Congo: Another President-For-Life

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May 4, 2016: Opposition politicians and UN officials believe Congolese president Kabila is preparing to violate the constitution and seek a third presidential term. Elections are scheduled for November 2016 but Kabila’s government keeps delaying preparations. UN officials and diplomats from major donor nations are publicly saying that only relentless outside pressure (political and economic) on Kabila will keep him from seeking a third term. The Congo constitution stipulates that a president may not serve more than two five-year terms. Kabila won his first election in 2006; he was re-elected in 2011.

May 3, 2016: In the east (North Kivu) three drivers working for a foreign aid group were taken from their trucks by a local militia. No ransom demand yet.

May 1, 2016: Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) successfully formed a new government by giving lucrative jobs to political opponents. This came after an unpopular change in the constitution that allowed the current president (Denis Nguesso) to ignore term limitations and become president-for-life.

Congo and Uganda have begun a new border demarcation process to resolve a minor border dispute that involves colonial-era boundaries.

April 30, 2016: Tanzania announced that May 2nd Inter-Burundian Dialogue (peace talks between the Burundi government and its opponents) were postponed. Violence in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, was given as the reason for the delay. On April 29 five people were slain in a bar in Bujumbura. Opposition political leaders contend that Burundian president Nkurunziza is behind the violence. The postponement is diplomatic setback. On April 26 the U.S. congratulated the government and the opposition parties for agreeing to renew the Inter-Burundian Dialogue.

April 26, 2016: Burundian president Nkurunziza told the army and police that they must find the murderers of general Athanase Kararuza by May 1st. The senior officer and his wife were killed in Bujumbura on April 25. Their daughter was wounded. At least four suspects were arrested by the deadline but it is unclear if any or all those involved in the killing have been identified.

April 25, 2016: Congo Republic (Brazzaville) president Nguesso named Clement Mouamba his new prime minister. Mouamba is a former political opponent and his appointment is an attempt to ease post-election tensions in the Congo Republic.

April 24, 2016: Congo president Kabila ordered security forces to break up a peaceful political rally in Lubumbashi (capital of Katanga province). The security forces complied, using teargas but also firing shots into the air. Kabila’s main political opponent, Moise Katumbi, was participating in the demonstration. Katumbi was at one time the governor of Katanga.

April 23, 2016: The UN expressed serious and official concern of escalating political tension in key Congo cities and provinces, in particular escalating tension in the capital (Kinshasha) and Lubumbashi in Katanga. These are Congo’s two most important cities. The UN pointed out that “peaceful, transparent and credible elections” (ie, national elections) will help defuse the tensions. The statement is an undisguised criticism of Kabila.

Elephant poachers shot a Swedish park manager and four Congolese rangers in Congo’s Garamba National Park. Three of the rangers died while the park manager and the surviving ranger were hospitalized. One cryptic media report stated that U.S. forces operating in the area helped evacuate the wounded. Another report thanked U.S. AFRICOM for helping with the rescue. U.S. special operations troops are helping pursue the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA still occasionally uses Garamba as a sanctuary. In 2015 poachers in Garamba killed three soldiers and five wildlife guards (who support park rangers).

April 22, 216: The Congo government signed an agreement with key international donors that commits the government to protecting 155 million hectares (387 million acres) of jungle and forest in an effort to halt deforestation. The government committed itself to helping curb illegal logging and reduce reliance on slash-and-burn agriculture. About 60 per cent of Congo’s 70 million people live in jungle or forest areas. Congo’s jungles are often referred to as tropical forests, which is an accurate description.

April 21, 2016: The government of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has reportedly used armed helicopters to attack political opponents in the Pool region. The government has also sent soldiers to the area. The incumbent --and long serving-- president Nguesso, won March’s national election. Nguesso is in the process of forming a new government. In early April the government claimed that opposition leader Pastor Frederic Ntumi was planning to use his personal militia group, the Ninjas, to launch attacks. However, the Ninjas were officially disarmed in 2005.

April 20, 2016: Rwanda denied that any of its soldiers crossed the border into Congo. Rwanda did say that it troops had chased a militia that launched attacks inside Rwanda on April 16th. Rwanda claimed that its soldiers had repelled an attack by the radical Rwandan Hutu FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). Congo accused Rwanda of sending soldiers across the border in an area where Congolese troops are fighting FDLR.

April 18, 2016: The U.S. told Congo it is prepared to partner with “all of those who are committed to timely, credible elections as called for by the DRC’s constitution.” This message may have been delivered to the Congo government, but it is diplomatic outreach to Congolese opposition groups.

April 16, 2016: Despite a decade of efforts to disarm and demobilize militias in the eastern Congo, the UN estimates that over 60 militias continue to operate in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces.

April 13, 2016: UN peacekeepers revealed that since late March there have been new clashes between the soldiers and rebel groups in North Kivu province. The army was concentrating on dealing with the FDLR. This fighting has caused nearly 40,000 civilians to flee their homes for UN run refugee camps.

April 12, 2016: It appears that Lords Resistance Army commander Joseph Kony has demanded that the Ugandan government start a new round of peace talks. Kony wants unconditional peace talks and wants Tanzania, the East African Community (EAC), the UN, the U.S., Sudan and the African Union to serve as mediators. This could be genuine. The International Criminal Court recently called on LRA fighters to turn themselves in. The ICC is only interested in prosecuting Kony and his deputy, Dominic Ongwen (who is already in custody). Kony has been telling LRA fighters them the ICC would torture them and execute them if they surrendered. The ICC would do neither but it’s a useful fiction for Kony.

April 10, 2016: Diplomats are worried that Burundi’s continuing troubles could result in yet another genocide. Since April 2015, when president Nkurunziza decided to run for a then-unconstitutional third term, the country has been in turmoil. Nkurunziza is a Hutu and his party has a youth wing (a militia) that opponents say targets Burundian Tutsis.

April 9, 2016: Congo expelled an American researcher who published a report that linked Congolese Army soldiers to the massacres of civilians. The evidence for soldiers committing crimes against civilians is firm.

April 8, 2016: Burundi agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union that commits the Burundian government to not allow its security forces to abuse civilians. This AU agreement followed an agreement to allow the UN to send in police to monitor the situation and report abuse of civilians.

April 7, 2016: The huge data leak of confidential legal, banking and investment documents now known as the Panama Papers has mentioned several very important people in sub-Saharan Africa. In Congo the big names include President Joseph Kabila’s twin sister.

April 6, 2016: Seventeen people in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) died in a series of violent clashes in the southern part of the capital. Three of the dead were policemen and two were “gunmen.” The government claimed (without evidence) that the two gunmen were former members of the Ninja guerrilla movement. Anger at president Nguesso’s disputed re-election on March 20 spurred demonstrations and the government cracked down. Then gun battles erupted. The southern half of the capital is an opposition political stronghold. The government latter said it arrested 50 militants.

Three Congolese UN peacekeepers are accused of rape in Central African Republic (CAR) and are facing a military court in the prison at Ndolo (north of Kinshasha).

 

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