Congo: UN Refuses To Work With Accused War Criminals

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February 27, 2015: As February began the joint UN-Congo offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) seemed a sure thing. Then NGO objections to two Congolese generals (for abusing civilians) led the UN to withdraw peacekeepers from the operation. That meant withdrawing the Intervention Brigade (IBDE) with its offensive mandate to destroy rogue militias. The army launched offensive operations anyway, but indications are that these operations are limited in scope. UN administrators claim they are trying to find a way to work with the Congolese government but they do not want MONUSCO’s (UN Stabilization Mission in Congo) peacekeepers to work with generals who have committed war crimes (rape and pillage). Both of the generals in question have commands in eastern Congo. In fact, General Bruno Mandevu commands the Congolese Army’s anti-FDLR operations. The other officer, General Fall Sikabwe, has a command in South Kivu province. The UN gave the Congolese government until mid-February to remove the generals. Congo refused to do so, despite pressure from the African Union (AU). Later the AU urged the UN to overlook the war crimes accusations and get on with eliminating even worse offenders along the border by letting UN forces participate. The UN still refused. The cause of this mess was believed to be the fact that Congo president Kabila’s power depends on the support of key army generals. It also depends on spreading around opportunities to make money (ie, corruption). It is very likely Kabila regards the two officers in question as being reliable political supporters.

February 25, 2015: The army attacked FDLR positions in South Kivu province (eastern Congo). The initial objective was ten kilometers from the Congo-Burundi border. Congolese soldiers met no resistance but seized ten weapons. The government said the army would begin conducting anti-FDLR operations without UN participation. The Rwandan government has demanded that Congo destroy the FDLR.

Congo Republic-Brazzaville announced that it is inventorying all stockpiles of elephant ivory within the country. The inventory is part of the government’s new anti-poaching program. The Congo Republic’s government said that it will focus more security resources on preventing what it called wildlife crime. Poaching elephants and smuggling illegal ivory are examples of wildlife crime that have a severe economic impact in sub-Saharan African countries who are trying to build tourist industries around wildlife preserves.

February 24, 2015: New violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has produced a surge of refugees. UN and non-governmental refugee monitors estimated that 50,000 people have fled violence in the CAR since January 1, 2015. Over 19,000 of the refugees are now in the Congo’s Equateur province. A large number of civilian refugees (1,000 families according to one report) are trapped in a temporary displaced persons camp near the town of Bambari (central CAR).

February 23, 2015:  The African Union (AU) is urging the Congolese government to agree to UN political conditions placed on UN peacekeeper participation in anti-FDLR operations. The AU statement gingerly addressed the UN demand that senior officers accused of war crimes be removed from commands in eastern Congo while UN peacekeepers conducted joint offensive operations with Congolese forces. The Congo government said that the UN has failed to provide evidence that the two officers have committed war crimes.

February 20, 2015: MONUSCO confirmed that militias from several Pygmy villages in Katanga province launched three attacks on Bantu villages. The attacks occurred on February 9 and February 15 in villages near the Katangan town of Manono (southeastern Katanga province). The Pygmies killed 27 Bantu in the attacks. The Pygmy-Bantu war is over land use rights. The Pygmies are predominantly hunter-gatherers. The Bantus are farmers.

February 19, 2015: UN investigators confirmed that Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) guerrillas were responsible for the February 4 murders of 21 people in the town of Mayangose (North Kivu province). The ADF terrorists used machetes to hack the people to death. The attacks were reported at the time but the death toll was uncertain. The ADF (ADF-NALU) is a Ugandan rebel organization with strong connections to Muslim tribes in northern Uganda. In fact, it is now regarded as an Islamist group. UN peacekeepers launched several operations in 2014 against ADF bases in the Congo. UN peacekeeping officials have concluded that the 2014 operations weakened the ADF but it has not been eliminated.  Its senior commander, Jamil Mukulu, has avoided capture. After action analysis of 2014 anti-ADF operations indicated that the ADF had around 500 fighters in Congo. Its bases near the Ugandan border could have supported up to 2,000 fighters. Interrogators spokes with several captured ADF fighters who reported that the ADF had a very active recruitment network in east Africa. The ADF made money smuggling, with smuggling timber (logs) a major source of income. Mukulu also enforced his own interpretation of sharia law. ADF fighters could enslave local Congolese women and children. If someone was caught trying to escape from an ADF camp, they faced death by beheading or crucifixion

Februarym15, 2015:  French Army personnel and UN peacekeepers serving with MINUSCA attacked a rebel force near the town of Bria (northeast of Bangui, CAR). Armed helicopters supported the operation. The UN said the attack killed seven rebels belonging to the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC). The FPRC is a radical splinter group of the predominantly-Muslim Seleka movement.

February 13, 2015: Uganda told Sudan that it will expel any Sudanese dissident groups and rebel leaders discovered residing in Uganda. For years Sudan has accused Uganda of letting Sudanese rebels conduct business or live within the country. In turn, Uganda has accused Sudan of supporting the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

February 12, 2015: Congo announced it will conduct presidential elections in November 2016. Elections will not be cancelled or postponed as earlier discussed. The announcement follows another demonstration by opposition groups who believe president Joseph Kabila intends to change the constitution and seek a third term.  Several protests in January turned violent.

February 11, 2015: MONUSCO announced that UN peacekeeping forces will not participate in a long-planned offensive against the FDLR. In fact, the UN has officially withdrawn its support for the operation because the Congo government has failed to remove two Congolese Army generals accused of war crimes. The UN said that it has credible evidence that Congolese Army General Bruno Mandevu had been involved in 121 incidents that qualify as war crimes. Mandevu commands the Congolese Army’s anti-FDLR operations. The conflict over the generals has been simmering for some time. It became a news item on February 3 when a human rights organization asked the Congo government to remove Mandevu from his command. The human rights group argued that UN peacekeepers should not be cooperating with war criminals.

February 10, 2015: Congo opposition parties claimed that the government has failed to release over 300 people who were jailed last month for participating in anti-government protests. Opponents of president Joseph Kabila claim government security personnel killed over 40 people during those protests. One of the people still under arrest is Moise Katumbi, governor of Katanga province. Katanga is Kabilas home province and Katumbi was at one time regarded as a key ally of Kabila. In December 2014, Katumbi, however, accused Kabila of intending to retain power illegally and seek a third term as president.

February 7, 2015: European Union Force (EUFOR) peacekeepers deployed in the CAR’S capital, Bangui, reported an increase in grenade attacks by militiamen and suspected terrorists. The most common grenade is a Chinese-made assault grenade that sells for about one dollar on the city’s streets.

February 5, 2015: The U.S. State Department claimed that credible evidence exists that Burundian security forces murdered at least 24 rebels who were trying to surrender. The incident took place in early January 2015. The State Department described the murders as “extra-judicial killing.” The U.S. asked the government of Burundi to conduct a thorough investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable for their crime.

 

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