Congo: Getting the Gunrunners

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

November 15, 2006: The European Union (EU) said that it will withdraw its 1200-troop peacekeeping force from the Congo "on schedule." The schedule calls for the troops to depart at the end of November. However, UN and EUFOR patrols (backed by armored personnel carriers) continue throughout Kinshasha, which is regarded as the "center of gravity." During the first week of November, UN and EUFOR peacekeepers began manning a number of fixed positions in Kinshasha. The peacekeepers are immediately. tasked with separating factions loyal to Kabila and Bemba. They are also manning key areas in the capital should violence break out when the final election results are announced. The run-off election took place on October 29. The final results will be available on November 19.

November 12, 2006: Two people died in Kinshasha as the results of a series of violent confrontations between groups loyal to opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and Congolese president Joseph Kabila. Some 67 percent of the presidential run-off vote has been counted and Kabila leads Bemba 61 to 39 percent.

UN and EUFOR peacekeepers once again deployed in Bemba's neighborhood. Pro-Kabila demonstrators have repeatedly marched through the streets near Bemba's compound.

November 11, 2006: The Rwandan government denied reports that it had sent forces into the eastern Congo. The scattered reports claimed Rwandan soldiers were chasing Hutu extremists.

November 1, 2006: The US froze the assets of seven men accused of illegally shipping weapons and ammunition to the Congo. The seven include Russian businessman Viktor Bout and former Congolese general Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda is also charged with committing war crimes in the eastern Congo, which allegedly occurred when he led a short-lived tribal rebellion. Bout (in Moscow) denied the charges. Both the UN and US have urged the Congo and neighboring countries to rein in arms dealers and gunrunners. Enforcing the international arms embargo has proven to be difficult. The "kingpin" strategy (ie, arresting those who direct the trade) doesn't necessarily produce immediate results. It does, however, discourage other gunrunners.

October 29, 2006: Congo conducted its presidential run-off election. The UN said that the elections and election-related expenses cost nearly $500 million. Election monitors reported little violence throughout the country.

 

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