Congo: Diamonds Are For Never


November 1, 2018: The death toll from the Ebola virus epidemic in eastern Congo continues to mount. So far 177 people have died from the eastern outbreak and that figure will go higher. On October 29 Uganda reported it had information that another 257 people in Congo have contracted the virus. A Ugandan medical official indicated the death toll in Congo has already exceeded 200 people. The World Health Organization confirmed the Ebola epidemic is spreading in North Kivu province but at the moment the outbreak does not constitute an international public health emergency. That noted, Uganda is screening from 8,000 to 20,000 people a day along its Congo border. Most of the screenings occur on market days when Ugandans and Congolese cross the border to shop and trade. There are seven border crossing points with screening clinics. Attacks by the Ugandan ADF Islamic rebels and other violence have disrupted efforts to control the epidemic in North Kivu. Patients in “traditional healing clinics” (folk medicine) have been exposed to Ebola while seeking treatment for malaria. The ADF attacks create the risk that the Ebola could spread to Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.

October 31, 2018: In eastern Angola (Lunda Norte Province) the government is seeking to shut down the illegal diamond mining operations that were largely operated by Congolese refugees who compete with legal diamond mining operations financed and operated Chinese and Russian firms. Local officials were paid to stay out of the way of the smugglers, who have armed enforcers who are used as needed. The diamond miners and smugglers comprise a minority of the Congo refugees in Angola but provided income that sustained the entire Congo refugee community in Angola. Police have seized over a million dollars of illegal diamonds and seized 60 firearms in October, when most of the Congolese refugees were forced back across the border into Congo. The return of these refugees has caused problems in Congo where aid agencies are already trying to cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees who did not flee the country.

October 30, 2018: In Congo the major opposition parties have not yet agreed on a joint candidate for the December presidential election but insist they will before November 15th. The national election to replace President Joseph Kabila has been delayed because Kabila. Who was supposed to have left office in December 2016, refused to organize the elections or leave office. Kabila’s governing party has already named former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its candidate.

October 28, 2018: Angola announced that in January 2019 it might begin seizing assets stolen by corrupt officials and their organizations. Angola will seize assets in the country and attempt to seize assets hidden abroad. Implementing the policy depends on the successful passage of the Law on Coercive Repatriation and Extended Loss of Property. The law targets “incongruous goods”—property and assets purchased from wealth generated by criminal activity.

October 27, 2018: CENI (Congo’s electoral commission) has announced that there are 21 presidential candidates on its definitive list. “Definitive” appears to mean acceptable. Opposition political leaders Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe are on the list. So is the pro-Kabila Emmanuel Shadary. Former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba and former Katanga Governor Moise Katumbi have been excluded from the presidential candidate list,

October 25, 2018: The Burundian government has boycotted the “fifth round” of meetings, sponsored by the EAC (East African Community) designed to assure “free and fair election” occur in 2020. The talks were scheduled for October 24 in Arusha, Tanzania but Burundi refused to send a representative.

October 23, 2018: In eastern Angola (Lunda Norte Province) violence in the provincial capital Lucapa near the Congo border. Angolans objected to the increasing number of Congolese refugees in the area. An estimated 300,000 Congolese have fled to Angola since early 2018. Many of the refugees are from the Kasai region in southwest Congo. The anti-Congo violence began on October 3 with three days of Angolan rioters attacking Kapende, Lucapa’s Congolese neighborhood. Congolese residents fought back with machetes but most of the shanty homes were destroyed. After the riots Congo delivered a strong diplomatic protest to Angola and Angolan officials acknowledged that at least 14 people were killed in the early October violence. Meanwhile, the Angolan government has begun cracking down on illegal diamond mining operations run by Congolese migrants and this has sent at least 300,000 Congolese refugees fleeing back into Congo.

October 22, 2018: The UN revealed that their investigators concluded that each year from $300 million to $600 million worth of gold is smuggled out of Congo.

October 21, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu Province) Ugandan ADF Islamic rebels attacked Congolese troops near the town of Beni. The ADF fighters also attacked several neighborhoods in the town and killed at least 13 civilians while abducting 12 children. UN peacekeepers deployed to protect civilians exchanged fire the rebels near Beni but could not stop the rebels or rescue the captives.

October 20, 2018: The government said that new voting machines will arrive in country by the end of October and will be on hand for the election in December. The political opposition believes the new machines are not secure and enable fraud.

October 16, 2018: Russia confirmed that around 175 Russians, most of them PMCs (Private Military Contractors) are engaged in training security forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). Russia calls the PMCs “civilians”, but essentially they are Russian mercenaries. In July Russia confirmed that Russian PMCs had long term contracts to train security forces in Sudan. Sudan is now a staging area for the PMC operations in the CAR. The rumor is the Russian PMCs do more than train locals. They provide security for Russian mining concessions.

October 15, 2018: The UN Congo peacekeeping force revealed that as of September 30 it deployed 15,375 military personnel in peacekeeping formations and 214 military observers. 1,044 security personnel serve in Formed Police Units (paramilitary police). Another 307 policemen serve with as separate UN police training operation.

October 13, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu Province) a “second wave” of Ebola virus cases has broken out near the Ugandan border and the town of Beni.

October 11, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu Province) peacekeepers encountered what they believed were ADF rebels near the town of Oicha. The rebels fled towards the Ugandan border.

October 7, 2018: Representatives from the East African Community (EAC), which is overseeing mediation efforts in Burundi, have scheduled a fifth round of talks to be held later this month. The EAC mediators asked the Burundian opposition to agree to a common position prior to the talks.

October 5, 2018: Russia has signed new military cooperation agreements with Burundi and the Central African Republic in 2018. Both agreements call for sharing counterterrorism resources and training for Burundian and CAR security personnel in Russia.




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