Residents of a Kinshasha (Congo’s capital) neighborhood are demanding that the national government account for the 421 bodies discovered at a grave site in their area. The grave site has become something of a cause celebre and an embarrassment for the government at a time when the government is calling foreign critics and UN peacekeepers neo-colonialists. Since the report of April 3, municipal authorities in Kinshasha have claimed that they ordered the corpses buried on March 19. The bodies are those of homeless people, stillborn babies and fetuses. After the initial government report, local residents, opposition politicians and at least one NGO claimed that the site was for the bodies of anti-government demonstrators killed by security forces in January 2015. There is also another dark accusation involving government-sanctioned murder: the grave site includes the bodies of criminals murdered in an anti-crime crackdown operation conducted by Kinshasha police. UN officials are now asking the government to exhume the bodies.
In the east (North Kivu province) Ugandan Moslem ADF rebels again attacked Christian villages, leaving at least ten people dead, five of them beheaded. In the last six month the ADF has killed nearly 300 people in Congo. The ADF has strong connections to Moslem 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. In late 2014 it was estimated that 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 timber (logs) a major source of income. The ADF 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.
April 14, 2015: Two former Central African Republic (CAR) presidents signed a rather peace agreement in Nairobi, Kenya. One of the signers was a former Seleka rebel leader who became president. These rebels deposed long-time president Francois Bozize. However, the CAR’s current government disavowed that deal and supports an earlier agreement signed between the Seleka movement and leaders of the “anti-balaka” militias which have opposed Seleka. The anti-balaka militias draw most of their support from Christian or animist tribes. The deal the current government supports was also signed in Nairobi and endorsed by the Kenyan government.
In the southeast (Kanungu) hundreds of civilians fled to Uganda to avoid fighting between tribal (Mai Mai) militias and Rwandan Hutu militias who refuse to leave Congo. These refugees have been waking since the day before. The civilians reported witnessing dozens of casualties from the fighting which they believe is still going on.
April 11, 2016: Diplomats are reluctant to public acknowledge it, but the Congolese government is now employing classic “anti-colonial rhetoric” to dispute and silence criticism of its own corruption. Since Fall 2014 the government has routinely accused foreign governments and UN peacekeepers of interfering in Congolese affairs. This month the information ministry invoked the memory Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumuba. The ministry said that Congolese must resist recolonization and take Lumuba as an example.
April 10, 2015: President Kabila reiterated that he wants MONUSCO to reduce its forces by 6,000 troops. This is in addition to the 2,000 troop withdrawal the UN approved in late March. He also demanded that the UN Security Council commit to ending the peacekeeping operation.
April 9, 2015: Uganda confirmed earlier this month that the Lords Resistance Army’s second-in-command, Okot Odhiambo, is dead. Sometime in March 2015 a Ugandan military team exhumed his remains from a grave in the Central African Republic (CAR). The government delayed the announcement until forensic specialists conducted DNA tests on the remains and confirmed the body was that of Odhiambo. Like the LRA’s senior commander, Joseph Kony, Odhiambo faced numerous International Criminal Court (ICC) criminal and war crimes charges. In late 2013 reports circulated in the CAR and Uganda that Odhiambo was dead. The Ugandan Army reported in October 2013 that soldiers in one of its hunter patrols operating in the CAR believed Odhiambo suffered severe wounds when they ambushed an LRA band.
April 8, 2015: Representative of the CAR’s anti-balaka militias and Seleka rebels signed two agreements that negotiators hope will end hostilities in the country. Joachim Kokate signed on behalf of the anti-balakas. Former Seleka rebel leader (and former president) Michel Djotodia signed on behalf of Seleka fighters. The ceremony was held in Nairobi, Kenya. The agreements have very long but descriptive names: (1) The Nairobi Agreement on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities between Ex-Seleka and Anti-Balaka; (2) The Nairobi Engagement Declaration Adherence to the Transition Roadmap in Central African Republic.
Ugandan police have arrested a former Guantanamo Bay terrorist detainee who was released from the U.S. prison in 2006. Authorities believe Jamal Kiyemba and six other suspects were involved in the March 30, 2015 murder of Joan Kagezi. The victim was the lead prosecutor in the case against a group of Al Qaeda-aligned terrorists charged with a series of 2010 terror attacks in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. A police spokesman indicated that Kiyemba may be the leader of a terror cell involved in the murder of several Ugandan moderate Muslim clerics.
April 7, 2015: Congolese military officials claimed that Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militiamen who have refused to surrender have moved into a very dense jungle area in eastern Congo. Officers involved in the operation said they believe the FDLR wants to avoid direct combat.
Meanwhile, in ceremonies remember the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Rwandan government officials complained that the FDLR still continues to conduct operations in eastern Congo. The officials said the UN promised to eliminate several rebel groups in eastern Congo but so far the UN has failed to keep its promise.
April 6, 2015: Rebels in the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) ambushed a Congolese Army patrol in North Kivu province’s Masisi region. Ten Congolese soldiers (including two colonels) were killed in the ambush. The government said several other soldiers were wounded in the battle but did not detail the number of wounded. The Congolese Army’s overall commander in eastern Congo said that since the Congolese Army’s unilateral anti-FDLR offensive began his forces have killed 13 FDLR rebel fighters. He said that his soldiers were taking care to avoid inflicting casualties on civilians. The army has claimed that “hundreds” of FDLR combatants have either surrendered or been captured in the offensive.
April 3, 2015: In late March people in the Congolese capital of Kinshasha noticed a terrible smell. A foreign aid group began an initial investigation. MONUSCO encouraged the government to cooperate. Today the government reported that an area in the capital’s Maluku municipality is a grave site with at least 400 separately buried bodies. According to the government, it is not a mass grave and local authorities buried the bodies on March 19. However, political opposition leaders and many local residents don’t believe that story. Opposition leaders wonder if the grave contains the bodies of protestors killed in January when anti-government protests turned violent.
April 1, 2015: South Africa extended the deployment of its troop contingent in the Congo until March 31, 2016. South African peacekeepers will also continue to serve in Sudan’s Darfur region. Around 1,400 South African soldiers (am infantry battalion, a recon unit and a support unit) serve in the UNs Intervention Brigade (IBDE).. South Africa also provides a flight of Rooivalk attack helicopters.
March 31, 2015: Some 700 European soldiers and police officers serving in the CAR will be withdrawing April 1 when the EUFOR-RCA (EUFOR Central African Republic) operation officially terminates. EUFOR-RCA had a very limited mandate: secure parts of the city of Bangui, the CAR’s capital, and protect Bangui’s airport.
March 29, 2015: The UN Security Council authorized an increase of 750 troops and 280 police for the UN peacekeeping force in the CAR. The Security Council voted to reduce MONUSCO’s Congo peacekeeping force by 2,000 soldiers.