Congo: Epic Slaughter Subsides

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June 30, 2015: The current Congolese government is notoriously corrupt. It is also notoriously hypocritical. Today the government filed criminal corruption charges against several former and current government officials. Some are charged with defrauding Congolese customs. However, the criminal complaints did not mention specific names. Rumors in the capital indicate the target of the accusations is the governor of Katanga province who was once a close political friend of the current president but opposes president Kabila’s bid to run for a third term as president.

June 27, 2015: ADF (Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces) rebels attacked an army base in North Kivu province, killing three soldiers and five civilians and burning 20 homes. Eight of the rebels were killed as well.

June 26, 2015:  The UN peacekeeping operation in the CAR (Central African Republic) is not large enough to deal with all the unrest. Currently the UN forces has 9,902 uniformed personnel (8,305 peacekeeping troops, 1,466 police officers and 131 military observers). The CAR force is authorized 12,870 military personnel and 2,120 police but that is not enough to prevent militias in many areas from operating as governments. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it does not. Problems often arise when these militias seek to support their operations. This usually results in a taxation system that is really extortion via road tolls.  Civilians traversing these areas (mainly in eastern and central CAR) have to pay for the privilege. It is estimated that rebels clear $1.5 to $2 million a year, which in the CAR is a lot of money. The Seleka rebels also extort money from coffee traders and cattle traders. The anti-Balaka militias in western CAR have similar road tolls and also run protection rackets.

June 25, 2015: Burundi’s second vice president, Gervais Rufyikiri, has fled the country and gone into exile in Belgium. Rufyikiri said his life has been repeatedly threatened since he opposes President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to run for a third term. Rufyikiri contends the third term is unconstitutional and Nkurunziza’s demand to run for a third term puts the peace process in jeopardy. At least 70 people have been killed and around 500 wounded and 150,000 have fled the country because of the resulting violence. On April 26 when Nkurunziza was nominated by his own party to run for a third term. The current law limits presidents to two terms.

June 24, 015:  The Congolese Army offensive in Oriental province appears to have neutralized about a quarter of the rebel FRPI (Patriotic Revolutionary Forces of Ituri) combat power. The offensive has killed 35 rebel fighters, wounded 50 and captured 36. Those figures suggest another 375 FRPI rebels (or thereabouts) remain healthy and under arms. Officially the UN is providing the troops participating in the offensive with supplies, combat support (to include attack helicopter support) and intelligence support (unmanned aircraft).  UN troops are also helping build bridges to support the offensive. The use of the term neutralized indicates the UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) is participating in the operation and probably coordinating air and fire support. The IBDE’s mandate permits neutralization of rebel fighters.

June 23, 2015: Uganda is once again arguing over its Amnesty Act. In 2000 the government made an important but controversial political decision. Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who turned themselves in might receive amnesty for even violent crimes if doing so forwarded the peace process. The law was also applied to other rebel groups. This was not a blanket law-- the government reserved the right to punish individuals for truly heinous crimes (massacres, mutilations, mass rapes).  LRA senior commander Joseph Kony could not have amnesty. Since 2000, around 27,000 former rebels have received some type of amnesty from prosecution in exchange for disarming. There were numerous accusations of uneven application of amnesty (selective justice) and many of the accusations were no doubt valid. Parts of the law lapsed in 2012. Earlier this month the Ugandan government revived key portions of the Amnesty Act but stipulated that anyone who had accepted amnesty and later joined a rebel group would never again qualify.

June 22, 2015: Some observers believe that violence in the Congo since 1996 constitutes the world’s deadliest conflict since World War 2. These estimates come to six million people killed, either directly (violent acts) or by the impact of violence (starvation, exposure, disease). These secondary (non-combat) losses often exceed combat losses. For example, Russian losses during World War II were nearly 30 million dead and only a third were from combat.

June 20, 2015:  A grenade attack wounded 11 policemen in Burundi’s capital. There were also several small but coordinated attacks on police posts and police vehicles. 

June 15, 2015:  Despite the opposition of the United States and several other major donor nations, the Rwandan government announced that several million Rwandans have signed petitions asking the legislature to amend the constitution and let president Paul Kagame run for a third term. Meanwhile, in neighboring Burundi, the third term controversy has brought the country to the edge of civil war. Today the African Union (AU) weighed in and said that Burundi needs to conduct free and fair elections in accordance with the UN-sponsored peace process.

June 13, 2015: There are demands that some government investigate charges that a British company bribed a Congolese Army officer in a scam involving oil exploration in Virunga National Park (eastern Congo). The British company insists the payments were legitimate.

Burundi’s major opposition political parties attacked the national election commission for its decision to allow a presidential election to occur in July.  The opposition parties contend that President Pierre Nkurunziza is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.

June 11, 2015: The Congolese government and UN continue to investigate the Mai Mai militia attack of June 2 on the airport at Goma (capital of North Kivu province).  In that attack a militia loyal to Kambale Malonga pillaged several airport warehouses. Militiamen also killed four members of Congo’s Republican Guard (Presidential Guard). The government has been assigning soldiers in this elite unit to key facilities throughout the country. They are well trained and loyal to president Joseph Kabila.

June 10, 2015:  The UN confirmed that it has deployed soldiers, attack helicopters and intelligence systems (to include drones) to support the Congolese Army’s offensive against the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front  (FPRI) in Oriental province. The offensive began June 3. The UN acknowledged that this is the first time it has provided major support for Congolese combat operations since January 2015. In January the UN announced that its forces would not participate in operations with two Congolese general linked to war crimes.

 

 

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