Congo: All Quiet On The Eastern Front

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April 8, 2019: Congo remains uneasy about the stolen election, for good reason. So far there is no organized nation-wide opposition to Felix Tshisekedi, the candidate CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission) declared the victor. However, political opposition leader and presidential candidate Martin Fayulu has not gone silent. He argues – supported by evidence—that he won the presidential election and that former president Joseph Kabila hijacked it. They call Tshisekedi Kabila’s frontman. His critics cite his about face on his mid-March decision to refuse to seat senators he argued were fraudulently elected. The decision was at first seen as an attempt by Tshisekedi to demonstrate his independence from Kabila. But on March 29 he reversed himself. Frontman or frightened man? He’s probably both. However, foreign governments are slowly accepting Tshisekedi as a reality they must live with. The United States said it would support his anti-corruption "change agenda" which he articulated in late January. Tshisekedi says his government will provide better security and reduce the atrocities Congolese are so often victimized by. (Austin Bay)

April 7, 2019: In Uganda, the American tourist and her local driver were released, or rescued, after being kidnapped on the 2nd. The $500,000 ransom was paid and if the kidnappers are not quickly caught that ransom will be an incentive for more outlaws in the area to go after foreign tourists. There is already a problem with locals being kidnapped for ransoms, but locals yield much lower ransom payments. The U.S. warned Americans to stay away from parts of Uganda, especially National Parks, that border Congo. While Uganda has troops and special police watching the Congo border there are always some armed men, usually from outlawed militias, who cross the border to escape pursuit or to steal.

April 4, 2019: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province), Masudi Alimasi Kokodiko, leader of the Raia Mutomboki rebel militia, was arrested after being wounded in a gun battle. Kokodiko's militia is accused of conducting mass rapes and committing other atrocities. In 2012 the Raia Mutomboki and two allied militias murdered more than 260 civilians in ethnic fighting in South Kivu province.

April 2, 2019: In Uganda, four gunmen wearing uniforms ambushed and kidnapped an American tourist and her driver while they were on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The kidnappers demanded $500,000 for their release. Police suspect the kidnappers may try to flee across the border into Congo.

April 1, 2019: In eastern Congo (North Kivu and Ituri provinces), the Ebola epidemic continues to spread. There are around 1,400 known cases there. It is suspected that several hundred more are unreported. The data so far is that by the end of March there were 676 people dead and another 406 infected. Officially 331 patients have recovered and over 87,000 people have been vaccinated.

March 30, 2019: Burundi has banned the BBC and permanently suspended the VOA (Voice of America). The government claims that the BBC has damaged the country’s reputation. VOA is accused of employing a reporter who opposes the government. As it is, both broadcasters are already off the air. They were temporarily suspended in May 2018 for allegedly “breaching press laws.”

March 29, 2019: About face? Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reversed himself and lifted the “suspension” of newly elected senators he announced ten days ago. His decision reportedly angered former president Joseph Kabila, whose allies won an overwhelming majority of seats.

March 24, 2019: As eastern Congo’s Ebola epidemic recorded its 1,000th case, and this outbreak is now the second worst on record. The 2014 West African outbreak, with over 28,000 cases and 11,000 dead, remains number one. Medical researchers predict that the current epidemic could be over by September 2019. However, in the last week, the number of cases has increased.

March 23, 2019: The Central African Republic (CAR) has agreed to form a new coalition government in a deal sponsored by the African Union and the UN.

March 21, 2019: The United States imposed sanctions on the president and vice-president of CENI, Congo’s electoral commission. A senior adviser was also sanctioned. The U.S. accused these individuals of corruption and of corrupting the December 2018 election. The U.S. claimed the three officials stole money meant to buy voting machines and other materials. The money was embezzled and transferred to shell companies. Their actions delayed the elections. The president of CENI already faced American travel restrictions, which were imposed in February.

March 19, 2019: In Congo, president Felix Tshisekedi has blocked senators suspected of election fraud from taking their seats in parliament. Most of the senators are from Kabila’s party, which won over 60 seats in the March 15 election. Tshisekedi and his allies won three. Tshisekedi alleged that provincial assembly members, who elect the senators, had taken large bribes in exchange for their votes. The president’s decision is regarded as his first act countering Kabila’s interests. Congo’s constitution requires the president to select a prime minister from the party with the majority of seats in parliament.

March 15, 2019: The U.S. announced that it will send medical personnel to eastern Congo to monitor the Ebola virus epidemic. Earlier the U.S. had ordered American personnel to pull back to the Congolese capital due to violence in eastern Congo. The American medical personnel monitor the epidemic and help train Congolese health workers.

March 13, 2019: In Congo, president Felix Tshisekedi pardoned over 700 political prisoners, as he promised to do in January in his inaugural address.

 

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