Congo: Bloody Katanga, Again

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January 14, 2014: The UN is urging the Congolese government to address land disputes in North and South Kivu provinces (eastern Congo). Outside groups have provided rebel groups in the eastern Congo with money and weapons in exchange for access to gold and other valuable minerals (coltan, for example). However, a recent study showed that land disputes between neighboring tribes remains a major cause of conflict in the region.  Weak and corrupt government institutions exacerbate the situation. Disputes escalate into violent confrontations and then all out battles between tribal militias because no one trusts the justice system to be fair. The system is either regarded as being corrupt or, in many places, it does not exist. There is no centralized system for registering land ownership or recognizing land use rights. This is a common cause for unrest and poverty in many countries.

January 13, 2014: Rwanda claims that political opponents and dissidents in Rwanda are attempting to start a new war in central Africa. This followed a South African police report which concluded that former Rwandan Army colonel Patrick Karegeya was murdered on January 2 by strangulation (a curtain cord around his neck). At one time Rwanda accused Karegeya of planning grenade attacks in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.

January 12, 2014: Congolese national park rangers in Virunga National Park fought with a group of Rwandan FDLR (Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberations of Rwanda) rebels. One ranger and three rebels died in the engagementand two rangers were wounded. One rebel was captured after the firefight. Park authorities claimed that the rebels attacked the park ranger force. The rangers have been trying to deny rebels bases in the park and also monitor rebel movements through the park.

January 10, 2014: Michel Djotodia, former senior commander of the Seleka rebel movement, resigned as interim president of the CAR (Central African Republic). This caused celebrations in the streets of the capital.

January 8, 2014: The EU (European Union) announced that may send a joint military force to the CAR to aid peacekeeping efforts. The EU force would be structured as a rapid deployment force with 1,000 to 1,200 soldiers (reinforced battalion task force).  The unit would have a fire support element (light artillery), a medical unit and a transport helicopter element. EU defense ministers have agreed to make a decision on the force by the end of this month.

January 7, 2014: In the south Congolese Army soldiers fought with Mai Mai Kata Katanga rebels in Lubumbashi (capital of Katanga province). At least 26 Congolese soldiers and rebel fighters were killed in a series of firefights which went on for eight hours.  The Kata Katanga rebels entered the city during the night.  The government claimed its forces counter-attacked and the rebels retreated from the city.  In March 2013 around 200 Kata Katanga rebels raided Lumbumbashi. During Fall 2013 the group threatened to launch another attack on the city. Kata Katanga is Swahili and translates as Secede Katanga. The group is sometimes referred to as the Mai Mai Gedeon (Gideon), after its leader and senior commander, Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga. Katanga has tried to secede from the Congo on several occasions. Minteral-rich Katanga is by far the country’s wealthiest province.

January 5, 2014: A grenade attack in a Bangui, CAR market wounded four people. One of the wounded was a Burundian soldier serving with the MISCA African peacekeeping force.

January 3, 2013:  The UN estimated that fighting in the CAR has displaced one million people. That is about 20 percent of the population.  Around 500,000 displaced people have collected in makeshift refugee camps in the Bangui area.  

January 2, 2014:  A Congolese Army colonel leading an operation against Ugandan Alliance of Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) rebels was killed when his jeep was ambushed near the town of Matembo (North Kivu province).  The rebels hit the jeep with a rocket-propelled grenade. The colonel commanded a special operations battalion.

Former CAR president Francois Bozize denied accusations that he is backing Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) militia groups in the country. Bozize was overthrown by Seleka rebels. The Seleka movement drew its strength from predominantly Muslim tribes.

Patrick Karegeya, a former Rwandan Army colonel who once commanded the Rwandan government’s external intelligence service was found murdered in a hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa. Rwanda opposition politicians accused the Rwandan president of assassinating the colonel.  Karegeya became a political opponent of the president who fired him in 2006. Karegeya had been in exile since 2007.

December 30, 2013: The Congolese Army drove off an attack on the airport in the capital city, Kinshasha. Rebels also fired on an army barrack and a television station in the city. The government claimed that around 70 followers of Katanga province religious leader Paul Joseph Mukungubila launched the raids. Some 40 of the attackers died in the firefights with the army. The government said the army did not suffer any casualties. The attackers were very poorly armed.  Mukungubila’s followers accuse the government of launching an illegal attack on a church in Lubumbashi. Mukungubila fanatically opposes the government of president Joseph Kabila. The government said Mukungubila’s supporters conducted the attacks for the sole purpose of sowing panic in the capital.

December 28, 2013: Between December 11 and December 20, two American C-17 transports moved 500 Burundian infantrymen from Burundi to the CAR.  The C-17s also airlifted the units’ equipment, to include several light armored personnel carriers. Security at the Bangui airport was provided by French peacekeepers. Thousands of refugees could be seen at the airport, some huddled within 50 meters of the runway.

December 27, 2013: The African Union reported that six Chadian peacekeepers were killed on December 25 in Bangui, capital of the CAR. Another 15 Chadian soldiers were wounded. The soldiers were ambushed in the capital’s Gobongo neighborhood. One Chadian vehicle was destroyed.

 

 

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