Congo: The Outlaw In Charge

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November 1, 2015: Despite UN and donor nation opposition and an increasingly restive domestic political opposition, it appears Congolese president Joseph Kabila is preparing to run for a third presidential term. According to the constitution that is illegal. According to the constitution, Kabila must leave office in December 2016 and be replaced by his democratically elected successor. The UN says the peaceful transfer of power in 2016 will mark Kabila as a statesman and signal that the peacekeeping effort has succeeded. But the UN’s preferred narrative is not how the story is playing out. Kabila is disrupting the election preparation process and attempting to disrupt his political opposition. He continually discovers problems which delay election preparations. Congolese officials and foreign diplomats refer to his game as glissement (French for sliding or slipping -- with a connotation of shifting). Kabila’s shifty slipping strategy includes complaints that funds are not available for election preparations. Sliding includes complaints that Congo’s new provinces are not capable of running elections -- not quite yet. Slipping and sliding includes allegations that violent forces are plotting against him and the Congo -- so Kabila’s supporters then physically attack their political opponents. These are the moves a strong man makes to insure he remains in power and the political opposition is crying foul. In mid-September seven senior Congolese government leaders representing various factions in Kabila’s political coalition signed a letter accusing Kabila of undermining the constitution and the government. The seven men are now called the Group of Seven. There are strong indications they now support a leader who could replace Kabila, Katanga province governor Moise Katumbi. Like many Kabila opponents Katumbi was once a Kabila supporter. He is now a potential opposition presidential candidate. (Austin Bay)

October 31, 2015:  The head of the political coalition supporting president Kabila insisted that national elections must be delayed two to four years because the country is just not ready.

The vice-president of CENI (the independent national electoral commission) resigned . CENI is charged with organizing Congo’s elections.

October 30, 2015:  The army launched another offensive against Ugandan ADF (the Moslem Allied Democratic Forces) rebels in North Kivu province. This was near Beni, where a UN base is located. The UN had some troops helping out, apparently from the Intervention Brigade (a special unit of peacekeepers who are allowed to attack, rather than just defend). There are about 17,000 UN peacekeepers in Congo and about fifteen percent of them are in the Intervention Brigade.

October 27, 2015: Burundi security forces fought gunmen in a series of firefights in and near the capital, Bujumbura. Seven people were killed. At least 15 (possibly more) were wounded. In one incident the gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades and machine guns as they attacked a security force position. In another incident, the gunmen attacked a police post using hand grenades. Seven policemen and two soldiers were wounded in that fight.  In another firefight in the Mwanzo district (80 kilometers east of Bujumbura) involving more than fifty gunmen left three gunmen and one policeman dead. The government called the attackers “criminals” and refers to the groups of gunmen as gangs. However, looks more like a civil war, and the gunmen are really rebel guerrillas.

Voters in the Congo Republic (Brazzaville) have voted to change the Congo republic constitution. The president may now run for a third consecutive term. This is precisely the result president Denis Sassou Nguesso wanted. Sassou Nguesso has run the Congo republic for 31 of the last 36 years. Like president Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sassou Nguesso wants another term of five years.

October 26, 2015:  Tit for tat violence continues in the Central African Republic (CAR). Three people taken hostage in Bangui (CAR’s capital) have been killed. An anti-balaka (anti-Moslem) militia seized the hostages seized sometime in the previous week. In retaliation a Moslem Seleka alliance militia has taken three Christian hostages.

October 24, 2015: Investigators believe that the Ugandan Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is responsible for recent attacks in eastern Congo related to poaching elephants and smuggling elephant ivory. The LRA is likely responsible for the October 8 attack on game wardens in Garamba Park.  Investigators have collected evidence from several sources. Here is how the LRA does it. An LRA team locates and kills the elephants. A group working with the LRA then carries the ivory to the Kafia Kingi region (enclave controlled by Sudan).  The smugglers move through the CAR enroute to Sudan.  Once inside Sudan, the illegal ivory is transported to Khartoum where it is sold internationally. It is pretty certain that Sudanese officials are aware of the poaching and smuggling and probably profit from it. A lot of information about this smuggling operations comes from LRA defectors.  There is no reason to doubt what so many of these defectors are saying. In addition the Ugandan military has developed excellent information sources in the CAR and South Sudan. The U.S. is operating recon UAVs in the area and providing electronic intelligence interception to the African Union’s anti-LRA operation. Those are the kinds of sources that can help discover a logistics route. Smuggling is one kind of supply operation that shows up when you look for commercial traffic in this part of the world. Another good source of information on the ivory smuggling is the AU’s (African Union) anti-LRA operation that has been hunting LRA senior commander Joseph Kony since 2011. (Austin Bay)

October 23, 2015: Rwanda rejected accusations that it is involved in Burundi’s on-going violence. Several Burundian leaders recently accused Rwanda of stoking instability in their country. Violence and political turmoil have racked Burundi since April 2015 when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term.

October 22, 2015: Two warring Congolese ethnic groups have agreed to stop their conflict. The Twa tribe (Pygmy) and the Luba tribe (a Bantu tribe) have been fighting since mid-2013. Several hundred people have died in what began as land and resource rights disputes. The fighting has displaced up to 20,000 people. The two ethnic groups signed a formal agreement in the Katanga province town of Kalemie. At least 34 people (total from both groups) will face murder charges for their actions during the conflict.

October 21, 2015: Authorities discovered the bodies of six people near the village of Kamakombu (northeastern Congo). The victims had been stabbed to death. Security officials believe the Ugandan Islamist rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group committed the murders.

October 18, 2015: Police in Brazzaville (Congo Republic-Brazzaville) killed four people who were demonstrating against the movement to end presidential term limits in the Congo Republic. Police fired on the crowd when it refused to disperse.

October 17, 2015: The African Union's Peace and Security Council said that the AU must speed up the deployment of a security force to Burundi. The council said the AU also need to investigate human rights abuses in Burundi. Violence has plagued Burundi since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term.

October 10, 2015: Congo's electoral commission chief, Abbott Apollinaire Malu-Malu, has resigned his position as head of CENI.  Malu-Malu claimed he resigned for health reasons and he has been sick. However, some Congolese see his resignation as another sign that many senior Congolese leaders believe President Joseph Kabila intends to maintain power illegally. The constitution says he cannot seek a third elected five-year term.

October 8, 2015: Three game wardens and a Congolese Army soldier were killed by poachers in Congo’s Garamba National Park. The patrol was investigating attacks on elephant herds. Poachers attacked a ten-man game warden patrol.  Park rangers managed to extract six members of the patrol. A reinforced patrol recovered the bodies of the four killed by the poachers.

October 7, 2015:  The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) is monitoring the rise in political tensions in Congo spurred by President Kabila’s interest in running for an unconstitutional third term.  The UN is now focusing on human rights violations committed by Kabila’s government. A UN website recently noted that there is evidence of 2,200 alleged rights violations that affected over 5,400 people. About half of the alleged violations were committed by government agents (mostly security forces).

October 5, 2015: Congolese government and military officers are accused of hiring criminals and thugs to attack peaceful political protestors demonstrating in Kinshasha. Most of the accusations involve a demonstration which occurred in mid-September in Kinshasha. Young men associated with President Kabila’s political coalition attacked people meeting where several opposition political leaders were speaking. The young men used wooden clubs.

October 1, 2015:  The CAR’s capital, Bangui, has suffered five more days of tit for tat sectarian violence. Officials reported that 31 targeted killings occurred between September 25 and October 1. The victims were either shot or stabbed to death.

September 29, 2015: Katanga governor Moise Katumbi has resigned from president Joseph Kabila’s Peoples Party for Reconstruction and Democracy. Katumbi may run for president of the Congo and oppose Kabila.

Thirteen people were killed near the Congolese town of Lemera (South Kivu province) when bandits attacked a convoy carrying $40,000 in pay for teachers.  Six people were wounded 11 of the dead were Congolese soldiers.

 

 

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