Congo: The Third Time Is The Curse

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August 3, 2015: Compared to its neighbors, Tanzania remains relatively quiet politically. This was one of several reasons Tanzania was asked to contribute a battalion to the UN special Intervention Brigade (IBDE) in Congo.  Tanzanian infantry units have a reputation for competence. The Tanzania government was also viewed as stable and reliable.  Among East African nations, Tanzania is regarded as a safe place for foreign investors.  However that political stability is being tested. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has nominated its candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for October 2015. There is some question, however, that the nominee has the political skills to bridge deepening factional disagreements within the CCM.  But that may not be the CCM’s biggest problem. The CCM has dominated Tanzanian politics for years. Stability, however, is no longer enough.  Tanzanian media have begun discussing voter disgust with the CCM. Three opposition parties (National League for Democracy, the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, and the NCCR-Mageuzi.) are considering nominating a “rainbow” candidate. Agitation by Zanzibari secessionists is also on the rise. Zanzibar has a great deal of autonomy but some Zanzibaris are not satisfied with the island’s political relationship with the rest of Tanzania. In the past the CCM has bought peace by making its vice-presidential nominees a Zanzabari. Call it lurking trouble in what passes for East Africa’s paradise. (Austin Bay)

August 2, 2015:

July 31, 2015: Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza is calling for national unity. A senior cabinet official called for talks with opposition leaders. The government said that 74 percent of voters participated in recent elections and Nkurunziza won an overwhelming majority (69 percent). The opposition, however, contends Nkurunziza shattered the constitution. The constitution was a key agreement in the peace process which ended Burundi’s civil war.

July 30, 2015: The UN administrators that they continue to rely on a private Russian company (Utair) for aviation services in its Congo operations despite the fact that company workers drugged and raped a Congolese teenage girl.  The company has been paid several hundred million dollars since the crime occurred in 2010. In fact, Utair is the UN’s major contract air transport service in Congo. The rape took place at the airbase located at Kalemie (formerly called Albertville, in Katanga province).  It is a regional transportation hub located on Lake Tanganyika. The mass rapes committed by militias and Congolese Army troops led the UN to formulate a “no tolerance” policy. The rape by the contractor personnel was no secret. However, continuing to use the company as a contractor has become something of a political embarrassment. Utair also provides helicopter support for UN operations in other countries.

In a move that may help forestall further civil conflict in Burundi, opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has agreed to serve as deputy parliament speaker. He received the support of President Pierre Nkurunziza and his CNDD-FDD party. However, some opposition leaders are accusing Rwaa of selling out.

July 29, 2015: The South African government reported that the UN IBDE is very pleased with the performance of its flight of Rooivalk attack helicopters. The IBDE uses the helicopters for strike and close support missions, but is particularly pleased with the helicopter’s reliability. According to South Africa, none of the Rooivalks assigned to the IBDE have broken down and lost operational hours. The IBDE first employed the Rooivalks in November 2013 in operations against the Congolese M23 rebel group. Two Rooivalks attacked M23 bunkers in the Chanzu area (Rwandan border) with 70mm rockets. The choppers also destroyed a 14.5 mm heavy anti-aircraft machine gun position.

July 27, 2015: Three is not a charm. Opposition parties in the neighboring Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) are strongly objecting to a government move to allow President Denis Sassou Nguesso to run for a third term in 2016. Seeking a third term despite legislative or constitutional restrictions has created crises in other African countries. Burundi is remains on the verge of civil war over the “third term” issue. Congolese President Joseph Kabila could spark a civil conflict in the Congo if he does seek a third term.

July 25, 2015: Election results have been announced in Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza claims to have won 69 percent of the vote. Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa received 19 percent, despite withdrawing from the race. Rwasa said the election was a joke. For what it is worth, the African Union, the UN and EU said that the elections were invalid and the American president said the elections were not credible.

July 23, 2015:  A group of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) Ugandan rebels raided the Mayi-Moya area (North Kivu province) and killed three women.  The ADF attackers also burned down four commercial buildings and ten houses. The Mayi-Moya area is 45 kilometers north of Beni, where a UN base is located.

July 21, 2015:  The Congolese Army claimed its soldiers have captured an ADF rebel base in the Beni area (North Kivu province).  The base was used to smuggle lumber. The army said it began an anti-ADF operation on July 18.

The presidential election began in Burundi.

July 17, 2015: The UN has quietly dropped its demand that Congo remove two generals from operational commands in eastern Congo. The UN had withdrawn its peacekeepers from operations with Congolese forces under the command of the two senior officers. The two men are accused of human rights abuses. However, the UN has decided to allow UN peacekeepers to join in an offensive operation against the Rwandan rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) group.

July 15, 2015: UN administrators have released a study which argues that seeking political solutions must guide UN peace efforts. One could argue they always have. The report argues that the UN peacekeeping office needs to conceptualize in terms of peace operations, not simply peacekeeping. Military elements of an operation should not be separated from police-security and civilian operations. This sounds a bit like another discovery of an old truth, but the UN is attempting to address some specific issues. Nations will offer troop contingents but the troops are not the ones that the mission requires. The UN wants to plan in terms of peace operations packages tailored to specific local conditions (flexible deployment forces).  The study also says that rapid reaction makes a difference. Get there first with the most?  Some UN leaders remain concerned that the IBDE’s success in Congo may cause political problems down the road.  The IBDE has a mandate to neutralize rogue armed groups. This leaves the impression that the UN is an armed combatant favoring one side over the other. Well, the IBDE does favor the Congolese government over the militias. However, UN peacekeeping officials think this could harm UN credibility in future operations where the UN best serves as a neutral arbiter. (Austin Bay)

July 14, 2015:  ADF rebels murdered nine people in the Beni area (North Kivu province).

July 12, 2015: The Burundian Army claimed that it had captured round 100 gunmen and killed many others in two days of combat in Cibitoke province (northern Burundi). The army said the gunmen belong to a faction opposed to president Pierre Nkurunziza. Burundi is in the midst of a political crisis triggered when Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term despite constitutional restrictions.

July 11, 2014: Burundi has decided to postpone its presidential election until July 21. The postponement came after the UN warned that the election could spark nation-wide violence.

July 10, 2015: Tanzania agreed to hand over captured ADF leader Jamil Mukulu to the Ugandan government. He will be flown to Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Mukulu is accused of leading the organization during its 1998-2000 offensive in Uganda. The ADF killed over 1,000 people during that time frame. The Ugandan government intends to try him for war crimes. Tanzanian authorities arrested Mukulu in April 2015 in Dar es Salam. The UN Security Council sanctioned him in 2011. An ADF faction continues to operate in eastern Congo.

July 9, 2015: The UN warned Burundi that it faces civil conflict if President Pierre Nkurunziza insists on seeking a third term.

July 8, 2015: The U.S. said the individuals who are promoting violence in Burundi could face prosecution for war crimes. The Americans are particularly concerned about reports that the ruling CNDD-FDD party is using its Imbonerakure youth militia to threaten and intimidate political rivals. The CNDD-FDD has done this before.

July 7, 2015:  Gunmen attacked the Central African Republic's (CAR) main state-owned radio station (located in the capital, Bangui). The attackers smashed a control board in one studio then tried to force their way into the main studio. Three armed gendarmes stopped them. The gunmen then escaped.

July 5, 2015: The UN accused Burundi’s ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, of conducting a terror campaign against rival political groups. Violence since the April 2015 coup has sent a wave of refugees into neighboring nations (Rwanda and Uganda).

July 4, 2015:  MONUSCO reported that at least 250 militants belonging to the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI) have been killed since mid-May.

July 1, 2015: A senior UN peacekeeping commander in Congo said that MONUSCO takes the terror threat very seriously. For example, the Ugandan rebel ADF is Islamist and has connections to other violent Islamist militant organizations, which he called African jihadist movements.

June 30, 2015: Violence disrupted voting in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. The country was voting in parliamentary and local elections.

 

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