Congo: Burundi Says No To Constitutional Criminals

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May 14, 2015: The UN ordered the UN Intervention Brigade (IBDE) to go after the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebels despite the questionable backgrounds of Congo Army units also fighting FDLR.  Recent combat in North Kivu province influenced this decision, including several engagements with the Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels. In February the UN told the Congo government that peacekeeping forces (and the IBDE in particular) would not conduct joint operations that involved two Congolese generals suspected of war crimes and corruption. The government refused to remove the generals from their positions of authority in eastern Congo. In fact, one was in overall command of operations against the FDLR. Despite the lack of cooperation against the FDLR, the IBDE has been cooperating with Congolese forces against the ADF in an on-going operation (Operation Sokola, “Clean Up”) in North Kivu province.

Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza has been deposed by a coup while he was in Tanzania. Nkurunziza attending a diplomatic meeting. When Nkurunziza was about to fly home his  security officials told him that it is unsafe to land at Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. In part this was because thousands of anti-Nkurunziza protestors remain in Bujumbura’s streets. On May 13, opposition leader (and former Nkurunziza ally) Godefroid Niyombareh claimed that he and other Nkurunziza opponents had successfully overthrown Nkuruziza’s government.

May 13, 2015:  Burundi’s 2000 Arusha Agreement (Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi) is unraveling. Six years after it was signed this agreement led to the end of Burundi’s 13-year long civil war in 2006.  The Agreement recognized that the “task of reconciliation will be long and exacting.” That has proved to be all too true. Now the current president’s personal quest to retain power is threatening to start a new civil war. The first shots may have been fired today when former Burundian Army (FDN) general Godefroid Niyombareh claimed in a radio broadcast that he had successfully toppled the government of president Pierre Nkurunziza.  ("President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties. The government is overthrown.") Niyombareh’s announcement followed reports that police in the capital, Bujumbura, had fired on anti-Nkurunziza protestors. Nkurunziza’s political opponents claim the president uses the national police as a personal weapon to threaten and intimidate Burundi’s citizens. Nkunrunziza’s government acknowledged that some soldiers had mutinied. However, there had been no coup. President Nkurunziza was out of the country (at a diplomatic conference in Tanzania) but he remained in power. The big fear in Burundi is that the protests against Nkurunziza reignite the Tutis-Hutu tribal war.  The possible coup adds fuel. However, there is this wrinkle: both Nkurunziza and Niyombareh are ethnic Hutus. That may help tamp down ethnic tensions, but no one knows. Niyombareh was at one time chief of national intelligence and served as ambassador to Kenya. Nkurunziza cashiered him in February 2015 after Niyombareh said he opposed Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. Niyombareh claims that the government tried to kill his wife on February 28. Under Burundi's peace process constitution, presidents can only be elected to two terms in office. The Arusha Agreement also stated that a president was limited to two terms: “She/he shall be elected for a term of five years, renewable only once. No one may serve more than two presidential terms.” That’s the direct quote. Nkurunziza became president in 2005. However, last fall Nkurunziza and his allies indicated that he might seek a third term. They argued that his first term does not count as an elected term since parliament appointed him to the office. Most foreign governments that were involved in resolving the Burundi civil war disagree with Nkurunziza’s interpretation. However, the EAC (East African Community of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) condemned the coup. Niyombareh’s open opposition to Nkurunziza could threaten the unity of Nkurunziza’s ruling party the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy  (CNDD-FDD).   Niyombareh served with CNDD-FDD forces during the civil war. (Austin Bay)

May 12, 2015: Soldiers clashed with ADF rebels in the eastern. The army has been conducting a series of anti-ADF operations in North Kivu province. In late April the army captured an ADF base camp near Baruku. The army claimed its soldiers killed 19 ADF fighters in the latest fighting while losing soldiers dead. The ADF has definitely not gone to ground and it has not stopped terrorizing Congolese civilians.  ADF rebels murdered thirteen people last week in two different attacks in eastern Congo.

The UN has collected evidence that the ADF-NALU has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in eastern Congo (mostly North Kivu) that, in 2014, killed 237 civilians (including 65 women and 35 children).  Killed is putting it mildly. Many of these people were murdered, execution style.  Investigators said ADF men used machetes (a typical weapon) and in some cases hammers (a not so typical weapon) to kill the civilians where they lived. During this rampage ADF attacked 35 different villages.  Uganda also has evidence of ADF atrocities committed in Uganda some 15 years ago. Ugandan Muslim radicals belonging to the Tabliq (proselyte) sect formed the ADF in the late 1990s. The ADF later merged with the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (hence ADF-NALU). The ADF has strong connections with other Islamist extremist organizations in east Africa, including the Somali Al Shabaab.

May 11, 2015: In Katanga province (southern Congo) a Bantu Luba tribal militia killed “several dozen” Pygmies (Twa people) last week near the town of Nyunzu in revenge attacks. Violence between Twa and Bantu began in 2013 and there have been several battles since. Most of the clashes occur in far northern Katanga. Bantu are normal sized and the main ethnic group in sub-Saharan Africa. Bantu have long persecuted shorter Pygmy minority.

May 9, 2015: The Ugandan Army has begun what it calls a de-radicalization campaign. The program is intended to blunt Islamic radical recruitment.  Uganda said ADF and Al Shabaab both continue to try to recruit young Ugandans. The program will include radio and television information but also a social media campaign.

May 6, 2015: ADF rebels in North Kivu province (eastern Congo) ambushed and killed two IBDE troops from Tanzania and wounded another thirteen. Earlier (May 2nd and 3ed) soldiers killed 16 ADF fighters.

May 4, 2015: Rebels fired on a UN helicopter supporting peacekeeping operations in north Kivu province.

May 3, 2015: Several thousand Burundians in the capital, Bujumbura, participated in protests again President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term. Police killed two protestors in one demonstration that --according to the police-- turned violent.  The protestor began stoning the police. Protests began in late April when Nkurunziza’s party indicated that he would soon announce his intention to seek a third term.

May 1, 2015: In Burundi grenade attacks killed three during late April. Two of the dead were police officers in a Bujumbura police station. The third victim was a civilian in another part of the city.

April 30, 2015: The army seized an ADF base located at Baruku (eastern Congo). The army also revealed that on the night of April 24 and 25 soldiers killed DF commander Kasadha Kalume near the base camp. The Ugandan government believed Kalume was the ADF’s third-highest ranking officer.  The Congolese Army and ADF fighters first clashed in the area on April 22 when a Congolese special forces recon unit discovered the camp.

April 27, 2015: Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has told his security forces that the continuing terror threat presented by Somalia’s al-Shabaab means the government must revive military training for Ugandan civilians living in vulnerable areas. Museveni did not specify the vulnerable areas. At one time Uganda had a military training (local self-defense training) program, but it lapsed as the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) threat faded. Al Shabaab maintains that all of Uganda is a target. The Ugandan Army (UPDF) currently deploys 6,000 peacekeepers in Somalia.

April 26, 2015: The Congolese government and UN officials are continuing to discuss ways to resolve their deep disagreement regarding the participation in joint counter-militia operations by two senior Congolese generals accused of war crimes. The UN has refused to let peacekeepers conduct joint operations with units under the command or military area jurisdiction of generals Sikabwe Fall and Bruno Mandefu. The UN has evidence both men have committed war crimes.

April 25, 2015: The U.S. government told Burundi that it was a mistake for Burundi’s ruling party to disregard the Burundi constitutions’ presidential term-limit provisions. The provisions are also part of the Arusha Agreement which framed Burundi’s peace process.

April 23, 2015:  ADF rebels have killed 18 civilians in two separate attacks near the city of Beni (North Kivu province).  The army deployed two Rapid Response Units to the villages where the attacks occurred.

 

 

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