Congo: Lots Of Fires To Put Out

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July 31, 2014: The UN continues to be pleased with the performance of the Intervention Brigade’s (IBDE) added to their peacekeeping force.  In March 2013 the IBDE was given a controversial operational mandate: neutralize armed groups.  To accomplish that mission the IBDE was authorized to conduct offensive operations. Three African nations supplied the troops: Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi. It took the UN longer than anticipated to build and deploy the brigade. The brigade began operations in July 2013, without the participation of its Malawi contingent.  The Malawi battalion arrived in late October 2013. In October and early November 2013 the IBDE and Congolese Army Rapid Reaction Units (ie, better trained and equipped Congolese Army units) quickly defeated the M23 guerrilla group in eastern Congo. The IBDE is authorized 3,069 soldiers in its three infantry battalions, artillery battery, reconnaissance company and special forces company. The IBDE has also employed South African Rooivalk attack helicopters in its operations.

July 29, 2014: The hunt for Ugandan Lords Resistance Army (LRA) senior commander Joseph Kony continues and the focus remains on the Central African Republic. However, the Ugandan military is complaining that Seleka rebels are hindering anti-LRA operations. Uganda is conducting two different operations in the CAR: the anti-LRA counter-insurgency sweeps and peacekeeping missions.  The UN recently asked Uganda to provide soldiers for the expanded peacekeeping effort in the CAR the UN will deploy later this year. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) is authorized 12,000 peacekeepers.  2,000 Ugandans already serve with the African Union peacekeeping force in the CAR. The UN requested Uganda deploy an additional 850-man battalion in the northern CAR  (likely the Chad border). The Ugandan government however, has objected to sending its soldiers north. Ugandan forces currently operating in the CAR focus on the south-east, east and central areas.  The south-east is where the small LRA bands primarily operate. Uganda regularly sends “hunter patrols” into the area.

July 28, 2014: MONUSCO peacekeepers and the Congolese Army are conducting a joint offensive in North Kivu province. Elements of the Intervention Brigade are involved. The operation is targeting two armed groups:  the Cheka Mai Mai and the Alliance for the Sovereign and Patriotic Congo (APCLH) militias. Despite the fancy name, the APCLH is a Mai Mai militia. The Cheka operates in the Walikale area. The APCLH has bases in the Masisi area. Both areas have numerous mineral deposits and mines. MONUSCO peacekeepers are clearing the road from the village of Pofi to Kashebere. This road eventually leads to the provincial capital, Goma.  That could indicate several things, obviously that MONUSCO intends to use the road. But it also suggests that MONUSCO is going after a Cheka finance operation. Militias frequently set up roadblocks and collect tolls (such extortion is popular with irregular forces) in the form of either money or goods.  The UN reported that the Congolese forces participating in the operation had occupied Angoa (another mining area).

July 25, 2014: The Ugandan government is investigating reports of mass graves found in western Uganda. Allegedly, the graves contain the bodies of people killed in a recent spate of tribal violence between Bakonzo tribal radicals and the Bamba tribe. Police found five bodies in a grave in the Bundibugyo district. Four more were discovered nearby.

July 22, 2014:  A group of 20 armed men attacked the Congolese Army’s Colonel Tshatshi headquarters base in the national capital, Kinshasha.  Though the Congolese military responded by sending several tanks, witnesses reported the firefight lasted 20 minutes.  The military said that soldiers from the Presidential Guard killed eight of the attackers. One government report described the attackers as civilians. The Colonel Tshatshi Military Camp was attacked in December 2013 by followers of mystic political Gideon Mukungubila (Paul Joseph Mukungubila Mutumbo).   Gideon Mukungubila’s movement is based in Katanga province.

July 21, 2014: The CAR’s interim president asked Christian “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) militias and the Muslim Seleka rebel movement to agree to a new ceasefire. The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has agreed to mediate for this.  The Republic of Congo has invited various Christian factions and Seleka (which is also highly factionalized) to meet in Brazzaville and discuss ways to halt hostilities. Currently, 8,000 international peacekeeping troops are deployed in the CAR. The French contingent has been reduced slightly, to around 2,000 soldiers.

July 12, 2014: Michel Djotodia is once again head of the CAR’s Seleka rebel movement.  Djotodia was reinstated as senior commander at a meeting held in the northern CAR town of Birao.  Djotodia helped found the Seleka movement and was senior commander when Seleka seized power in 2013. He served as president then stepped down in January 2014 after his administration failed to stop the violent anarchy throughout the country. Christian tribes also accused him of favoring Muslim tribes. The anti-balaka militias formed to resist attacks by Seleka rebels.  Djotodia claimed that he lost control of some of the most extreme Seleka groups.  Djotodia has been in exile in Benin.

July 9, 2014: Opposition political groups in Burundi are opposing a constitutional change being pushed by President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is a Hutu. His opponents claim that the changes he proposes will permanently entrench Hutu power – with Nkurunziza as the entrenched leader.  Nkurunziza intends to run for a third term in the 2015 national elections.

July 8, 2014: Uganda said that a complicated dispute involving the Bakonzo tribe sparked the July 5 attacks in the Rwenzori region (western Uganda). The government first feared that Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-NALU) Islamist rebels launched the attack. The attackers belonged to the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu, a radical Bakonzo movement.  The Bakonzo radicals had been fighting with members of the neighboring Bamba tribe. Since July 5, the Ugandan Army and police have killed a total of 60 attackers.  The military garrison is near one of Uganda’s oil fields. Uganda intends to begin daily oil production in 2017. The Ugandan Army has reinforced Rwenzori.

July 5, 2014: An unidentified group armed with guns, machetes and spears attacked two police stations and a military garrison in the towns of Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo ( western Uganda) killing at least 17 people. Ugandan security forces killed around 40 of the gunmen. The government said the attacks were coordinated.

July 4, 2014:  Several central African governments have told the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) that they will suspend anti-FDLR military operations for six months if the rebels agree to surrender peacefully. MONUSCO is involved in the initiative. The Angolan government is playing a major role in the effort. Hutu radicals involved in the 1994 genocide founded the FDLR. The UN’s Intervention Brigade has conducted anti-FDLR operations in the Congo. The UN estimates that the FDLR still has 1,300 fighters in the bush. Some 200 FDLR fighters have surrendered since late 2013. A decade ago the FDLR claimed it had 25,000 fighters.

 

 

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