Central African leaders and the UN have asked the Congolese government to strike a deal with the M23 rebel group. The latest round of talks began on September 10th and the talks continue in Uganda.
September 24, 2013: The UN has begun referring to the UN Intervention Brigade (IBDE) as the multi-national Force Intervention Brigade (or FIB). The UN has floated the acronym of FIB for the brigade but unfortunately a fib is an English word for a falsehood. After a month in action, however, the IBDE is for real. Though the Malawi infantry battalion still has not arrived, to no one’s surprise the Tanzanian and South African battalions have been quite successful. The brigade’s artillery unit has been extremely effective in providing fire support to both the brigade and Congolese forces engaging M23 fighters. Though the UN has not made any definitive statements about employing the IBDE against the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia, several observers in North Kivu have mentioned the FDLR as a potential next target. That makes a lot of sense. Rwanda wants the FDLR eliminated. Rwanda has apparently withdrawn its support for M23, so hitting the FDLR would be a quid pro quo. Uganda has acted as mediator between the Congolese government and M23 representatives. Another likely target for the IBDE is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group with bases in Congo’s North Kivu province. The ADF has ties to Somalia’s militant Islamist Al Shabaab terrorist organization. Smashing the ADF would be a reward for Uganda’s diplomatic efforts. (Austin Bay)
September 23, 2013: Uganda announced that it is heightening security measures. The recent terror attack on the mall in Nairobi, Kenya are the main reason. Ugandan Army and Burundian Army troops serve in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force along with Kenyan military forces. In July 2010, the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab launched two terror attacks in Uganda’s capital, Nairobi, and killed seventy-seven people.
September 21, 2013: Congolese Army forces retook four villages in north Kivu province from M23 militiamen. The fighting was in the Libero region near the Rwandan border.
September 19, 2013: The UN confirmed that since July 2013, Tanzania has expelled 28,000 illegal Burundian migrants. Many of the Burundians had been in Tanzania since the 1970s, when they fled the Burundi civil war.
UN officials complain that UN peacekeeper tactics for protecting vulnerable civilians in the Congo are inadequate. One problem is that the peacekeeper (MONUSCO) bases are poorly located. More of a problem is the standing orders which prevent peacekeepers from attacking rogue militias unless fired upon does not protect vulnerable communities. UN officials are pushing for a reassessment of these tactics in the current meeting of national leaders at the UN headquarters. There is growing international enthusiasm for changing the rules of engagement for peacekeepers operating in the more dangerous places like Congo. The current commander of the UN forces in the Congo told his superiors that to be effective the UN must defeat "emerging threats.” This sounds a lot like the mandate for the Intervention Brigade.
September 15, 2013: The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has sent 200 more combat soldiers to serve with the international peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic (CAR). The Congo-Brazzaville government said that it was concerned about increasing violence in the CAR. Currently 150 Congo (Brazzaville) soldiers are deployed in the CAR. Meanwhile, the new president of the CAR, Michel Djotodia, has announced that his rebel coalition, the Seleka, has been disbanded. However, no one in the CAR and none of the peacekeepers serving in the international force know what Djotodia’s statement means. Seleka militiamen still control the CAR’s key towns.
September 12, 2013: The UN reported that its peacekeeping forces in the Congo will not receive the unarmed Italian reconnaissance drones until the first week of December 2013. In late August and early September, UN peacekeeping offices touted the imminent arrival of an unarmed recon aerial vehicle provided by the Italian company Finmeccanica.
September 11, 2013: MONUSCO’s currently deploys 20,519 total uniformed personnel. That breaks down to 18, 587 soldiers, 512 military observers, and 1,420 armed police.
September 10, 2013: Uganda is investigating reports that the M23 Congolese rebel group has recruited Ugandan nationals. In the past Ugandan officials dismissed similar allegations, but recently an M23 militiaman from Uganda crossed the border and defected to Ugandan authorities. He claimed that M23 recruiters approached him and told him they were recruiting people to work for the UN in the Congo. Instead he was taken to an M23 base in Lumangabo, Congo and given military training.
A court in the republic of Congo (Brazzaville) sentenced 6 soldiers to long prison terms for their role in a series of explosions at a military weapons depot in the capital during March 2012. Some 300 people were killed by the explosions and 2,300 were wounded, while some 17,000 people lost their homes. 1 of the soldiers was convicted of arson and sentenced to 15 years in prison. A former army colonel, who also served on the national security council, was sentenced to 5 years hard labor for his role in the incident.
September 9, 2013: Some 60 people in the CAR were killed when forces loyal to former president Francois Bozize fought with Seleka rebel militiamen in the town of Bossangoa (northwestern CAR). The town is Bozize’s hometown. Bozize was toppled by the Seleka coalition in March 2013.
In Congo M23 rebel militiamen blocked a road outside of the town of Rutshuru (60 kilometers north of Goma, in North Kivu province). The rebels also ambushed several vehicles traveling on roads leading to Rutshuru.
September 8, 2013: A spokesman for M23 said the group will disband when the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is disarmed. M23 made it clear that FDLR disarmament must precede the dissolution of M23.