Congo: Making A Deal With The Despot

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September 27, 2016: Political violence is increasing as opposition political groups conclude that Joseph Kabila intends to break the law run for a third term as president. Kabila is unquestionably violating Congo’s constitution. Limiting the president to two terms was a key element of the peace agreement that ended Congo’s 1990s civil war and the limitation was incorporated in the constitution. However, Kabila’s supporters in the judicial branch and in the legislature are making the specious argument that Kabila’s first term wasn’t really a term. Everyone knows the arguments are ridiculous but Kabila controls the country’s best military and police units. That means he has more guns than his key opponents and he controls most of the better-trained security personnel. Many opposition leaders believe Kabila decided to seek a third term sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, but knew his decision would alienate donor nations and effectively turn the UN peacekeeping force into an enemy. That’s occurring. In early 2015 Kabila and his supporters began taking steps to force “slippage” in the election timetable. The opposition calls this “glissement.” The national elections are scheduled for November 27 but it is unlikely the vote will be held on that date. Kabila is vowing to remain in office until an election is held. Kabila’s supporters call this “prolongation” and claim the constitution permits it. The “new political dialog” the UN fostered in mid-September has not satisfied the opposition. Meanwhile, the offered to uses its peacekeeping force to provide logistical support to insure the elections are held on November 27. That puts the UN at odds with Kabila. UN administrators argue that upholding the constitution and holding an on-time election are essential to keeping the peace. The peacekeepers are far better trained and far more effective than Kabila’s. This leads to a question no one wants to ask out loud: Would UN peacekeepers turn its guns on an unconstitutional government? (Austin Bay)

September 25, 2016: In the southwest (Kasai province) 28 people have died in the town of Kasanga during fighting between heavily armed militiamen and security forces. The dead included 14 militiamen, eight government security officers and six civilians. Three of the civilians were children.

September 24, 2016: In Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, several thousand pro-government demonstrators protested a new UN report that accuses the Burundian government of breaking local laws and punishing (killing, arresting and so on) political opponents. The UN report blames the Burundian president (Pierre Nkurunziza)’s government for the bad behavior. Nkurunziza is also unpopular because he successfully changed Burundi’s constitution so he could seek a third term as president and won the election. As a result Burundi has been in turmoil since early 2015. That was when Nkurunziza announced he would attempt to change the constitution.

September 23, 2016: The UN has reinforced peacekeeping units in the east (North Kivu province) area after a rebel attack killed ten people. The government blamed the attack on the Ugandan rebels of the ADF, which is allied with militant Islamist terrorist organizations.

September 22, 2016: The UN accused the government of using excessive force against political opponents. This was mainly about demonstrations in the capital (Kinshasa) on September 19 and 20 where police killed as many as fifty demonstrators in an effort to get the protests off the streets. At least six police officers and one civilian government supporter also died.

September 19, 2016: At least 17 people died in political violence in the capital. The dead are believed to be members of political opposition groups who were protesting the Kabila government’s attempt to stop the November national elections and were killed by security forces. The government claimed that the protestors had turned violent. An opposition political leader said the security forces attacked the crowd in an act of “political retribution.” The government was supposed to confirm the election timetable either today or September 20.

September 18, 2016: UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) intervened to stop a battle between two rival rebel groups in the north. At least six people (apparently Christians) were killed in the violence. The government accused the Seleka rebels of starting the violence. Seleka is predominantly Moslem.

September 16, 2016: In the southwest Congo (Kasai province) soldiers rescued 13 truck drivers (eight Tanzanians, five Kenyans) who had been abducted by a Mai Mai militia three days ago and demanded a ransom of $4,000 each for the release of the men. The government refused to pay and sent soldiers to rescue the hostages.

September 15, 2016: Senior members of Congo’s ruling party are proposing that opposition political parties agree to form an “interim unity government” (coalition government) until new elections can be held. The deal they offer, however, has a problem in that Kabila would remain president during the interim period. At least one opposition group is reportedly interested. The offer is an attempt to prevent another civil war. Critics say the proposal is designed to fragment the opposition. Kabila’s most prominent opponent, Moise Katumbi, has not been part of the discussions.

September 11, 2016: In the northeast (Haut Uele province) there was a most unusual operation. UN peacekeepers evacuated at least 360 South Sudanese who have been living in exile in Garamba National Park The group included former South Sudanese vice-president Riek Machar, his family and some of his closest aides. The operation began in late August. Many of the South Sudanese fled violence that occurred in July in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Garamba National Park has served as a refuge for many people and groups. The notorious Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army had several hidden camps inside Garamba.

September 9, 2016: Four days of talks between the government and political opponents ended with a split decision. One political opposition group agreed with the government (president Kabila’s political coalition) that holding elections in 2016 is unrealistic. An election date in May 2017 or later is more realistic. The national election commission is arguing that the current voter registration list is out of date and it will take at least 16 months to update. That would move the election to December 2017. Other political opposition groups reject any delay.

September 5, 2016: Politicians in eastern Congo are once again accusing Rwanda of stirring trouble in North and South Kivu provinces. Now the charge is that the Rwandan government of President Paul Kagame wants to encourage a Kivu independence movement. The idea is similar to that of Katanga province separatists. The Kivus would be rich if they were a separate country and not at the mercy of a corrupt national government. The idea isn’t so bizarre. Rwanda is controlled by members of the Tutsi tribe. Many ethnic Tutsis live in the Kivus. If Kabila manages to get a third term as president and ignite a new civil war, Rwandan “peacekeepers” could protect the Kivus. Anyway, that is one scenario. (Austin Bay)

September 2, 2016: The UN released details of recent operations in Mali and Congo where UAVs (drones) and attack helicopters were highly effective in peacekeeping missions. The UAVs and attack choppers can operate in jungles and rugged terrain. The attack choppers have a high availability rate in tropical weather conditions. The UN’s peacekeeping office wants the Security Council to provide a “UAV and attack helicopter support package” for other peacekeeping missions in Africa. In Congo the UN has employed South African made Rooivalk attack helicopters. In Mali U.S. made AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were provided by the Netherlands. One Dutch AH-64 was downed in Mali.

September 1, 2016: UN health experts estimated that yellow fever has infected 6,000 people in Congo and Angola. The estimate is causing a stir because that is six times the number of reported cases. This Summer the UN and Congolese medical personnel vaccinated almost eight million people in Congo.

 

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