The UN peacekeeper force in Congo facing reductions because the United States is the largest single contributor to UN peacekeeping operations and is planning on cutting those contributions. Currently the Americans provide 28.57 percent of the UN’s $7.87 billion peacekeeping budget. The UN fiscal year ends on June 30th so if the U.S. does cut contributions the peacekeeper commanders in Congo will have to take action by the end of the year. The U.S. also provides logistics and communications support, much of it by the U.S. military. China is the second biggest budget contributor, at 10.29% with Japan third at 9.68 percent. Neither of these two show any interest in making up for any American cuts. The UN peacekeeper effort costs about $1.3 billion a year and consists of 22,400 personnel (16,893 soldiers, 1,100 are police and the rest are civilians. The Congo peacekeepers are already short fifteen percent of the soldiers the UN authorized but a lot of that is because not enough nations are willing to provide peacekeepers. The U.S. wants a review of the entire UN peacekeeping budget, to include Congo. Meanwhile UN leaders have asked members to provide 320 additional police to to support presidential elections and efforts to hold an honest vote and prevent Congo from reverting to a dictatorship.. The U.S. wants the current Congo peacekeeper strength 11 percent although not the police strength. In mid-March France said it opposed cuts in peacekeeping troops, citing inability and elections later in the year. France, however, would accept a troop ceiling of 17,000 (which basically reflects current on the ground strength). France has asked the UN to do a study to determine the minimum number of peacekeepers Congo requires. The U.S. also wants to cap its peacekeeping contribution at 25 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget. That might be possible. The UN is winding down its peacekeeping missions in Haiti and the Ivory Coast. The operation is Liberia will also conclude. Negotiations between the U.S. and the UN over personnel authorizations and budgets are on-going. (Austin Bay)
March 27, 2017: Moise Katumbi, a member of the Congolese political opposition, is also a businessman and currently in exile because of government threats against him. He recently accused the government of inflating the additional costs of carrying out the presidential election. Katumbi thinks Congo will need an additional $800 million to conduct presidential elections in 2017, not the $1.8 billion the government claims is required. Katumbi fled the country in May 2016 after incumbent president Kabila accused him of hiring mercenaries. Katumbi was later sentenced to three years in prison (in absentia) on another charge. Katumbi said Kabila’s $1.8 billion cost is definitely inflated and repeated accusations that Kabila is looting Congo. Katumbi intends to return to Congo despite the threat of imprisonment.
March 25, 2017: In the southwest (Kasai-Central province) it has been confirmed that during February a local Kamuina Nsapu tribal militia ambushed and beheaded 42 police officers outside the city of Kananga. Soldiers then engaged the Kamuina Nsapu militia in a series of firefights. The tribal violence down there is due to the national government trying to intervene in the decision about who would be the next chief of the Kamuina Nsapu. Since 2016 there have been several clashes between security forces and Kamuina Nsapu members. The worst incident was in August 2016 when troops the man the tribe wanted as the next chief but that the government considered as being too friendly with Congolese political opposition groups. Meanwhile, the government announced that it believes a missing UN investigation team (last seen in Kasai-Central on March 12) is still alive but being held by unidentified “negative forces.”
March 24, 2017: The U.S. military announced that it will soon end its operation to arrest the notorious Ugandan rebel commander of the Lords Resistance Army, Joseph Kony. Uganda’s decision to end its military’s participation in the operation greatly influenced the American decision. An estimated 200 LRA fighters remain in the field. Kony continues to evade capture. The operation, which began in 2011, cost somewhere between $600 million and $800 million.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered convicted Congolese militia leader, Germain Katanga, to pay reparations to victims of his atrocities. Katanga is serving a 12 years sentence for aiding and abetting war crimes. Katanga will pay a total of $3.7 million to the families of victims he massacred in 2003 in north-eastern Congo.
March 22, 2017: UN Investigators have now found 10 mass graves in Kasai-Central province.
March 21, 2017: The UN called on the Congo president and opposition groups to both demonstrate their commitment to uphold the December 3, 2016 agreement (the December Accord). The UN is helping register Congolese voters and so far 19 million voters have been registered (enrolled is the term the UN uses).
March 20, 2017: In Burundi the body of a murdered police colonel was discovered in the capital. Over 1,000 people have been killed in violent incidents since April 2015 when president Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term despite the fact that the constitution only allowed two terms. Nkurunziza changed the constitution and won the next election. The country, however, continues to experience political violence. In late February 2017, Nkurunziza announced he might change the constitution again so he could seek a fourth term. On March 9 the UN said Nkurunziza’s February announcement had intensified Burundi’s internal crisis. As a result, Nkurunziza’s government risked international isolation.
March 19, 2017: Security forces in Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) have killed at least 15 Ninja militiamen in the Pool region. This area was the center of the 1990s Ninja rebellions. Apparently the military attacked a base used by militiamen loyal to Frederic Bintsamou (aka Pastor Ntumi). He has been accused of launching raids on the capital back in April 2016.
March 18, 2017: In Congo the government arrested seven soldiers on charges of committing war crimes in Kasai-Central province. Authorities believe some of the more senior soldiers were in charge troops who massacred 13 civilians and made a video of their massacre. The victims included men, women and children. In the video a couple of the victims were shown carrying sling shots. No other weapons were visible and apparently all the victims were unarmed.
March 17, 2017: Catholic Church sources in Congo reported another series of attacks on church facilities. Churches have been vandalized and a convent and a seminary were attacked and plundered.
March 16, 2017: The Ugandan government admitted that its security forces killed at least 100 people in November 2016 when they assaulted a tribal leader’s palace compound in the town of Kasese. The government contended the security forces fought with a separatist militia. The government had previously said only 62 people were killed in the incident but other estimates went as high as 155 people. After the attack the government arrested the tribal leader of the Bakonzo.
March 15, 2017: Two foreign (American and Swedish) UN officials and four Congolese citizens have disappeared in Congo’s Kasai-Central province, apparently kidnapped. The UN officials were investigating human rights violations in the area. The human rights violations may involve the Congolese Army. A government spokesman said that the group had acted recklessly by traveling in a dangerous area and not informing the government.
Responding to reports that gunmen had killed two people in Rwanda then fled to Burundi, the Burundian government said that it does not allow criminals to use Burundi as a sanctuary. Burundi, however, did not offer to help Rwanda investigate the incident. Earlier in the month Burundi had accused Rwandan soldiers of shooting at Burundian fishermen on Lake Cyohoha and kidnapping (arresting) four Burundian citizens.
March 13, 2017: In western Rwanda gunmen attacked a two-man civilian defense force patrol killing one and wounding the other. A civilian bystander was also killed. The gunmen then fled across the border into Burundi. The attackers have not been identified. Initial reports said that only two gunmen were involved. Later reports said there may have been from five to eight gunmen. The civilian patrol was an “Irondo,” a security patrol conducted by local personnel. The Rwandan Army (Rwandan Defense Force) sanctions these patrols.
March 9, 2017: Opposition political leaders in Congo are acknowledging that the death of Etienne Tshisekedi in early February is proving to be a huge setback to their attempts to form a coalition to stop Joseph Kabila. It was generally agreed that Tshisekedi was the opposition’s “unifying figure.” Without him the opposition could split apart.
March 6, 2017: In Congo police arrested Ne Muanda Nsemi, the leader of the Bundu Dia Mayala (BDM) movement. He is also a member of Congo’s parliament and was arrested in Kinshasa. The government calls the BDM a “separatist” Christian cult. In February six BDM supporters were killed in confrontations with security forces. The government reported police killed two more BDK members in a confrontation on March 3. The BDM was formerly called the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK). The movement seeks the independence of the Bas-Congo region (western Congo) from the rest of the DRC. Its adherents have to renounce western and eastern religions. It also wants to revive the pre-colonial Kongo Kingdom.
March 5, 2017: In Congo supporters of president Kabila are once again claiming that Congo cannot afford to pay for a national election. The political opposition says that is just another excuse to renege on the December 31 agreement (the December Accord).
March 4, 2017: In Congo kidnappers are demanding $1 million in ransom for five workers who were abducted on March 1 from a mining operation in eastern Congo (South Kivu province). Three of the abducted are Congolese, one is Tanzanian, one is French. The gold mine is owned by the Banro Mining Corporation, a Canadian company. In 2016 a local rebel militia attacked a Banro vehicle convoy and hijacked several trucks. The militia also demanded ransom for the truck drivers, who were Kenyan and Tanzanian. That militia is on the suspect list. The militia was formed in 2011 and claimed to be a “self- defense militia” defending against attacks by the FDLR Hutu rebels. However, authorities believe the militia is led by several officers who deserted the Congolese Army.