The UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) has a hit list and based on six months of threats from the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO), the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is the IBDE’s next target. The UN has been promising action since mid-December if only because the UN deadline for FDLR capitulation was January 2, 2015. The IBDE demonstrated its offensive capabilities in operations conducted from August to November 2013 against Congo’s M23 rebel group. Since then there has been growing pressure from NGOs in the area for the same treatment for other rogue militias. The NGOs can’t really do their aid work with the rogue militias active and the NGOs have access to international media so they can make a lot of useful noise on such subjects. Such NGO instigated media pressure on the UN is nothing new. In late 2013 the UN was pressured for failing to deal aggressively with Mai Mai militia leader Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka. The UN had tried to arrest him in 2011 but he eluded capture. Over time these public advocacy campaigns can influence UN operational decisions. In 2014 there was a call for action against maurauding Mai Mai militias in the Ituri region (northeast Congo). As a result is appears that the UN is currently (and quietly) conducting operations against a particularly vicious militia, the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI), and it appears the IBDE is involved as are other peacekeepers. (Austin Bay)
January 17, 2015: The Congolese government denied allegations that it intends to delay the 2016 presidential elections. The government accused its opponents of peddling rumors. Opposition politicians claimed that Joseph Kabila intends to either amend the constitution or break it so he can become permanent president. Claiming that elections have to be delayed would be a tactic to create a circumstance where he could extend his term in office and then abrogate the constitution. Elections are scheduled for 2016 but preparations must begin in 2015.
January 16, 2015: In northern Congo (Bondo) LRA (Ugandan Lords Resistance Army terrorists) kidnapped ten civilians.
MONUSCO confirmed that peacekeepers and army units have been fighting the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI) in the Ituri region and Oriental province. A group of FRPI fighters probed a UN camp near the town of Gety but peacekeepers quickly drove off the FRPI. Operations against the FRPI began on January 5 after Congolese security authorities in the town of Bunia arrested FRPI commander Cobra Matata. This is part of a plan to finally end FPRI dominance of the area. The FRPI formed in 2002, near the height of the chaos in Ituri and over the years some sources have referred to it as the Cobra Militia or Cobra Mai-Mai. Matata had been engaged in surrender discussions since November 2014, but the talks broke down when a rebel force of around 400 fighters began massing near the town of Aveba (Oriental province). After Matata’s arrest, UN and Congolese officials reported the FRPI rebel action forced some 30,000 civilians to flee the Aveba area
January 15, 2015: Britain confirmed that British soldiers will deploy to Malawi to help train Malawi Defense Forces (MDF, Malawian Army) for operations in Congo. The British soldiers will be in Malawi for at least 60 days. Malawi volunteered to contribute a battalion of infantry to the UN’s Intervention Brigade, to serve with battalions (one each) from Tanzania and South Africa. The Malawian soldiers the British troops will be training are Malawi’s best and have already undergone extensive training. The British went out of their way to praise the Malawians. However, the professionals on the ground in Congo know Malawi’s soldiers lack the experience and expertise of their Tanzanian and South African IBDE compatriots. To label the South African military as the best military organization in sub-Saharan Africa understates the case. Professionals rate South African military personnel as among the world’s best. The Tanzanian military (Tanzania Peoples Defense Force) is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s best and Tanzanian infantry has a good reputation. Tanzanians have a proud military tradition, to include their World War One service with the German Army in East Africa. In 1979 Tanzanian forces aided the Ugandan rebels who (finally) overthrew dictator Idi Amin. In that operation two Tanzanian brigades utterly destroyed the expeditionary force Libyan dictator Muammar Kaddafi sent to aid Amin (for “anti-colonial” political reasons (Amin was a Muslim and Kaddafi had oil money to buy influence). For several years thereafter other African countries treated Tanzania as a pariah. However, military analysts were impressed. Thus the UN had good reasons to solicit South African and Tanzanian participation in the IBDE. The IBDE has an offensive mandate and South Africans and Tanzanians know how to attack and win. Just ask M23’s survivors. The UN Security was also glad that Malawi agreed to commit troops. Malawi gives the IBDE another sub-Saharan African country, and one that has never had political pariah status. Apartheid South Africa was the region’s ultimate pariah. Malawi’s government sees participation as an opportunity to have its best soldiers gain experience in operations with high-quality allies. (Austin Bay)
January 13, 2015: Uganda confirmed that it now has custody of Dominic Ongwen, a senior LRA commander. Ongwen faces charges in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. U.S. forces assisting the anti-LRA effort in the Central African Republic (CAR) said that Ongwen defected earlier this month. American officials are contesting claims by the CAR Seleka rebel group that they are due reward money for this. The U.S. placed a five million dollar reward bounty on Ongwen but believe that Ongwen surrendered on his own in early January, near the CAR town of Obo. The U.S. and Uganda both reported Ongwen’s defection on January 6.
January 10, 2015: Seleka rebels in the CAR complained to the CAR government and the U.S. government that they are being denied a five million dollar reward for LRA commander Dominic Ongwen. Seleka claimed their fighters captured Ongwen after a 25-minute long gun battle. U.S. representatives in the CAR said that Seleka was not involved in Ongwen’s capture.
January 9, 2015: MONUSCO administrators said that Intervention Brigade operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) will affect hundreds of thousands of civilians and force tens of thousands to flee. Aid experts have generated some impressive estimates of the number of civilians the offensive could affect: 370,000 civilians in North Kivu province, 120,000 in South Kivu, 90,000 in Oriental province. The UN is coordinating with other international aid agencies and humanitarian organizations operating the eastern Congo and neighboring countries. This announcement followed a series of statements by MONUSCO officials and the UN Security Council that action by the IBDE against the FDLR is imminent.
January 7, 2015: The UN Security Council reiterated that the warning it gave to the FDLR that attack is imminent expired on January 2. MONUSCO said that the offensive against the FDLR would be a joint UN-Congolese Army operation. MONUSCO now estimates that the FDLR has 1,400 armed fighters, most of them in North Kivu province.
January 6, 2015: Congolese Army soldiers have occupied several base camps belonging to the Burundi rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL).
January 5, 2015: The Burundian Army claimed that it has killed 95 rebels and captured nine in a series of actions over the past seven days while losing only two soldiers. The rebels crossed the border from Congo and attempted to establish a base camp in the Kibri forest (jungle area near the capital Bujumbura). An army statement indicated that some of the rebels were ambushed, and if the killed in action reports are anywhere near accurate (95 to two), that would make sense. The rebels intended to disrupt national elections scheduled for May 2015. The troops captured nine of the rebels who have refused to identify their organization but they appear to be Hutus belonging to the National Liberation Forces (FNL).