslem children. This has been the problem in Nigeria since 2016 and health experts have been struggling to wipe out polio among the many rural people who spent years living under Boko Haram control. Boko Haram did not allow polio vaccinations. This became a big issue (and a major disappointment) because in early 2016 it was announced that Nigeria had eliminated polio. As part of a worldwide effort, Nigeria had reduced polio infections from over 1,200 in 2006 to none in 2014. But that did not include large areas of Borno State where health officials could not go because of Boko Haram. Once public health officials got access to those people they found polio had survived. Decades of effort to eradicate polio are still being compromised by Islamic radicals in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, even the Islamic terrorists have come to agree that polio vaccination is a good thing and vaccination is catching up with the few unvaccinated kids. That leaves Nigeria where Islamic conservatives up north have been preaching against polio vaccinations for years insisting that the medicine is actually a Christian plot to poison Moslems. Polio can be wiped out like smallpox was back in the 1970s if you can vaccinate everyone in areas where the disease still exists. Polio and smallpox are diseases that can only live in human hosts. But the Islamic conservatives have been a major barrier to eliminating polio. The government is making yet another effort to wipe out polio in the Moslem north. The poliovirus has survived because of Boko Haram and even with the Islamic terrorists gone it will take another year or more to deal with the polio problem. The problem in the northeast is that vaccination teams have not been able to move about freely in the northeast, especially in northern Borno State, because the Boko Haram is still threat to travelers of all types and the vaccination teams need a security escort and that is not always available. This polio surviving in northeastern Nigeria has now spread to Somalia and Congo and will probably spread some more before it can all be tracked down by vaccination efforts. Meanwhile, Congo is also dealing with another outbreak of the Ebola virus, which showed up in May 2017 and is largely contained, at least in Congo. Over 11,000 people died during the last major sub-Saharan Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015. Most of the deaths were in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. But 49 deaths in border areas of Congo.

July 2, 2018: CENI (National Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of Congo) has convinced foreign observers that preparations for the national elections in December are being completed on schedule and so far it appears that those December 23rd elections will take place.

June 29, 2018: Congo president Joseph Kabila insists he will not run in the December 2018 presidential election and will turn over his office to the election’s winner. However, Congo’s political opposition insists Kabila will attempt to control the country from “behind the scenes.” The opposition has a case. In the middle of the month, Congo’s parliament announced that it will hold a special session to consider legislation that will protect former presidents from criminal indictment for actions taken during their terms. Who requested the special session to consider the special legislation? Kabila. As it is, Kabila will get to serve as a “senator for life” which carries some immunities from prosecution.

June 28, 2018: Congolese Catholic Church bishops and lay leaders have accused the Kabila government of neglecting the starvation and general chaos in the southwest (Kasai region). About 14 million people have fled the violence and millions are still unable to return home. Several hundred thousand children in the Kasai region are suffering from malnutrition. The bishops provided documentation collected by priests and nuns in the region.

June 27, 2018: Volkswagen has opened what it calls a “small vehicle assembly plant” in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The facility will assemble cars from parts manufactured in South Africa. The facility can assemble from 5,000 to 10,000 cars a year. The cars will be sold to fleet customers – government ministries, taxi services and other businesses. The government is touting the VW plant as evidence that Rwanda is stable, has a growing economy and is a good place to invest.

The UN accused Burundi of using threats and violence against political opponents. According to the UN the government has subjected the political opposition to torture, summary executions and arbitrary arrest.

June 26, 2018: In Congo, the UN accused the Army and pro-government militias of committing crimes in the Kasai region including rape, murder and enslavement. The pro-government Bana Mura militia has beheaded victims. The Kamuina Nsapu rebels have also been attacking civilians and looting.

June 25, 2018: In Congo major opposition parties have agreed to form a coalition to oppose the party Kabila uses to run the country. The opposition coalition will benefit from leaders now able to return from exile after Kabila was forced (by the UN and major donor nations) to drop false prosecutions of opposition politicians, in an effort to cripple the political parties these men organized and lead.

June 22, 2018: The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has become a member of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). Congo-Brazzaville produces about 350,000 barrels a day.

June 21, 2018: Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has accused members of the security forces of corruption. Specifically, police have failed to solve a series of murders and kidnappings that have angered the Ugandan public. The murders include the assassination of a senior police official and some two-dozen women in the Kampala area.

June 15, 2018: Great Britain, France and the U.S. have suspended action on a request by the Central African Republic (CAR) that the UN Security Council approve the delivery of Chinese weapons deliveries to CAR security forces. In early June the CAR asked the UN to exempt it from an arms embargo and allow China to provide its army and police forces with light infantry weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition and armored personnel carriers. France and the U.S. noted that the CAR is not threatened by air attacks. The UN imposed an arms embargo on the CAR in 2013. China has offered to donate the equipment. The EU military training mission in the CAR and the UN peacekeepers both supported the arms request.

June 13, 2018: South Africa will continue to provide the UN Congo peacekeeping force an infantry battalion and supporting units. This battalion is a key component of the UN Intervention Brigade which is trained and equipped to take offensive action against the hostile (and actively dangerous) rebel forces.

June 12, 2018: The Congo prime minister reassured donor nations that the Kabila government will not interfere with the December 2018 elections.

June 10, 2018: China’s huge Congo development deal signed in 2008 is running into problems. A consortium of Chinese companies agreed to build nine billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure in Congo in return for access to mineral resources. The 2008 deal specified China would receive reserves of ten million metric tons of copper and around 600,000 metric tons of cobalt. At the time, analysts thought China would ultimately make a couple of billion dollars on the deal and possibly more since China was financing the operation. The deal also guaranteed China political access to Congo’s leaders, specifically president Kabila. By 2012, it was clear that Congo could not provide the electricity it promised. China’s operators in Congo had to buy electricity from Zambia – an unexpected expense. The Chinese are now building their own hydro-electric facility –another unexpected expense. It gets worse. The Sicomines copper concession’s reserves have been reduced from ten million tons to 6.8 million tons. The price of copper has also dropped over 20 percent. At this point, some analysts say China will be lucky to break even on the deal. In retrospect, China did not understand the mining business and investing in sub-Saharan Africa. To top it off, it looks like Kabila is finally leaving office and leaving China friendless. (Austin Bay)

June 9, 2018: Congo announced that a mining code has gone into effect. Mining companies, however, continue to threaten legal action. The companies argue the code imposes a “windfall profits tax” – and it does, even if there are no windfall profits. It also raises mining royalties. President Kabila approved the new code in March. Congo produces about two-thirds of the world’s cobalt. The price of cobalt is now $89,000 a ton. This is a decline of seven percent since March. This is still about four times the price in Spring 2016.

June 8, 2018: In Uganda assassins murdered Ibrahim Abirigam and his bodyguard. The victim is a supporter of President Museveni and a member of parliament. The attack occurred near the capital.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, former (2003-6) vice president of Congo had his ICC (International Criminal Court) war crimes conviction overturned because it was determined that he was not actually in command of the militiamen who had committed numerous crimes (murder, pillaging and rape). Bemba had been sentenced to 18 years in jail because at one point he had commanded the militia in question. Bemba still has political supporters in the Congo.

June 6, 2018: In Burundi president Nkurunziza announced he will not seek re-election when his term ends in 2020. The country was caught by surprise. Nkurunziza could have remained in power until 2034.

In CAR the UN condemned an attack by gunmen on UN peacekeepers that resulted in the death of a Tanzanian soldier. Seven other peacekeepers were wounded.

June 4, 2018: In Congo, due to deadly attacks on park rangers by poachers and rebels, the government has decided to close Virunga National Park right now and keep it closed until sometime in 2019. Virunga National Park was created in 1925 and it is Africa’s oldest national park.

June 1, 2018: South Africa recently published revealed what it costs $8.5 million a year to deploy and operate the three Denel Rooivalk Mk1 combat support helicopters that serve with the Congo peacekeepers. According to after action reports by UN peacekeepers in Congo, the Rooivalks are worth the expense. South Africa has to submit invoices to the UN to be reimbursed for its expenses.




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