Northwestern Congo (Equateur province) has a new Ebola virus outbreak. There have been eight confirmed cases so far, and four of the infected have died. The epicenter is the city of Mbandaka, on the Congo River. This is over 1,600 kilometers from the eastern Congo locations where an epidemic raged for 20 months. Mbandaka and Equateur province had an Ebola outbreak of their own in 2018. While Ebola is one of the most lethal epidemic diseases ever encountered, a much less lethal visitor from China has recently shown up in Congo.
The covid19 has, in three months, inflicted around 3,400 confirmed cases of covid19 virus in Congo and 72 confirmed deaths. That’s 37 per million people and 0.8 deaths per million. For all of Africa (including North Africa) there have been 120 cases per million and 3.4 deaths per million people. That’s far lower than anywhere else. So far the global total is 828 cases per million and 49 deaths per million.
Congo detected its first covid19 infections in early March. Most of Africa is showing low rates of infection and death because health care throughout Africa is unable to handle something like this. There may be more cases in Congo but the country has little or no access to modern medical care and people regularly die of undiagnosed afflictions. Since most of these involve a fever, caused by the immune system trying to fight off some kind of infection, people call many fatal conditions an unspecified fever, and such fatal fevers are common.
Covid19 is not as scary in Africa because there are so many other deadly diseases or unnatural ways to die. Moreover, while most fatal diseases have very distinct and visible symptoms, like diarrhea and vomiting common to Ebola victims, covid19 is more difficult to separate from many similar and sometimes fatal diseases. One more such death does not make much difference and since covid19 is most fatal for the elderly or those already ill from other afflictions, in most parts of Africa covid19 deaths will not even be noticed. Covid19 is similar to the annual influenza outbreaks but infects and kills two or three times more people. That’s not considered a health emergency in most countries. In Africa, a fatal cause of covid19 is just another death by a fever of someone seen as close to death already. This happens in the West as well, but much less frequently and usually by accident. For example, a lot of nursing home deaths in the West were, at first, not attributed to covid19 because nursing homes normally have frequent and numerous deaths and often involve a case of pneumonia at the end. The victims tend to have a number of health problems that can eventually kill them. In the West “just another fever” as a cause of death is no longer acceptable even though it is what is happening. A unique feature of covid19 is that it interferes with the breathing and appears similar to pneumonia. That is not unusual if most of the dead are elderly or younger people with other health problems. What often finally kills such sickly people is a case of pneumonia that healthier people can survive. The difference is actual pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection that can be cured by antibiotics while covid19 “pneumonia” is caused by a virus which, so far, has no cure. Fortunately, most people exposed to covid19 fight it off without even knowing it or getting infected, but experiencing no symptoms or ill effects. Ebola is a much higher infection and fatality rate. Ebola is feared while covid19 often goes unnoticed.
June 1, 2020: In Congo, former president Joseph Kabila demonstrated how he is continuing to rule though out of office. Kabila was apparently behind a recent parliament vote to oust Jean-Marc Kabund as first vice-president of the National Assembly. Kabund is an ally of president Felix Tshisekedi and acting president of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party. Tshisekedi accused Kabila’s FCC party of plotting Kabund’s removal.
In Ugandan, a hundred soldiers, in groups of about 25 each, were sent north to the South Sudan border to deal with cattle theft by raiders from South Sudan. Since the end of January, there have been several such cattle raids resulting in at least 130 cattle stolen. The army detachments will defend community cattle yards (community kraals).
May 31, 2020: In southwest Congo (Kasai region) the chief suspect in the murder of two UN investigators has been arrested. The dead men were probing mass murder reports from Kasai. The arrested man, Tresor Mputu Kankonde, led one of the rebel militias operating in the area and had a reputation for random and sometimes sadistic violence.
May 29, 2020: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) rebels attacked a UN base and wounded two of the 16,500 peacekeepers operating in the country. Most of the peacekeepers are soldiers but a few percent of the force consists of observers and armed police.
In southeast Congo, the 1,600 kilometer long border with Zambia is again being discussed by experts from both countries who are trying to resolve several disputes about exactly where the border is. The border was drawn during colonial times and that explains its unusual shape, which is long salient of Congolese territory that goes deep into Zambia. The various disputed areas have been under discussion for years.
May 28, 2020: Burundi’s largest opposition party, the CNL, has gone to the country’s highest court to challenge the results of the May 20 presidential election. The government claims retired General Evariste Ndayishimiye received 69 percent of the vote and opposition candidate Agathon Rwasa got 24 percent. The CNL contends there was massive election fraud. The Burundi Conference of Catholic Bishops (BCCB) issued a statement on May 26 that disputed the credibility of the election process and its results.
May 27, 2020: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province) peacekeepers equipped with armored personnel carriers battled ADF Islamist terrorists. During the last few says the ADF had attacked several villages in Ituri and nearby North Kivu province, killing several dozen civilians and looting whatever could be taken away. The peacekeepers are out to destroy or at least discourage, the ADF faction responsible.
Rwandan and Congolese officials announced they have agreed on a set of procedures that will allow the countries to re-open their border to trade despite the covid19 pandemic.
May 24, 2020: In northeast Congo (Ituri province) COCEDO tribal rebels have destroyed 150 schools and 22 health centers this year. In response peacekeepers and Congolese soldiers have, over the last two months, carried out several operations against the rebels killing over 300 of them. None of the peacekeepers died but 63 soldiers were killed during these clashes. During the operation the army seized two rebel strongholds, both base camps from which the rebels operated. The rebels fought hard to protect those bases. COCEDO is a religious cult composed of Lendu tribesmen. Other Lendu considers the COCEDO dangerous religious fanatics.
May 21, 2020: In France police arrested the Rwandan man accused of financing the purchase of machetes to facilitate the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Felicien Kabuga is regarded as the radical Hutus chief financier. A French court is expected to remand Kabuga to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for trial.
May 20, 2020: In CAR (Central African Republic) peacekeepers arrested nine men belonging to the UPC militia and accused them of committing atrocities. One of the men arrested was the UPC’s warlord, Azor Kalite. He was a key member of the Seleka rebels that overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013.
May 19, 2020: In western Congo (Kongo Central province) police are accused of using excessive force in April when they confronted members of the BDK (Bunda dia Kongo) separatist religious group who had built roadblocks in several towns. Police also raided the BDK leader’s home in the capital, Kinshasa. Police killed at least 55 BDK members in the process. In the Kikongo language, Bundu dia Kongo means “The Church of the Kongo.” The BDK says the Bakongo people are oppressed and demands greater autonomy for Kongo Central province.
May 10, 2020: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF terrorists beheaded three people during an attack on a village. Murdering civilians is common with ADC but beheadings by the Islamic group are rare.
May 8, 2020: In northeast Congo (Ituri province) the UN is accusing the Lendu tribal militias of seeking to permanently drive rival Hema tribesmen out of the area. The Hema are cattle herders. The more numerous Lendu tribe claims Hema herds ravage their farms by eating crops. Since late 2017 over 700 people have been killed in tribal clashes between the Hema and Lendu. Earlier, between 1999 and 2003 there were several thousand deaths. That fighting was halted by peacekeepers and a peace deal worked out. This arrangement fell apart after about a decade and now it is believed that many Lendu are determined to drive all the Hema out of the area and kill those that resist or refuse to leave.
May 7, 2020: It is estimated that Congo has five million IDPs (internally displace people), the highest number in Africa. Globally only Syria has more IDPs. In Ituri province, ethnic “intercommunal” (tribal) violence displaced 453,000 people in 2019. In April 2020 violence in Ituri displaced another 200,000.
May 6, 2020: In northeast Congo (Ituri province) Kyini ya kilima rebels attacked an army outpost and killed four attackers. Nevertheless, the attack failed and eight rebels were killed. Soldiers recovered four rebel AK-47s.
In CAR (Central African Republic) peacekeepers report that during April there were 35 criminal and often violent incidents against foreign aid operations and personnel. Frequently aid or equipment was stolen. Six vehicles belonging to aid organizations were stolen and several others were damaged.