Congo: Go Away

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

May 18, 2010: The UN and the Congo government are definitely at odds over conditions governing a MONUC (UN Mission in the Congo) withdrawal. The UN insists that overall security conditions (i.e., an estimate of stability) should determine whether or not the peacekeeping mission stays. The government insists on a December 2011 withdrawal date. MONUC's mandate comes up for renewal at the end of this month. It is clear that the biggest concern on the part of the UN, aid NGOs operating in the Congo, and Congolese civilians, is that the Great Congo War (1998-2003) will return with its full fury. As it is, various militia wars, tribal wars, and rebellions continue unabated.

May 14, 2010: The U.S. government is considering ways to stop American businesses from using illegally mined or sold minerals (so-called conflict minerals) from the eastern Congo. At the moment the State Department is holding what the diplomats call fact-finding discussions with U.S. executives. Some of the minerals (like tantalum and tungsten) play a major role in high tech industries. The Congo has significant deposits of many strategically important minerals, including cobalt.

May 11, 2010: The UN reiterated that it intends to reduce its peacekeeping force in the Congo by 2000 soldiers by the end of next month. MONUC currently has around 20,500 peacekeeping personnel deployed.

May 10, 2010: U.S. AFRICOM trainers are helping train a Congolese Army (FARDC) battalion of 700 soldiers. The training is taking place in the mining town of Kisangani. About 25 U.S. military personnel are involved in the mission. Emergency medical aid, communications, and small-unit tactics are included in the instruction. It appears the goal is to create at least one reliable Congolese Army unit that is assigned to the eastern Congo. The various presidential guards units for the most part only operate in Kinshasha, the capital. The presidential guard units are paid on a regular basis; the rest of the army gets paid haphazardly.

May 6, 2010: A militia group calling itself the Mai Mai Mayangose attacked a group of nine park rangers in the Virunga National Park (eastern Congo). One ranger was killed in the attack.

May 5, 2010: The leader of the Enyele rebels in Equateur province had been captured. The man, a self-proclaimed mystic called Odjani, claims to have magical powers. He was captured near the town of Dongo by several young men his fighters tried to force to join their group. Apparently his magic didn't work very well.

May 2, 2010: Trouble continues with the Enyele rebels in Equateur province. The spectacular rebel attack on Mbandaka, the provincial capital, brought an influx of peacekeepers. The Enyele have been fighting with the Manzaya over fishing rights. The Enyele and Manzaya are both members of the Lobala tribe. However, the government is worried about an attempt to nationalize the trouble in Equateur. A group calling itself the Independent Liberation Movement of the Allies is claiming to be an umbrella organization for all rebels in the region. The Enyele rebels are part of this group.

May 1, 2010: The UN is warning that an early withdrawal of peacekeepers from the Congo will erase all the progress made in stabilizing the huge country. At the moment UN peacekeepers are providing the only reliable protection for the numerous UN and NGO aid organizations operating throughout the Congo. The big issue remains creating a truly capable Congolese Army and supporting national police forces. That is an incremental process. As it is, numerous former rebels are expressing increasing aggravation with the Kabila government over what they claim is a failure to provide jobs promised as part of peace agreements.

April 30, 2010: The government announced that it expects to double cobalt and copper production by 2012. For example, mining companies estimate that the Congo will produce around 40,000 tons of cobalt in 2010. One projection has the Congo mining and exporting 90,000 tons in 2012. There is a big problem with all of the optimistic projections, of course. They assume increasing stability (ie, decent security) and improved transportation infrastructure.

 

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