Congo: Another President-For-Life In The Making

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September 28, 2014: In the capital and other large cities thousands demonstrated their opposition to Joseph Kabila’s efforts to run for a third term (of five years) as president. The current constitution only allows two terms and that would mean Kabilia would be out by the end of 2016.

September 27, 2014: The U.S. admitted that it cannot adequately monitor mineral mining and smelting operations in order to determine if rebel groups, criminal organizations and rogue militias are selling and profiting from the minerals. The U.S. and other developed countries have passed various laws to deter the mining, transport and selling of conflict minerals (in the U.S. case, the 2010  Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act). The term refers to valuable minerals that are illegally-mined or illegally-acquired in conflict-ridden regions. The Congo, particularly eastern and southern Congo, are the classic examples of mineral-rich, conflict-ridden areas. In concept, the laws would prevent the movement of these minerals from the region and, failing that, would penalize individuals and companies who refine or smelt the illegal ores and minerals. In early September the United States published a list of several hundred operations world-wide that are suspected of processing, using or transporting conflict minerals. But the U.S. could not be certain.  Why? Call it guerrilla mining and guerrilla smelting. The report used Congo as an example. “Artisanal miners that process small amounts of materials and are known to be employed in eastern Congo. Because these producers of metals are “off the grid,” it is very difficult to trace exactly where these small amounts of materials are smelted. There is also evidence of guerilla smelting operations throughout Africa that create makeshift  smelters which produce an intermediary product of tantalum, tungsten and tin, and then ship the product overseas to scrap yards and informal metal traders and exchanges. The materials are often transshipped to another country and then flaked or shaved prior to being sent to a smelter.” These laws were touted as essential legal tools for battling criminal organizations and rogue militias. The laws were also seen as a vehicle for curbing corruption in developing countries – the corruption that often feeds conflicts. (Austin Bay)

September 25, 2014: The Ugandan government said that it will not deploy peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR). The UN had asked Uganda to supply at least two battalions of peacekeepers. Uganda initially agreed to send 400 peacekeepers (potentially 800, in other words one battalion) but insisted that the peacekeeping force be based in south-eastern CAR at facilities already used by the Ugandan military. The Ugandan Army uses these bases to conduct operations against the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The UN, however, said that it wanted Ugandan forces to deploy to the CAR’s capital, Bangui. The UN and Uganda continued to negotiate, with Uganda insisting that its peacekeepers be allowed to conduct anti-LRA operations. Apparently the UN and Uganda could not reach a compromise.

UN urged the Congolese government to rapidly disarm the Rwandan Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia. The UN has issued several statements that look like political preparation for launching new attacks on the FDLR by MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE).

September 22, 2014: Congolese sources reported that the commander of the “Tigers” faction of the FDLR has said his guerrillas are tired of fighting. They would prefer to disarm, leave Congo, return to Rwanda and turn their organization into a political party. However, they do not believe the Rwandan government will allow them to do this. Several members of the faction have been indicted for war crimes.

September 20, 2014: The government continues to replace senior Congolese Army leaders. This is criticized because the president is selecting generals who are personally loyal to him. The president recently appointed General Gabriel Amisi as a commander of one of three “national defense zones.” The zones are an attempt to reorganize the army. Amisi will be commander in the western zone, which includes the capital, Kinshasha.  But all is not well with the appointment. In 2012 UN investigators claimed that when Amisi commanded army units in eastern Congo he sold weapons (possibly Congolese Army weapons) to various rogue militias and rebel groups in eastern Congo. The government suspended Amisi –essentially suspended his military commission. However, in August 2014 he was reinstated as a general in the Congolese Army.

September 16, 2014: The Mai Mai Kifuafua militia asked the government to commit to protecting civilians and villages in the territory the militia currently controls. A senior Mai Mai Kifuafua commander told the government and UN that some 2,800 militiamen are prepared to disarm if they are assured that the Congolese Army will protect the Walekale region from attacks by other rebel groups, specifically the Rwandan FDLR.

September 13, 2014: Ugandan security forces claimed that they have stopped a terrorist attack by the Somali Islamist Al Shabaab terror group. Ugandan security officials said that Al Shabaab terror cell intended to attack the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda.

September 11, 2014: A court in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) convicted a former senior intelligence officer of attempting a coup d’etat. His punishment will be hard labor for life. The case of Colonel Marcel Ntsourou has stirred a great deal of interest throughout central Africa. In 2012 a fire at an arms depot produced a huge explosion which destroyed several blocks of Brazzaville and killed over 100 people.  The government later claimed that the fire and explosion were supposed to provide a distraction for a coup. The coup did not occur. However in 2013, when police arrived at Ntsourou’s fortified home to search the premises, Ntsourou and his supporters fired back. At least 35 people died in the firefight (some sources report up to 50).

September 10, 2014: The number of cases of ebola virus in Congo are increasing.  The World Health Organization reported that Congo had 62 confirmed cases in one area in the west, near Republic of Congo-Brazzaville. However, the figure is very tenuous. Confirmed means confirmed by knowledgeable medical personnel. No one knows many people may be infected.

September 9, 2014: In late August at least twelve individuals kidnapped by a Lords Resistance Army band operating in Congo managed to escape their captors. Reports like these tend to have a lag time of a week to a couple of months. The escapees have to flee and seek help. In this case the escapees said the LRA band got in a firefight with a Congolese security force and they escaped during the clash.

September 3, 2014: The government appointed Brigadier General Emmanuel Lombe to command Congolese Army (FARDC) operations against rebel groups in North Kivu province (eastern Congo).   Lombe will command units involved in Operation Sokola which are focusing on the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia. Lombe replaces General Lucien Ambamba Bahuma who died of a stroke August 30. UN military officers serving with MONUSCO peacekeeping units thought highly of Bahuma’s military skills. Bahuma had improved Congolese Army unit training in North Kivu.

September 1, 2014: The government and UN both stated that the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is failing to disarm and demobilize. In mid-August the UN said that it is prepared to use the MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) to neutralize (destroy) FDLR cadres operating inside Congo.

 

 

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