Congo: Civil War in the Army

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
August 18, 2006: The UN announced an investigation into accusations that its peacekeepers were running, or using, a child prostitution ring. Prostitution is common in Congo, and big business around bases where UN troops, or civilian officials, live. Because of the risk of AIDS, the pimps and brothel owners have been using younger and younger girls. This quickly becomes, by Western definitions, child prostitution. Until about two years ago, the UN ignored the use of prostitutes by its peacekeeper staff. No longer, and the continued use of prostitutes by peacekeepers has become a major headache for the UN.
August 17, 2006: Angola has beefed up its troop contingents along its border with Congo. The Angolan troops began moving on August 13 and the buildup has continued.. Angola expects the impending announcement of the winner of the Congolese presidential election will lead to trouble inside the Congo. The announcement is scheduled for August 20 (but could still be delayed). The the troop movement was described as a "defensive" precaution. The Angolan government supported the Congolese government during the Congo War (1998-2003). In the eyes of many Congolese that makes Angola a "quiet ally" of the Kabila government. (Laurent Kabila was president of the Congo until he was assassinated in 2001. Joseph Kabila, Laurent's son, succeeded his father.) There are apparently at least four Angolan battalions on the border. The Angolan deployment includes helicopters and armored vehicles. That means between 3000 and 4000 troops have been deployed. It is very doubtful that Angola would act on Kabila's behalf in the event of trouble in the Congo, though that cannot be ruled out. Four battalions looks like more of a "political message" signaling Congolese rebels that Angola has an interest in a peaceful acceptance of the election results. The Angolans also fear unrest in the Congo could send a wave of refugees across the border. Refugees create political and social problems and taking care of them is expensive, even if the UN and aid NGOs ultimately share the costs of refugee relief.
August 16, 2006: Over half of the election ballots have been processed. The current Congolese president, Joseph Kabila remains in the lead.
Bolivia deployed 230 troops in the eastern Congo. The troops replace a contingent of Bolivians that have been serving with UN forces.
August 15, 2006: The FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) are once again conducting "forced conscription" of child soldiers in North and South Kivu provinces.
August 14, 2006: Two Army units fought a battle against one another on August 5 in the eastern Congo. The units were from the 9th Brigade and the 83rd Brigade. The fight took place in the town of Sake. Many Congolese Army units are "national army" in name only. The 83rd Brigade reportedly has many former rebels who belonged to the Congolese Rally for Democracy (specifically the RCD-Goma, a primarily Congolese Tutsi organization). The RCD-Goma was regarded as an ally of the Rwandan government. Many RCD-Goma backers now support Laurent Nkunda, a former RCD rebel leader. The August 5 firefight was big enough to attract some press coverage, but tensions between former rebels and troops loyal to the Congolese government have provoked other skirmishes or near skirmishes. The big worry among international peacekeepers is that these tensions could break out into renewed fighting after the national election results are finalized.
August 9, 2006: The European Union said that it would keep its 1100 troop peacekeeping force in Kinshasha, the Congo's capital. However, only 200 of the troops are combat troops. The EU force will stay in Kinshasha to help maintain stability when the Congolese national election results are finalized. 1300 EU peackeepers are also on-call in Gabon. The 1300 troops in Gabon provide a rapid reaction force to reinforce the peacekeepers in Kinshasha and UN troops throughout the Congo.

 

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