The government recently announced that it has brought in several outside experts to determine why recent long-term contracts it signed with China have Congo paying about $3 billion less than they are worth. Outside observers (experts in such matters) note that Congolese officials appear to have been bribed by the Chinese mining companies so that Congolese minerals are obtained for much less and sold worldwide at market prices. The worst terms seem to involve Sicomines. China owns 68 percent of Sicomines, the Congolese government the other 32 percent. The Sicomines deal, however, is only one of many similar projects where the Chinese supply expertise, material and construction workers. The Chinese build the required infrastructure in exchange for long-term access to the particular resource. China points out that it will build around 3,000 kilometers of new (or highly-improved) transportation infrastructure (both railroad and road). The deals have critics, however, lots of critics. One group claims the roads that have been built are of poor quality (quick work, shoddy materials). Such corrupt deals are increasingly illegal for Western firms, but the Chinese will play by local rules not matter how corrupt they are as long as it boosts profits. But most of the foreign aid comes from Western nations that insist that the Congolese government suppress corruption or see aid withheld. Many Congolese want the corruption curbed and it has gotten to the point where the government has to do something. The question will they do something effective or just for show.
June 5, 2015: Ugandan security forces reported another surge of Burundian refugees. Almost 8,000 Burundians have fled the fighting in their country and are now in camps in Uganda. Most of the refugees pass through Tanzania on their way to Uganda.
UN administrators are seeking a thorough and complete investigation of charges that Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) peacekeepers serving in the Central African Republic kidnapped and killed 11 people in March 2014. The incident took place in the town of Boali (near the capital of Bangui).
June 4, 2015: The government of Burundi has decided to postpone national elections which were scheduled for later this month. The decision follows several weeks of unrest and a thwarted coup (May 13). President Pierre Nkurunziza’s April 25th decision to ignore the constitution and seek a third presidential term ignited his political opposition. Nkurunziza makes the very legalistic argument that his first five-year term does not count since the parliament voted to make him president and he did not stand for nation-wide election.
Senior officials in the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) are praising the Congolese Army’s latest offensive against the Rwandan Hutu FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebel group. The Congolese Army began a new counter-FDLR operation on June 3.
Police in North Kivu province have arrested 32 rebels who participated in the June 2 attack on the Goma (capital of North Kivu province) airport. The fighters were initially identified as members of a Mai-Mai militia that operates as a bandit force. However, several of the men who were interrogated indicated their attack had political roots. The men said they support Celestin Malonga and his Union of Congolese Patriots for Peace (UCPC). Malonga has operated in both North and South Kivu provinces. Malonga was arrested as he tried to cross the border into Rwanda. Malonga told the police he opposes Congolese president Kabila. The attacking force killed four members of Kabila’s elite Republican Guard force. According to authorities in Goma, two of the guardsmen had their throats slit.
June 2, 2015: Heavily armed gunmen attacked an airport warehouse in the city of Goma killing at least four Congolese soldiers. The dead were members of the Congolese Army’s Republican Guard (presidential guard forces). Congolese security forces claimed they killed three of the gunmen. Witnesses said that the gunmen belong to a Mai-Mai militia which operates in the area. Police theorized that the gunmen may have wanted to loot the storage facility.
May 29, 2015: Congolese president Joseph Kabila announced that he is holding consultations with key power groups in the country. The central subject is next year’s national elections. Kabila claims that he is willing to speak with the primary opposition group, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party. The UDSP rejected the vote count in Kabila’s 2011 election and called Kabila’s re-election a fraud. Leaders of the other two major opposition parties, the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) and the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), believe Kabila intends to ignore the constitution’s two-term limit on presidents and seek a third term.
May 26, 2015: In March President Joseph Kabila announced that by the end of June 2015 Congo would divide its 11 provinces into 26 provinces. A constitutional change passed in 2006 made this a requirement. This expansion was supposed to have occurred by the end of 2010. It didn’t. The government has been slow to implement the provincial expansion. The big idea behind creating more provinces is making government more responsive. The Congo is huge, has around 70 million people and it lacks transportation infrastructure thus it is difficult for citizens to travel to a provincial capital. Hence this solution: more provincial capitals. More capitals, of course, creates more political jobs. This is good and bad. The good side is leaders from neglected areas or marginalized ethnic groups now have a chance to get a leadership position where they can make positive changes. The bad side is that this gives corrupt senior leaders more jobs to distribute to their family and friends. Congolese know both sides of the argument. President Kabila’s opponents believe he has delayed the expansion because for his own cynical reasons. For example if the provincial reorganization cannot be completed by the end of June 2015, then Kabila will claim he has sufficient reason to delay national elections and remain in office. Another theory is that Kabila will argue that the constitutional requirement for provincial expansion is too onerous. It cannot be implemented, so let’s change the constitution. And while we’re at it, let’s change the constitutional limitation on presidential terms. The president is limited to two terms. Kabila wants a third term. (Austin Bay)
May 25, 2015: Congolese soldiers fought with Rwandan Hutus who attempted to stop the troops from moving the Hutus from one holding camp to a larger facility. The Rwandans were being held at Kanyabayonga. The army was moving then to Kisangani and eventually back Rwanda where some of them might be prosecuted for war crimes.
May 23, 2015: The European Union said that it would continue to support the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA). Since 2013 the EU has spent over 360 million euros on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance in the CAR.
May 21, 2015: Protests continue in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. However, President Pierre Nkurunziza is claiming that he is in full control of the country after a coup led by a former Burundian Army general Godefroid Niyombare was thwarted on May 13. Still, some 40 people have died in the protests in Bujumbura and over 400 people have been arrested. UN officials and non-governmental organizations operating in Burundi estimate that 100,000 people have fled the country. Most of them have gone to Tanzania or Rwanda.
May 19, 2015: MONUSCO has launched the third phase of its Congo disarmament demobilization and reintegration program. In this phase some 2,000 former combatants will be reintegrated into society. This phase focuses on the province of Katanga.
May 18, 2015: The Ugandan government has placed security forces throughout the country on alert after Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamist terrorist organization issued new threats to attack Uganda and Burundi.