Congo: Old Rebels, New Diseases

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April 1, 2020: A month ago health experts announced that the Ebola virus epidemic in eastern Congo was not quite over, but that it was fading. The last patient the city of Beni (North Kivu province) was discharged March 3. However, Congolese and international health personnel are expecting Ebola “flare-ups” in central Africa. The latest Ebola statistics (March 25) are 3,453 total cases (3,310 confirmed, 143 probable), 2,264 deaths and 1169 survivors. Meanwhile, the covid19/Wuhan virus appeared in Congo on March 8.

March 30, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu), soldiers freed 38 hostages held by the Ugandan ADF Islamic rebels. Congolese troops ambushed ADF rebel forces near a remote village. When the rebels fled the soldiers freed the hostages.

March 29, 2020: In the southern Congo (Katanga province) police and soldiers killed 31 militiamen in a series of clashes in and around Lubumbashi, Congo’s second-largest city. The day before seven gunmen and one policeman was killed in the city while 24 other gunmen were killed in three other clashes in the region. The police and military of using excessive force because some of the militiamen were only armed with knives.

March 27, 2020: In Congo covid19 has killed four people so far while an estimated 60 people have the virus.

March 25, 2020: In Congo, the head of the presidential legal advisory council died of covid19. The victim was an active member of Congo’s political opposition to the Kabila government. He is believed to be the third person in the DRC to die from the virus. Congolese media speculate that he contracted the disease on a recent trip to France for a medical check-up.

China announced that it has donated medical supplies to Congo, Gabon and Ghana. The supplies include over 500,000 medical-grade masks and 20,000 sets of protective clothes. Many nations that have received such items from China have tested them and found 30-80 percent of the items defective.

March 24, 2020: In Congo, the president declared the covid19 virus a national emergency. Congo’s borders have been closed. Airline flights and river transport to and from Kinshasa are banned. An estimated 40 people in the country have the disease. So far Congo has suffered three fatalities. After reports of new cases in its mining area, Katanga province has been put in lockdown.

In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) continued fighting left 37 ADF rebels and 12 soldiers dead after a series of firefights.

March 23, 2020: In Congo, a court sentenced former Health Minister Oly Illunga to five years in prison with hard labor. His financial adviser received the same criminal sentence. The two men embezzled about $400,000 from funds set aside to combat the Ebola virus. They were also charged with diverting funds for transporting medical supplies to combat the Ebola epidemic.

March 21, 2020: Congo suffered its first covid19 fatality. The country currently has 23 confirmed cases. To combat the disease, the government has closed Congo’s border with Rwanda.

March 20, 2020: Congo’s government is expressing irritation with Angola’s failure to fulfill an oil field sharing agreement reached in January 2020. Since 2003 Congo has claimed a share of Angola’s offshore oil production. The UN analyzed the claim and in 2009 decided that approximately half of Angola’s offshore fields are in Congolese waters. In January 2020 Angola and Congo agreed to form a special commission to determine share ownership in what is called “the zone of common interest.” According to several reports this month, Congo is accusing Angola of deliberately delaying a settlement.

March 18, 2020: In the Central African Republic (CAR) peacekeepers provided details of recent March 2 through March 11 fighting. Rival factions of FPRC (Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa) fought a series of battles in northeastern CAR. The FPRC itself was a splinter group of the Seleka (Islamic) rebel movement. The fighting killed at least 20 people, including 13 civilians.

March 17, 2020: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province near the Uganda border) fighting this month has left about 50 people dead because of the Lendu tribe Codeco (Cooperation for the Development of the Congo) militia. Locals describe Codeco as a cult.

March 16, 2020: In Uganda (Rwenzori, near the Congo border) soldiers arrested 14 members of the Kirumira Mutima rebel group. The rebels had launched several attacks in the area. Police and soldiers seized 70 machetes, 40 knives and a flag of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Kingdom.

March 15, 2020: In central CAR (Ouaka prefecture) a Christian “anti-balaka” rebel militia killed a Burundian peacekeeper who was trying to protect civilians. The militiamen deliberately opened fire on the soldier and his unit. Peacekeeper officials said that the militia commander and his men committed a war crime and will have to answer for their actions in a court of law because this crime must not go unpunished.

March 14, 2020: Uganda believes the LRA (Lords Resistance Army) and its commander, Joseph Kony, are now based in Kafia Kingi, an area that borders the CAR, Sudan and South Sudan. Apparently Kony no longer controls subordinate LRA factions. His own group now consists of a few dozen people, including his sons. They are reportedly living as subsistence farmers. A defector reported that in 2018 Kony told LRA fighters that they are no longer at war with the Ugandan government and must now consider themselves refugees. Kony is wanted as a war criminal. Kony has been active since the late 1980s when he led resistance to government massacres in northern Uganda. Government violence ended in the 1990s but Kony never stopped being a charismatic rebel.

March 12, 2020: In Congo soldiers arrested 15 rebels who had attacked a Ugandan military unit in Uganda in the last week. Three Ugandan soldiers and 17 rebels died in the incident.

Three years ago today, in southwest Congo (Kasai region) a group of gunmen murdered two UN human investigators, Zaida Catalan, a Swede, and Michael Sharp, an American. Their interpreter and three drivers are still missing. Collected evidence indicates government forces committed the murders. The government, at the time controlled by former President Joseph Kabila, blamed the murders on the Kamuina Nsapu militia.

March 11, 2011: The UN is warning that political violence in Burundi is increasing and threatens the integrity of national elections scheduled for May 20.

March 9, 2020: The UN is seeking $621 million to assist nearly one million Congolese refugees who are seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Uganda has around 400,000 of them. Congo also has five million internally displaced people.

March 8, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) 13 ADF rebels and four soldiers were killed in a firefight. Five soldiers were wounded. The soldiers had been attacking ADF base camps located in the area, which is near the Ugandan border.

March 7, 2020: In northeast CAR (Ouaka prefecture) civilians found the dead body of a UN peacekeeper killed by the FPRC.

In Congo, the president reported that investigators determined that former deputy chief of military intelligence general Delphin Kahimbi died by hanging. Investigators are calling his death a suicide. Earlier reports claimed Khamibi had suffered a heart attack.

March 6, 2020: In the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), retired postal and telecommunications workers are conducting mass protests because of unpaid pensions. The retired workers were required to contribute to their pension fund when they were employed and they are not getting that back. Some protestors are claiming they are victims of corruption.

March 5, 2020: In Congo, senior Catholic Church leaders are condemning continued corruption by officials in newly elected president Felix Tshisekedi’s government. When he became president, Tshisekedi vowed to combat corruption.

March 3, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), the last Ebola patient (a woman) is now healthy and has been discharged from the treatment clinic.

March 2, 2020: In Congo, the army has ordered an investigation into the February 28 death of general Delphin Kahimbi, the deputy chief of military intelligence in the government headed by former president Joseph Kabila. Kahimbi was found dead in his home in Kinshasa. He was supposed to appear before a national security council meeting to respond to accusations that he was plotting to destabilize the current president Tshisekedi government. The EU had sanctioned Kahimbi for human rights violations.

February 29, 2020: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province near the Uganda border), Codeco militiamen killed at least 24 people while another twelve were injured.

 

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