Congo: China Abides

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August 12, 2020: Congo’s domestic development agency plans to let a consortium led by China and Spain build Africa’s largest hydropower dam project on the Congo River. The Grand Inga Project would cost over $14 billion. South Africa would be the primary market for the electricity generated. China would control 75 percent of the shares in the consortium. The deal was negotiated by former president Joseph Kabila’s administration. There is a major hang up: current president Felix Tshisekedi has not approved the proposal. Tshisekedi and his advisers prefer to build a smaller hydro-electric plant that could be expanded as demand grew. China has a track record for advocating mega-projects that Chinese companies would build, and benefit the most from. (Austin Bay)

August 10, 2020: SADC (Southern African Development Community) has told the UN it has reservations about UN plans to restructure the FIB (Force Intervention Brigade) that serves as the only “license to kill” unit in Congo peacekeeping force. The UN is paying attention, since three SADC countries (South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi) provide troops for the unit. Allegedly the UN is considering adding forces from countries other than South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. FIB is a highly sought assignment because soldiers get to operate like soldiers and are able to shoot back and chase down the violent militias and Islamic terrorists that make peacekeepers necessary. Normally peacekeepers operate more like security guards, showing up to protect threatened civilians or aid workers and only firing back when there is no other option. FIB troops can fire first and do whatever is needed to capture or destroy a particularly dangerous threat. The presence of FIB has made many of the warlords and violent militias less aggressive and dangerous.

August 9, 2020: In n orthwestern Congo (Equateur province) the city of Mbandaka has had at least 74 Ebola virus cases since June and 32 people have died of the disease. In early June this outbreak began with the discovery of eight confirmed cases, and four of the infected died. Mbandaka is on the Congo River, over 1,600 kilometers from the eastern Congo locations where Ebola has raged for 22 months. Mbandaka and Equateur province had an Ebola outbreak of its own in 2018. While Ebola is one of the most lethal epidemic diseases ever encounters, covid19, a much less lethal visitor from China has recently shown up in Congo. So far Congo has had 662 verified cases of covid19 per million people and ten deaths per million.

August 8, 2020: President Evariste Ndayishimiye the newly elected Burundi leader rejected an offer from Rwanda to settle a border dispute. Ndayishimiye called the offer “hypocritical.”

August 7, 2020: The United States imposed sanctions on the leader of a Central African Republic militia faction accused of human rights abuse and war crimes. Sidiki Abass is the leader of the CAR’s notorious Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R) militia which has killed thousands of civilians in the country.

August 6, 2020: In southwest Congo (Kasai region) a land dispute involving two tribes got violent and left seven dead and 17 wounded before police and tribal elders calmed things down. These disputes often start out as negotiations that stalemate and lead to anger and violence.

August 4, 2020: In southeastern Congo (Tanganyika province) Zambian soldiers withdrew from two villages after occupying them since March. At the time of the incursion one Zambian soldier and one Congolese security force member were killed. Zambia claims two of its soldiers were killed. A SADC diplomatic effort led to the withdrawal. Zambia and Congo dispute the lake and land borders between Lake Mweru and Lake Tanganyika. The major problem is a 13-kilometer long stretch.

August 2, 2020: President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda announced he will run for another term in 2021. He will have a major opponent, opposition leader (and musician) Bobi Wine who recently (July) announced he will run for president.

July 31, 2020: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) a soldier started shooting at civilians along a road and killed at least 12 people. Investigators reported the soldier was drunk. Residents immediately began a protest that blocked the highway. Protestors appealed to peacekeepers for assistance.

July 27, 2020: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) locals complained that the army and peacekeepers have not done enough to provide security for civilians in the province. Since July 1, armed groups (terrorists and rogue militias) have killed between 200 and 250 people in South Kivu. At least 50 people were slain in an attack on July 16.

July 24, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) investigators found the bodies of 37 people killed during recent fighting in the city of Pinga. A violent feud between rival factions of the NDC-R (Nduma Defense of Congo) rebels took place between July 11 and July 20. Violence like this is so frequent that it is often unknown beyond where it happened for days or weeks.

July 21, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), fighters belonging to M23 (the March 23 Movement) attacked a group of soldiers and killed three of them . Elsewhere in the east (Ituri province) 12 people were killed during an outbreak of tribal violence. The Lendu CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) militia was the aggressor and responsible for most or all of the deaths. Since 2017 similar fighting in Ituri has displaced over 500,000 people.

July 18, 2020: Rwanda held a press conference to reveal 57 Rwandans recently captured in eastern Congo and turned over to Rwanda because all 57 were known terrorists. Rwanda described five of the 57 as “generals” who command terror groups such as FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), FLN (National Liberation Front), the RUD and the MRCD (Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change). The FDLR and FLN are both associated with ethnic Hutu extremists involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. A counterattack by the Tutsi victims drove the genocidal Hutu factions into eastern Congo, where they have operated ever since, much to the discomfort of Congo and Rwanda and at great cost in lives to the people of eastern Congo.

July 17, 2020: President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo appointed a new army commander. General Gabriel Amisi Kumba will replace General John Numbi. Interestingly enough, both Kumba and Numbi face individual sanctions from the EU and the United States for abuse of civilians and attacking political opposition protestors during former president Joseph Kabila’s administration.

July 16, 2020: The ICC (International Criminal Court) announced it will try two CAR (Central African Republic) militia leaders on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. The trial of Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom will begin in February 2021.

July 15, 2020: Zambia denied accusations by Rwanda that the Zambian president had financed attacks on Rwanda. Callixte Nsabimana, who is currently on trial for terrorism in Rwanda, made that claim in a recent hearing. Nsabimana belong to the National Liberation Front (FLN).

July 14, 2020: In eastern Congo (Ituri and North Kivu provinces) former members of the local M23 militia are accused of reviving tribal feuds and escalating that to more violence. The M23 “remnants” have bases somewhere in western Uganda. The faction’s leader considers the chaos an opportunity to further weaken government control and regain some influence in eastern Congo.

July 13, 2020: In n orthwestern Congo (Equateur province) there was an outbreak of the Ebola virus outbreak with at least 48 cases confirmed so far.

In the CAR (Central African Republic), militiamen belonging to the 3R rebels killed a Rwandan soldier serving with the peacekeepers. Two other peacekeepers were wounded in the incident. Earlier (July 8) an anti-tank mine laid by 3R fighters damaged a peacekeeper vehicle.

 

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