Congo: So Many Maladies

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August 1, 2019: The UN has begun a strategic review of the UN peacekeeping force in Congo. Many UN members, especially those that provide the money or troops for these missions, are seeking to reduces and eliminate the Congo force. Several critics (to include UN diplomats) say a thorough review is long overdue. But with former president Joseph Kabila’s semi-exit from power, Congo peacekeepers faces new challenges. One of the questions is new president Felix Tshisekedi. Does he have the will power to fend off Kabila and stabilize Congo politically? At the moment the UN Congo peacekeepers cost about $1.1 to $1.2 billion a year. (Austin Bay)

July 29, 2019: Ebola continues to be Congo’s biggest global threat. Earlier (July 17) WHO (World Health Organization) declared Congo’s Ebola virus epidemic to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” That's bureaucratese for a global health crisis. As of July 28 WHO has tallied 2,671 Ebola cases in Congo although only 2,577 are confirmed, 94 probable. So far 1,782 people have died. Three people have died in Uganda and all of those contracted the disease in Congo. WHO is now recommending that health services in Congo use a new (and somewhat experimental) two-dose Ebola virus vaccine to complement the single-dose vaccine manufactured by Merck. There is a shortage of single-dose vaccines. Despite the vaccine two cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Goma, a city of two million on the Rwanda border.

July 28, 2019: In eastern Congo (Maniema Province) gunmen kidnapped two foreign gold mine workers. Mai Mai militias have been committing crimes in the area.

July 27, 2019: The UN estimated that almost over 660 summary executions occurred in Congo during the first half of 2019. Congolese government security forces committed 37 percent while various armed groups (militias, terror organizations, etc.) committed the rest.

July 26, 2019: President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo apparently met with representatives of former president Joseph Kabila and agreed to a division of cabinet posts between the two political opponents. Rumors claim that Kabila’s allies will control the justice, finance and defense ministries. These are the ministries with real power.

July 25, 2019: A Chinese oil company has halted work in western Uganda due to the Ebola virus threat. Uganda’s major oil fields are near Lake Albert, which borders Congo. The Chinese operate Ugandan fields along with two European partners, Total and Tullow Oil.

July 24, 2019: Due to the Ebola virus threat, Saudi Arabia has banned the entry of any tourists or Hajj pilgrims from Congo. The Kingdom said that it reached this decision in order to protect the lives of other Hajj pilgrims.

Ugandan music star and celebrity turned politician, Bobi Wine, formally announced his candidacy for president in the 2021 national elections. Wine is currently a member of parliament. Current president Yoweri Museveni has been in power 33 years.

July 23, 2019: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), ADF rebels murdered 12 people in two separate attacks (towns of Eringeti and Oicha). ADF is unique in that it is Moslem and contains Tanzanians, Burundians and Rwandans as well as Congolese Moslems. About ten percent of Congolese are Moslem and ADF is the only rebel group that is openly Islamic. Peacekeepers and army forces almost wiped out ADF in a 2014 offensive but about fifty members survived and have slowly rebuilt the organization to about 400 members. It is believed that this revival was financed by ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which sought to turn ADF into the local ISIL affiliate. ADF leaders accepted the ISIL money but would not declare themselves a part of ISIL. Meanwhile, ISIL counted ADF attacks as ISIL operations without specifically identifying ADF.

July 19, 2019: The International Criminal Court has upheld a decision that gives $10 million in reparations to victims of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who is currently serving a prison sentence. The reparations will come from a trust fund created by nations which established the ICC.

July 18, 2019: In Congo, the government said that its security forces will begin enforcing strict hand-washing and fever checks on people entering and leaving the afflicted areas in eastern Congo.

July 17, 2019: WHO declared that eastern Congo’s Ebola virus epidemic is now a global health emergency.

July 16, 2019: In Burundi, the BBC announced that it had failed to reach a new programming agreement with the government and it will cease its operations in Burundi. Earlier this year Burundi’s government had banned BBC broadcasts and prevented its journalists from operating in the country.

July 15, 2019: Congo confirmed a case that Ebola virus has spread to the North Kivu province city of Goma. This is very bad news because Goma has two million people and is on the border with Rwanda. The individual with the Ebola virus traveled to Goma from another city and died while in Goma. Medical experts fear that the virus could spread within Goma and then into Rwanda.

A senior member of the Catholic bishops association in CAR (Central African Republic) warned that armed rebel groups are threatening the peace agreement negotiated by the government and the UN. In February the CAR government and key rebel groups signed the Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation. However, new fighting has erupted in the capital, Bangui and in northern and western CAR. At the moment, the CAR is dealing with 575,000 to 600,000 internally displaced people.

July 14, 2019: WHO released updated Congo Ebola virus data. There have been 2,501 total cases (94 probable, the rest confirmed) and 1,668 dead. Uganda has had three cases. All three died. Uganda currently has no Ebola cases. The Ugandan government said that its health and defense ministries remain on alert.

July 13, 2019: Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), has quietly opened up part of Nouabale-Ndoki National Park to oil exploration. But quiet hasn’t stopped political blowback. The park is located close to the Cameroon and CAR borders. It protects forest elephants and lowland gorillas. The Congo Republic needs the oil income. Conservation and wildlife protection organizations, however, are worried about poaching and habitat loss. Poachers would take advantage of new trails cut by oil companies to enter the park.

July 9, 2019: The UN declared that Burundi is headed for another political crisis in 2020 when it holds new elections. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ruling party is already harassing and intimidating political opponents. Nkurunziza’s 2015 decision to seek a third term spawned a major political crisis.

July 8, 2019: Congolese health officials and WHO representative report widespread mistrust by locals to the presence of their personnel in eastern Congo. Locals tell the health workers that they believe the disease is “not real.” Some assert that the virus is a “political invention” invented to prevent them from participating in the December 2018 presidential elections. The fact that eastern Congo was demonstrably anti-Kabila and the Kabila government did delay voting in eastern Congo helps explain this belief.

July 7, 2019: In eastern Congo (Ituri province), ethnic (tribal) fighting has killed about 160 since the first week of June. This is the latest round of fighting between the Hema and Lendu tribes. Over 300,000 people have fled their homes to avoid the violence. The fighting largely involves Hema herders going after land and water used by Lendu farmers. The tribes have repeatedly fought one another with 1997 and 2003 being particularly deadly years. The late 2002 clashes were very bloody. Death tolls in violent and fluid situations like this are notoriously unreliable.

July 6, 2019: In southeastern Congo (Lualaba province) the army continues its efforts to shut down illegal mining. Since mid-June the army has evicted over 20,000 illegal (artisanal) miners on concessions in the province.

July 5, 2019: In eastern Congo, opposition political groups accused police in Kinshasa province and Goma of firing live ammunition at demonstrators on June 30. The Lamuka (“wake up”) coalition had called for peaceful marches to protest corruption and election fraud. In the December 2018 election Lamuka backed opposition candidate Martin Fayulu. There is credible evidence Fayulu got 59 percent of the vote and was cheated out of the presidency.

 

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