Congo: Doing It Right



Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

July 4, 2012: Since late March, when the UN officially created the Intervention Brigade, South African government officials have repeatedly expressed concern with the brigade’s explicit offensive mission in the Congo. South Africa participates in many UN peacekeeping operations and indicated that many South African citizens fear that the offensive mandate sets a bad precedent. Future peacekeeping missions could be more difficult and more dangerous because rebels will see the peacekeepers as a foreign invader. Other governments around the world have expressed similar concerns. South Africa is still dealing with the blowback from this year’s Central African Republic (CAR) peacekeeping fiasco. In January 2013, South Africa sent 400 soldiers to serve with an emergency peacekeeping force in the CAR. Before their unit was fully deployed, Seleka guerrillas (the main CAR rebel force) attacked the peacekeepers. The peacekeeping mission became a combat mission. South Africa suffered 13 killed in action and 27 wounded. The South African people were understandably shocked at the high number of casualties. Many South Africans thought the UN gave the South African soldiers an impossible mission. UN planning was inadequate and local intelligence was very poor. The South African government is assuring its citizens that there will never be another CAR disaster. The government and officers in the South African National Defense Force (SANDF, South African military) are insisting that the Intervention Brigade be completely ready to fight before the operation begins. The South African contingent consists of an 850-soldier infantry battalion. South Africa has a very professional military which believes in realistic training (fight like you train, train like you fight). The CAR operation was slapped together in haste. That is not the South African style. Recently the South African military reported that personnel assigned to the brigade have been conducting some very specific training exercises. At a training area in South Africa, Intervention Brigade soldiers attacked a simulated rebel-held enclave. The simulated enclave was built to resemble the border enclave occupied by M23 rebels. South African attack helicopters and jet fighter-bombers supported the attack. Why leak the training details? M23 reads press reports. The South African government wants M23 to know that if South African infantry assaults its enclave, South Africa’s high-quality infantrymen will have high quality air support and fire support. M23 should consider surrender. That way everyone stays alive. (Austin Bay)

July 1, 2013: Congolese civilians reported that M23 has expanded its enclave and taken control of several villages in the Masisi area (near Goma, North Kivu province). This could be the case, but often these occupations are short-lived. M23 often conducts probes to gauge Congolese Army and UN peacekeeping force strength in a particular area.

Sanctions have failed to curtail the trade in Congolese gold. Gold smuggling has “almost” no oversight. This should surprise no one. The Congolese government estimated in 2009 that smugglers export 40 metric tons (worth $1.6 billion) of Congo-produced gold every year. The Ituri district and North Kivu province (M23’s stomping ground) are the Congo’s primary gold-producing areas. Ituri was part of Congo’s Orientale province, and according to some Congolese, it still is a district. Ituri, however, is a special district. Since 2003, an interim administration runs Ituri (which borders Uganda).

A Mai Mai militia attacked a jail in the town of Beni (North Kivu province) and released 250 prisoners. One Congolese Army soldier was killed in the attack. Witnesses reported that the attacker used explosives to breach the prison walls and doors. Beni is a major gold producing area in North Kivu.

June 30, 2013: The UN believes that sympathetic Rwandan officials  and military officers continue to provide support for the M23 rebel movement. However, overall support for M23 from Rwanda is much less than it was in late 2012. UN investigators claim they have evidence that M23 still recruits inside Rwanda and certain Rwandan officials turn a blind eye to the operation. UN investigators also reported that there is evidence which supports Rwandan allegations that some Congolese Army units have collaborated with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation for Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group. The FDLR was founded by Hutu extremists who were directly involved in the 1994 genocide.

June 28, 2013: The government is considering selling tin ore stockpiled in the eastern Congo. Over 400 tons of tin ore mined before the ban on exporting conflict minerals went into effect is stored in Goma (North Kivu province). Reportedly, two Chinese export companies want to buy the tin ore.

June 27, 2013: MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Congo) has begun deploying 100 Egyptian Army special operations troops to Congo’s Katanga province. The Egyptian special forces unit will likely conduct operations against the Bakata Katanga separatist militia. MONUSCO said that several peacekeeping battalions (conventional units) have already deployed to Katanga.

June 26, 2013: The UN accused M23 rebels of murdering Congolese civilians. UN security personnel reported that M23 claims it is conducting area search operations (patrols). However, M23 rebels arbitrarily arrest and harass civilians. UN personnel have evidence that M23 fighters executed 26 Congolese farmers between June 16 and 19. The farmers lived in the villages of Busanza and Jomba. M23 immediately denied the accusations and accused the UN of lying.

June 21, 2013: M23 continues to run government-like operations. UN officials in Congo were outraged when M23 told reporters that it had arrested several men for illegal weapons possession. M23 says it does not allow crime in its area and it operates its own courts. UN diplomats accused M23 of operating an illegal parallel governmental administration.

June 20, 2013: The Ugandan government said that both M23 and the Congo government now have negotiating teams in Kampala.

June 16, 2013: M23’s senior field commander, general Sultani Makenga, said that his fighters are prepared to defend their land against the UN’s Intervention Brigade.

June 15, 2013: UN sources reported that approximately 25 percent of the personnel pledged to serve in the Intervention Brigade have arrived in the Congo. Logistical problems in Goma (North Kivu province) continue to plague force deployment. The brigade has an authorized end strength of 3,069 soldiers. Malawi, Tanzania, and South Africa are providing the combat troops.

June 14, 2013: M23 representatives in Kampala, Uganda accused the Congolese government of reneging on a promise to re-start peace negotiations. On June 9 both the Congolese government and M23 agreed to begin a new round of talks.


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