January 2, 2017:
Beleaguered president Kabila has not yet signed the peace deal he accepted two days ago. Until he does there is the very real possibility of Kabila once more breaking a promise. He has been in power for 15 years and gotten rich (along with many of his key supporters) through corrupt deals with foreign companies (to obtain valuable minerals). Once out of power more details of these dirty dealings will become visible and that could cause a lot of trouble for Kabila and his corrupt cronies. It’s that risk that led Kabila to defy the constitution that put him in power. To be safe, Kabila must become president for life, something the vast majority of Congolese oppose. What may have been decisive is the large UN peacekeeper force in the country as well as government dependence on foreign aid.
January 1, 2017: In Burundi the minister of the environment was shot dead near his home. This is the first murder of a senior official since the president began his campaign two years ago to become president-for-life.
December 31, 2016: Catholic Church mediators finally succeeded in working out a deal that the political opposition and president Kabila agreed to. After weeks of negotiations Kabila agreed to fully cede power at the end of 2017 and in the meantime share power with the opposition and allow the process to be freely monitored. Kabila also agreed that he cannot change to constitution and give himself permission to serve a third presidential term. There will be national elections by the end of 2017 and in the meantime the opposition parties will supply a prime minister to handle day-to-day governance. Congo's Catholic Bishops' Conference had pushed for a “best effort” to organize and conduct national elections in 2017. Kabila’s term was supposed to end on December 19 but Kabila refused to vacate his office as the Congolese constitution requires. Kabila’s illegal retention of power ran the risk of reigniting the civil war. His decision to remain in power put him in direct confrontation with the UN and the donor nations that keep Congo afloat. What apparently proved decisive in getting Kabila to back down was organized religion. Over 80 percent of Congolese are Christian and most of them are Roman Catholic. Given its nature, the Congolese Catholic church is the only national institution most Congolese trust. The church is well organized, run by local clergy and has good international connections and the respect of foreign aid groups and diplomats. The Catholic bishops both reassured and intimidated Kabila because the clergy is largely incorruptible and represented more different tribes than any political party. Will the agreement hold? Time will tell. This is certain: the UN peacekeeping force is the most powerful military organization in central Africa and will generally side with trusted organizations like the Catholic Church.
December 28, 2016: In Congo opposition parties say that President Kabila’s hold on power is illegal. The opposition, with the support of several donor nations, are trying to convince Kabila and his supporters to leave power in 2017. There are several versions of the proposed deal and several dates for Kabila’s proposed exit. One has Congo holding national elections during early 2017 and Kabila leaving power as early as April. Others move the election date to mid-2017. One proposal has a member of the political opposition serving as prime minister. Kabila’s supporters say that he should remain in power until April 2018. The Roman Catholic Church is mediating discussions between the Congolese opposition and Kabila’s supporters. The mediators are urging both parties to reach an agreement by December 31. Since December 25, security forces loyal to Kabila have killed between 40 and 50 people demonstrating against Kabila and his illegal retention of power.
December 26, 2016: An armed group has launched an attack on an area in the center of the Central African Republic (CAR) that caused at least 17,000 civilians to flee. The attackers appear to be new rebel group called 3R, for "Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation." It may be the Seleka-FRPC (Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance). That group is based in the CAR’s northwest near the Cameroon border. The new attacks have left around 50 dead.
December 24, 2016: Burundi announced it will stop the prosecution of 11 banned NGOs (non-governmental organizations). The government had accused the 11 NGOs of conspiring with opponents to the president and being involved in “the insurgency movement.” The end of legal actions means NGOs will be allowed to operate once again.
December 23, 2016: The UN accused Congolese security forces of killing at least 40 people (and arresting up to 500) who were protesting the refusal of president Kabila’s to leave office as the constitution demands.
December 22, 2016: In the south (Katanga province) pro-Kabila security forces killed 34 anti-Kabila demonstrators and arrested several dozen more in Lubumbashi (the provincial capital).
In the east (North Kivu province) there has been another outbreak of violence between Hutu and Nande tribal militias, leaving 17 civilians and one police officer dead.
December 21, 2016: In the southeast (Tanganyika province) skirmishes between Pygmies and Bantus left six dead and 150 wounded. Apparently a Pygmy militia attacked the town of Manono as a reprisal against Bantu militia attacks on Pygmies.
December 20, 2016: Opposition leaders are calling on all Congolese to “peacefully resist” the president’s decision to illegally remain in office after his constitutional mandate expired on December 19. Some opposition leaders called Kabila’s illegal retention of power was a “coup d’etat.”
December 19, 2016: President Kabila failed to cede power as prescribed by the constitution. Protests erupted in several major cities throughout the country, including the capital, Kinshasa, and Goma (North Kivu province).
In the east (North Kivu province) a Mai Mai militia attacked a prison in the city of Butembo in a failed attempt to free prisoners. UN peacekeepers lost one dead and two wounded in the brief battle. The attackers lost four dead and two captured.
December 15, 2016: In CAR several small-scale but violent clashes occurred throughout the country as about a dozen armed factions resisted the new government’s request to disarm. Two rival factions (FRPC and UPC) of the Moslem Seleka group appear to have grown stronger and less willing to make peace. Both groups are trying to consolidate power in their own regions. The two groups fought each other in central CAR during November for control of Bria town. FRPC recently declared the area it controls around town of Kaga-Bandoro (northwestern CAR, near Cameroon border) to be an independent, autonomous zone. The UN believes the FRPC’s move on Bria was an attempt to gain control of diamond mines in the region. FRPC was originally formed to protect Fulani tribe cattle herders who claimed they were under attack by Christian anti-balaka militias. The FRPC’s claim to independence demonstrates the weakness of the CAR government which controls the capital Bangui but its hold on areas beyond the capital is tenuous. The current government was formed in March 2016. (Austin Bay)
December 14, 2016: Uganda has charged the king of the Buganda tribe and 151 other people with treason. In late November security forces arrested Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere after he was accused of maintaining an armed militia. The police move on Mumbere’s palace turned into a violent clash that left 87 people dead. Friction between the national government and tribal kings is something of a tradition in Uganda.
December 13, 2016: In Burundi a former Intelligence Director (and close supporter of the president) suspected of participating in the assassination of an army general, escaped from custody. He stole a guard’s pistol, killed the guard and fled. The guard was escorting the suspected assassin on a trip to the bank to withdraw money. You can’t make this stuff up.
December 12, 2016: The U.S. and European Union threatened to impose economic and political sanctions on the Congolese government and beleaguered president Kabila. The U.S. and EU accuse Kabila of undermining the Congo’s democratic process and repressing the political rights of Congolese citizens. The U.S. has already sanctioned seven senior Congolese security officials, to include the commander of the presidential guard and the former chief of military intelligence
December 9, 2016: In the east (North Kivu province) rock-throwing demonstrators outside of Goma attacked a UN convoy carrying 17 South Sudanese rebels. There were no casualties but the UN regards it as a serious incident. The rebels are loyal to former South Sudanese vice-president and rebel leader Riek Machar. They fled to Congo in July 2016. The presence of the South Sudanese rebels has sparked opposition in North Kivu province. In October several hundred Congolese complained to the UN that the South Sudanese were a threat to their safety and to their territory. It is believed that there are still 752 South Sudan rebels in Congo and the UN is still trying to find a way to resettle them.
December 6, 2016: In central Congo (Kasai province) tribal militias clashed with soldiers and police. Six tribesmen, ten soldiers and four policemen died in the firefight. The militia was trying to seize government buildings in the provincial capital as well as the nearby airport.
December 5, 2016: The UN accused 25 peacekeepers from Burundi and 16 from Gabon of multiple crimes most of them involving rape and running brothels during 2014 and 2015.
December 4, 2016: Ugandan investigators claim the army, the Rwenzururu King and local authorities all share partial blame for the deaths of 87 people after police entered the king’s palace in November 28.
December 2, 2016: In the east (North Kivu province) the UN tried out a new anti-crime security operation in the city of Uvira where citizens of Uvira have long complained that the national police lack the resources to protect them against numerous and well-armed criminals.
December 1, 2016: Burundi accused Rwanda of complicity in the November 28 assassination of Willy Nyamitwe (and two companions), a senior advisor to President Pierre Nkurunziza. Rwanda rejected the accusation and demanded that Burundi provide evidence of Rwandan involvement.
November 29, 2016: Rwanda announced that it will investigate 20 French officials who it believes were involved in the 1994 genocide. France denies any involvement in the genocide. At issue is the April 1994 downing of the airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana who was Hutu. The genocide began after Habyarimana’s death.
November 28, 2016: Ugandan police spent several days of confronting demonstrators in the town of Kasese (western Uganda). The crowd was largely supporters of local tribal king Charles Wesley Mumbere. Today the police decided to enter the king’s palace but his bodyguards resisted and a firefight erupted. At least 46 of the bodyguards died along with 16 police officers. Ugandan Army soldiers were also in the area but were apparently not directly involved. Police arrested 139 of the king’s supporters. Polcie also found gasoline bombs stored in the palace. Mumbere is an opponent of Ugandan president Museveni. He is king of Rwenzururu, which is the kingdom of the Bakonjo and Amba tribes. The king has no political power. His authority is limited to cultural and social issues. The Bakonjo (also known as the Kozo) primarily live in the Rwenzori Mountains. The Amba live on the Congo border, south of Lake Albert.