Congo: China Miners Go Full Damage Control

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September 21, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu and Ituri provinces) the state of emergency (martial law) continues as it has since May 6. Diplomats, UN observers and aid workers contend the state of emergency has not succeeded and are calling for more soldiers and police. According to aid workers in the area, between May 6 and September 10 armed groups operating in the provinces killed an estimated 675 civilians. However, the security forces have their problems. During that same period the army and police killed 67 civilians. In August a North Kivu civic reform group demanded an end to martial law and gave two reasons: (1) the military was failing to stop the rebel attacks; and (2) the military was making life worse for the people it was supposed to be protecting. The government says ADF, the Ugandan Islamic terror group responsible for most of the rebel and bandit attacks on civilians. In Ituri province CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) rebels commit a substantial number of the attacks and atrocities. CODECO is predominantly a Lendu tribal organization. It is sometimes described as a political-military sect because its leaders claim to have a religious mission. Like most violence in Congo, there is usually a tribal element because, for most Congolese, tribal leaders can do more for them than dictators or elected officials. This is true in many parts of the world where larger scale governments fail to match the services the ancient tribal organizations ptovide.

September 16, 2021: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) six Chinese owned companies were ordered to leave Congo by the Chinese government after multiple instances of illegal mining and environmental destruction. The Chinese order came after South Kivu province ordered the Chinese companies to suspend operations. China said it would punish Chinese personnel responsible. The accused firms include BM Global Business, Congo Blueant Minerals, Groupe Cristal, Orientale Resource Congo, Yellow Water Resources and New Continent Mineral. The Chinese government is saying the right things but many Congolese believe the Chinese government is doing this so they can find out who to bribe and how much to make the problem officially settled. told Congo it will punish the companies. As has happened in the past, the legal and illegal mining operations will continue under the same management but there will be new names and the most identifiable Chinese held responsible will be moved to other Chinese operations in Africa or back to China to share their experience with Chinese planning to join the overseas minerals boom that the government encourages and supports, especially operators who can get production going and deal with any local obstacles. There are no rules because many of the mining areas are lawless and available to anyone able to do whatever it takes to extract the valuable minerals and get them back to Chinese businesses that depend on a steady supply of raw materials.

September 15, 2021: In the CAR (Central African Republic) The UN has ordered 450 Gabonese peacekeepers to leave. Many of the Gabon soldiers are accused with rape of local women and forcing some to work in brothels. This is the second time Gabonese peacekeepers serving with UN CAR peacekeeping force have been charged with sex-related offenses. A smaller group of Gabonese was withdrawn in 2016. This problem is not unique and has been a persistent problem with UN peacekeeping forces for decades. Since the 1990s the UN has spent $7-10 billion a year on 100,000 to 150,000 peacekeepers handling one or two dozen peacekeeping operations each year. This pays for the peacekeepers and a smaller support staff. It's actually a pretty cheap way of keeping some conflicts under control. The causes of the unrest may not be resolved by peacekeepers but at least the problem is contained and doesn't bother the rest of the world too much. This is an increasingly unpopular approach to peacekeeping, except in the UN bureaucracy. Many UN members would rather send peacekeepers to where they are not wanted by the local government, usually a bad one that is often the cause of the trouble in the first place.

The UN peacekeeping army usually suffers less than a hundred combat deaths a year. More than ten times that number were wounded, injured in accidents, or disabled by disease. The peacekeeper combat fatalities come out to 90-110 per 100,000 troops per year. In Afghanistan foreign troops lost about 350-450 in the worst years. At the peak of the fighting (2005-7) in Iraq, the losses were 500-600 per 100,000. The rate for U.S. troops in Vietnam and World War II was about 1,500 per 100,000 troops. The UN peacekeepers are often seeing some considerable violence but at less than a third of the rate of troops in actual wars. Most of the peacekeepers have come from South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal). Pakistan has been one of the most frequent contributors, sending over 160,000 troops to over forty UN peacekeeping operations in more than two dozen countries since the mid-20th century. They suffered a death rate of about 90-952 per 100,000. That’s lower than usual for peacekeepers, in large part because the South Asian troops tend to be among the best trained and most professional in the UN force.

For more than a decade the UN has been having trouble getting more troops for peacekeeping duty. While the casualties have something to do with this, corruption and lack of success are more often discouraging countries from contributing. The corruption angle is interesting, as it pertains both to the corruption within the UN bureaucracy and the corrupt atmosphere the peacekeepers operate in and often succumb to. Casualties are expected but the contributing countries feel a lot of their troop losses are the result of restrictive UN rules that limit what peacekeepers can do. This, in turn, is believed most responsible for a lack of success for the peacekeeping missions.

India and Pakistan are not happy with the lack of volunteers from other major nations. The chief reasons for that are the same ones annoying the current peacekeepers (corruption and restrictive rules of engagement). In addition, the major military powers, except China and Russia, feel they already contribute quite a lot in the form of money to pay the peacekeepers. The nations that provide the cash are also upset at the lack of results.

September 11, 2021: Foreign NGOs report armed rebel groups and militias operating in and near Congo’s Virunga National Park are plundering the park and threatening wildlife. The groups engage in poaching, illegal fishing, illegal logging and charcoal production. Virunga is huge, covering over 7,800 square kilometers. The poaching problem is well known, particularly killing elephants for ivory, but charcoal production is also lucrative. One NGO estimated that the armed groups supply the city of Goma (North Kivu province) with 150 sacks of lump charcoal a day. At a minimum the rebels make $500,000 a month from charcoal sales in Goma. The money pays for weapons, ammunition and supplies used in criminal activities. The Virunga Park has a ranger force with an authorized strength of 689 rangers but has a hard time recruiting rangers because of the growing violence in Virunga, which was reopened in early 2019 after being closed since May 2018 because of the kidnapping of two tourists and their Congolese driver. The bandits murdered a park ranger who tried to intervene. The bad guys outnumber the good guys and the violence also scares away foreign tourists who bring in a lot of money each year and that pays for the park security force and jobs for many local civilians.

September 10, 2021: President Tshisekedi announced Congo is reviewing all mining contracts signed with China in 2008 by former president Kabila and his notoriously corrupt government. Tshisekedi indicated the deals are unfair. Kabila and his cronies are suspected of taking bribes in exchange for giving China very favorable terms.

September 9, 2021: In eastern Congo (Ituri and North Kivu Provinces) the Ugandan ADF Islamic terror group is more frequently describing itself as ISILs (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) Central African Province, or ISCAP. The name changes nothing because ADF continues its terrorist operations. Typically the ADF operates in and around the city of Beni (North Kivu province). The offensive there began around June 1. Since that date aid groups estimate ADF has killed 207 people in 66 reported attacks. Nearly all the attacks are against unprotected civilians.

September 8, 2021: Burundian and Congolese security forces fired on one another at the Lake Tanganyika border. Allegedly a Burundian patrol boat mistook a Congolese patrol boat for bandits or smugglers. Two Congolese soldiers were killed when the Burundians opened fire. Burundi offered a different story. Its forces fired four armed bandits, killed two and the other two drowned in the lake. Burundi claimed the bandits had stolen fuel from Burundian fishermen.

September 6, 2021: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) soldiers attacked a group of CODECO rebels claiming they killed 17 CODECO gunmen and wounded four. The soldiers suffered six killed and two wounded.

September 4, 2021: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) ADF terrorists killed four people during a looting raid on a rural village. While stealing food and other supplies they set fire to six houses. The day before a similar raid on another village in the area left 30 villagers dead.

September 1, 2021: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) an unusually large group of ADF gunmen ambushed a convoy of 100 vehicles near a village on the main road connecting the cities of Beni and Butembo. The attackers killed ten civilians, destroyed 16 vehicles and seized many hostages. Soldiers and peacekeepers traveling with the convoy counter-attacked the ADF force and freed over 50 hostages. Soldiers and peacekeepers continued tracking the attackers in order to free other civilians captured in the attack.

Rwandan president Kagame removed justice minister Johnston Busingye from office. Kagame is upset with Busingye’s handling of the trial of Paul Rusesabagina, of Hotel Rwanda fame. Rusesabagina faces charges of terrorism and conspiracy to form and fund a rebel group. Kagame was not too upset because he quickly made Busingye ambassador to Britain.

August 31, 2021: In the southern Congo (Katanga province) the government is increasing security at the Shinkolobwe uranium mine. Officials report that illegal miners have entered the mining area searching for cobalt and copper. The mine provided the uranium for the U.S. atom bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Small quantities of uranium are still found in the mine, where it is a component of the copper ore.

August 30, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF terrorists are believed responsible for attacking and looting a town near Virunga National Park and murdering 19 people while looting the place.

August 28, 2021: In 2022 an official from the other, smaller Congo Republic Brazzaville across the Congo River, becomes president of the OPEC oil cartel. OPEC has a rotating presidency. Congo (Brazzaville) will replace Angola. The Congo Republic produces about 335,000 barrels of oil a day. It has an oil reserve of about three billion barrels and an estimated natural gas reserve of ten trillion cubic feet. The country is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil producer, following Nigeria and Angola.

August 27, 2021: In Congo the government confirmed that it is examining its six billion dollar “infrastructure-for-minerals” agreement with Chinese mining companies and financiers. This effort involved forming a commission to reassess China Molybdenum’s Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mine operation. A deal cut in 2007 between the former Kabila government and two Chinese state-owned firms, Sinohydro Corp and China Railway Group Limited, is also being examined. Many Congolese regard that deal as particularly suspect. Sinohydro and China Railway were supposed to build roads, hospitals and other infrastructure in exchange for a 68% stake in the Sicomines copper and cobalt joint venture. This investigation process begam several months ago when president Tshisekedi ordered a review of mining contracts that he believed were not fair to Congo.

August 26, 2021: Further south in Malawi, which is wedged among Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, the Malawi's Constitutional Court will consider a challenge by the losing Democratic Progressive Party in the 2020 “re-run” presidential election. The Court originally nullified the 2019 election for several reasons, including well documented evidence former president and DPP leader Peter Mutharika rigged it. President Lazarus Chakwera defeated Mutharika in the 2020 do over. Now the DPP is arguing the Court made a mistake by nullifying the appointment of four DPP commissioners to Malawi’s Electoral Commission. Sound like a technicality? Maybe. Stay tuned. Malawi is one of the best run nations in the region and its troops are much in demand for UN peacekeeping operations.

August 25, 2021: The Ugandan government reported that 51 Afghan refugees evacuated by the U.S. have arrived in Uganda. Uganda has agreed to accept up to 2,000 Afghan evacuees.

August 23, 2021: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) local officials announced they had ordered six Chinese mining companies to suspend operations. The companies were not “respecting the mining code and regulations" and had created environmental problems. One official said that mining company violations had resulted in the degradation of agricultural land so that "even peanuts" could not be grown in the fields.

 

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