Congo: A Singular Series Of Suspicious Deaths

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July 8, 2020: The Congo government is seeking reparations from Belgium for colonial policies carried out by the king of Belgium in areas of Congo the king owned and ran for his own personal benefit. Congo celebrated 60 years of independence from Belgium on June 30. On July 3 the Belgium government indicated it might (emphasize might) compensate “the victims of colonization and their relatives” in Congo. The government also expressed regrets for “injuries of the past.” Basically, from 1885 to 1960, the royal family of Belgium ruled Congo as personal property. In 1885 the Congress of Berlin gave Congo to Belgian King Leopold II. Belgium’s government (a constitutional monarchy) received no mention. What these recent Belgian lamentations mean in hard cash terms is unclear, but 60 years after independence the Congolese government has to count it as a political victory and one that is a domestic political plus for the hard-pressed current president of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi. President Tshisekedi made a public rapprochement with Belgium one of his administration’s goals. Whether it is an economic boon is another matter. The corruption in Congo and atrocities against the population exceed anything the Belgium king was capable of and it is unlikely that any reparations would reach people who need it most. Many things have not changed since the Belgians left and it is often forgotten that tribal violence and civil disorder were a problem before the Belgians showed up. (Austin Bay)

July 5, 2020: The Congolese Army reported an Angolan Army soldier was killed after Angolan and Congolese forces exchanged gunfire near their sensitive Kasai region border. The Congo government claimed a group of Angolan soldiers entered Congo and were seen three kilometers inside Congolese territory. Congolese Army intelligence officers observed the intrusion and ordered the Angolans to stop taking pictures. An Angolan soldier opened fire and wounded one Congolese officer. Congolese troops returned fire and killed the Angolan. Congo has repeatedly accused Angola of violating the border in the Kasai region. Angola claims its forces are pursuing Angolan criminals and insurgents.

July 4, 2020: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province) an effort to negotiate peace with CODECO tribal rebels not only failed but led to several of the negotiators dying. Today CODECO gunmen killed at least 11 people in a series of attacks. CODECO claims it is a Lendu ethnic militia and is defending Lendu rights. The UN accuses CODECO pursuing a genocidal strategy. Many CODECO attacks are directed at the local Hema tribe. CODECO has also attacked the Alur who live in eastern Ituri near the Ugandan border and across the border in Uganda as well. So far this year CODECO has destroyed nearly 200 schools and health centers. In response peacekeepers and soldiers have, since April, carried out several operations against the rebels killing over 300 of them while losing less than a hundred soldiers. During the operation the army seized several rebel strongholds which the rebels fought hard to protect. CODECO is a religious cult composed of Lendu tribesmen. Most Lendu consider the CODECO dangerous religious fanatics.

July 3, 2020: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province) soldiers killed seven CODECO gunmen during a firefight.

July 1, 2020: Today is the 58th anniversary of Burundi’s independence from Belgium (July 1, 1962).

June 30, 2020: Sixty years ago (June 30, 1960) what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo renounced the name “Belgian Congo” and declared independence from Belgium. The Belgian Congo lasted 52 years (1908-60) and was infamous for its bad treatment of the locals. With the Belgians gone, the situation got worse. Some blamed the “colonial legacy” but an examination of pre-colonial history indicates that tribal warfare, slavery and mass murder were not unknown before the Belgians showed up.

June 29, 2020: Rwanda claimed its army (Rwandan Defense Forces) stopped a major attack by a Burundian insurgent group. The attack apparently occurred late on June 27. Rwanda claimed the attackers targeted a displaced persons camp inside Rwandan territory, the Yanze IDP Model Village (southern Rwanda, near the Burundi border). According to the government, over 100 gunmen launched the attack. The gunmen were armed with automatic weapons, grenades and rocket propelled grenade launchers. The RDF captured several weapons, radios and rations marked Burundi Armed Forces (Force de Defense Nationale du Burundi).

June 26, 2020: The board overseeing Congo’s national minerals and mining corporation, Gecamines, has approved Congo President Felix Tshisekedi’s nominations to run the company. Gecamines chairman Albert Yuma made the official announcement. Supporters of former president Joseph Kabila had managed to delay Tshisekedi’s appointments for 13 months. Pro-democracy and anti-corruption Congolese have insisted that gaining control of mineral access and production is absolutely essential to reducing corruption and limiting Kabila’s ability to politically influence the country. All is not solved, however. Yuma is a Kabila ally and anti-corruption activists have accused him (with good reason) of making illegal deals that benefit Kabila and his supporters. However, it appears that Tshisekedi now controls most of the board. A strong Tshisekedi ally is now director-general of Gecamines. (Austin Bay)

June 25, 2020: In eastern Congo (primarily North Kivu and Ituri provinces), the government once again declared victory over the Ebola virus epidemic. The eastern Congo epidemic began in August 2018. The semi-official statistics for the eastern outbreak (as of June 15) were 3,463 people infected, 2,280 dead. The UN says an Ebola virus epidemic is over once 42 days have passed without a confirmed case because 42 days is two incubation periods. Unfortunately, the small Ebola outbreak in the Mbandaka area (northwestern Congo) continues. As of June 10, there have been 24 confirmed cases and 13 dead. The city of Mbandaka has a population of one million people. In mid-June, the government confirmed that Covid-19/Wuhan virus cases have occurred in 12 of Congo’s 25 provinces. There have been about 6,500 cases and between 140 and 150 deaths.

The covid19 has, in four months, resulted in 282 confirmed cases per million people in Congo and eight deaths per million. For all of Africa (including North Africa) there have been 400 cases per million and 9.4 deaths per million people. That’s far lower than anywhere else. So far, the global total is 1,534 cases per million and 70 deaths per million.

Congo detected its first covid19 infections in early March. Most of Africa is showing low rates of infection and death because health care throughout Africa is unable to handle something like this. There may be more cases in Congo but the country has little or no access to modern medical care and people regularly die of undiagnosed afflictions. Since most of these involve a fever, caused by the immune system trying to fight off some kind of infection, people call many fatal conditions an unspecified fever, and such fatal fevers are common.

Covid19 is not as scary in Africa because there are so many other deadly diseases or unnatural ways to die. While most fatal diseases have very distinct and visible symptoms, like diarrhea and vomiting common to Ebola victims, covid19 is more difficult to separate from many similar and sometimes fatal diseases. One more such death does not make much difference and since covid19 is most fatal for the elderly or those already ill from other afflictions, in most parts of Africa covid19 deaths will not even be noticed. Covid19 is similar to the annual influenza outbreaks but infects and kills two or three times more people. That’s not to be considered a health emergency in most countries. In Africa, a fatal cause of covid19 is just another death by the fever of someone seen as close to death already. This happens in the West as well, but much less frequently and usually by accident. For example, a lot of nursing home deaths in the West were, at first, not attributed to covid19 because nursing homes normally have frequent and numerous deaths and often involve a case of pneumonia at the end. The victims tend t0 have a number of health problems that can eventually kill them. In the West “just another fever” as a cause of death is no longer acceptable even though it is what is happening. A unique feature of covid19 is that it interferes with the breathing and appears similar to pneumonia. That is not unusual if most of the dead are elderly or younger people with other health problems. What often finally kills such sickly people is a case of pneumonia that healthier people can survive. The difference is actual pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection that can be cured by antibiotics while vovid19 “pneumonia” is caused by a virus which, so far, has no cure. Fortunately, most people exposed to covid19 fight it off without even knowing it or getting infected but experiencing no symptoms or ill effects. Ebola is a much higher infection and fatality rate. Ebola is feared while covid19 often goes unnoticed.

June 24, 2020: Police in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, fired tear gas at protestors. The protests began on June 23. The protestors are demonstrating against proposed changes in Congo’s judiciary system that are backed by the pro-Kabila majority in parliament. Many of the protestors belonged to the UDPS, which is president Tshisekedi's party. One report claimed the protestors threw gasoline bombs.

June 23, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) violent clashes broke out between police and miners at the SMB coltan mine near Rubaya. At least three people were killed and three injured. One of the injured was a police officer. SMB stands for Societe Miniere de Bisunzu. The miners belong to a local mining organization named COOPERAMMA (a local collective operating like a union). The collective has previously accused police and security forces of using excessive force against protesting miners. On its part, SMB accuses disgruntled miners of launching a grenade attack. COOPERAMMA denies the accusation. SMB says it has deployed the police and security forces to end theft and smuggling. The company told UN investigators that in 2019 approximately 50 tons of coltan a month were stolen from its mining operations in the area. SMB says miners steal the coltan. The mineral is then smuggled out of Congo and sold. Coltan is the source of tantalum and a key component of many electronic devices.

June 22, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), ADF terrorists fired on a peacekeeper patrol near the town of Beni. One peacekeeper was killed and another injured. The soldier who was killed was working on a bridge-building project in the Hululu area. ADF terrorists have slain 19 civilians in other recent attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. On June 19 ADF terrorists killed ten civilians in an Ituri province village. The ADF attackers were armed with machetes and some light infantry weapons. On June 21 suspected ADF fighters kidnapped nine people in North Kivu.

June 20, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), unidentified gunmen attacked the town of Fizi. Two soldiers were killed in that incident.

Vital Kamerhe, president Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing $48 million from a government fund. The fund was established to build housing for impoverished Congolese. This case has had numerous twists. Kamerhe, who at one time was a supporter of Kabila, insists his prosecution is purely political. Kamerhe supposedly made a deal with Tshisekedi to support him in the 2018 election if Tshisekedi would support him in the 2023 presidential election. Is Kabila after him or Tshisekedi? There’s more. In May the judge who began the case died unexpectedly. First reports said heart attack. An autopsy determined the judge had been stabbed in the head.

June 18, 2020: In Burundi retired general Evariste Ndayishimiye was sworn in as the new president. He was originally scheduled to be inaugurated on August 20. However, the death of former president Pierre Nkurunziza changed the date. Ndayishimiye was Nkurunziza’s hand-picked successor. Nkurunziza held power for 15 years and was the first African leader to die in office since 2014. Observers in Burundi noted that the Nkurunziza’s widow did not attend the ceremony nor did the loser in last month’s election, Agathon Rwasa. The election was held on May 20. Rwasa, who serves in parliament, challenged the election results in Burundi’s Constitutional Court and lost. However, he continues to accuse Ndayishimiye’s party of vote fraud and intimidation. Burundi’s Conference of Catholic Bishops has documented numerous election irregularities. On his part, Ndayishimiye accuses his political opponents and various civil society organizations of being “colonialist tools.” He has all but accused his political opponents of treason. (Austin Bay)

June 16, 2020: Congo’s minister of justice confirmed an autopsy had determined that judge Raphael Yanyi had not died of a heart attack. He was murdered. The autopsy discovered stab wounds to the head. In May investigating police claimed Yanyi had suffered a heart attack. Yanyi had been overseeing the corruption trial of former Tshisekedi chief of staff Vital Kamerhe.

Meanwhile, Burundi media now allege former President Pierre Nkurunziza did not die from a heart attack but from the Covid-19/Wuhan coronavirus. On June 8 the government reported he suffered a heart attack in a hospital located in Karusi (central Burundi).

June 11, 2020: Congolese prosecutors asked the high court overseeing Vital Kamerhe’s corruption trial to sentence Kamerhe to 20 years in prison for embezzling $48 million in government funds. That was the maximum sentence. The trial is being held inside Kinshasa’s Makala prison and is being broadcast on government television.

June 10, 2020: Uganda’s government is slowly but surely resettling people away from the lowland shores of Lake Victoria. Lake lowlands (some located near the capital, Entebbe) has been flooding frequently and that caused residents to flee. The resettling may make economic and health sense, but it has created intense opposition. Some residents contend they are simply driven away from their homes and receive no compensation. The Ugandan ministry overseeing water and environmental issues contends many of these people live illegally in protected areas around rivers and lakes. Farming destroys the wetlands ability to absorb rain. Flooding and run-off create severe environmental damage. Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake.

June 8, 2020: President Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi’s longtime authoritarian leader, died unexpectedly. The government reported he had a heart attack while hospitalized in a town in central Burundi (later identified as Karusi). A later statement reported Nkurunziza’s wife was not with him but in Nairobi, Kenya, being treated for covid19.

A Sudanese Darfuri militia leader, Ali Kushayb, has been arrested in the Central African Republic town of Birao. Kushayb faces war crimes and crimes against humanity charges in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The indictment was issued in 2007. Kushayb has already been extradited to The Hague (Netherlands) for trial.

June 6, 2020: Burundi’s high court has certified the May election results, despite a challenge by the political opposition. Former general Evariste Ndayishimiye received 68.7 percent of the vote. Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa received 24.2 percent. Five other candidates divided the remainder.

 

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