Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly
2008: The latest death toll estimates in the Congo, since 1998 when conflict
gripped virtually the entire country, is over 5.4 million people. Remember,
starvation and disease have been the biggest killers, often starvation and
disease brought on by "exposure" that is, people fleeing their homes and
seeking refuge. The refugee camps (displaced persons camps) are an iffy
proposition, since they were major targets during the height of the war and
continue to be targets for the armed militias still operating in eastern Congo.
The Congolese Army has also been involved in some of the raids on the camps.
2008: The government is airlifting emergency loads of weapons and ammunition to
Goma. This began in mid-July possibly July 19, right after the Kinshasha
government's amnesty offer. Apparently General Laurent Nkunda has been seeking
recruits in Rwanda and Burundi. These would be (presumably, but not
necessarily) Tutsi recruits. Given July's string of political accusations
against Nkunda, his forces are the likely target of the Congolese build-up.
2008: Some 67 members of the FDLR turned themselves in to UN forces in the town
of Kasiki (North Kivu province). They also turned in 45 weapons.
2008: Despite the January 2008 ceasefire agreement (Goma Acts) the situation in
North and South Kivu provinces remains perilous. UN observers are conducting
yet another assessment of the ceasefire and the overall "security and
stabilization plan." That plan includes new roads but the projects are already
behind schedule. The UN reported three major firefights erupted in South Kivu
province. Militias are reportedly once again "recruiting" which often takes
place at gunpoint. Many of the recruits are turned into "bearers" who carry
supplies. The official statements are one thing, the unofficial buzz another,
and that buzz is that there will be a new flare-up of violence pitting General
Laurent Nkunda's Congolese Tutsi CNDP (National Council for the Defense of the
People) against the predominantly Hutu FDLR (Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda). One NGO has called the peace agreement "meaningless"
given the violent crimes that continue to be committed against unprotected
2008: Using an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant, Portuguese security
has seized the property of former Congolese Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.
The seizure was made after a request by an ICC prosecutor. The seizure included
Bemba's house, a yacht, and an airplane. He also had his bank account frozen.
Bemba enjoys a great deal of support among many Congolese. He finished second
to Congolese President Joseph Kabila in the last election. The ICC warrant has
not pleased his supporters. Many believe that Kabila could be indicted for
crimes as well.
2008: Investigators in Kinshasha claim that $1.3 billion was either embezzled
or "lost" (yes, that's the word, "lost") by the government in 2006-7.
Understand this is an internal Congo government investigation, which could
actually be a positive signal, though a rather timid one. At the moment the
investigators say they will ask suspect government officials to "reimburse" the
missing money. The suspect officials are in customs and tax departments. Most
of the money probably comes from mining concessions that's what generates big
cash in the Congo.
2008: The government accused General Laurent Nkunda's CNDP of "summary
executions of civilians" and undermining the January 2008 ceasefire agreement.
2008: The government said that it would offer amnesty to rebels who had
committed crimes in North and South Kivu provinces after 2003 but had signed
the January 2008 peace agreement. The Congo's war was supposed to be over in
2003, but militias have continued to operate in the region since then. The
amnesty was passed by parliament. The amnesty, however, excludes "genocide, war
crimes, and crimes against humanity." This is a big loophole since a number of
militias have attacked unprotected villages, looted them, and committed rape
and murder in the process.
2008: General Laurent Nkunda is sending mixed signals about rejoining the peace
process. He has done this before, claiming he supports the January 2008 Goma
accord then engaging in a firefight with the FDLR or Mai-Mai militias. The
explanation may be very simple: Nkunda sees no real benefit from making a deal
with the Congolese government. He does not trust the government to keep any
deal it makes. Of course, the government does not trust Nkunda, who basically
controls the western Rutshuru region of North Kivu province. One of the big
questions about Nkunda is "where does he get his money?" Usually Rwanda is
fingered, but no one is certain.