Congo: Desperately Seeking Solutions And Failing

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May 5, 2017: Congo’s governmental predicament continues to smolder. President Kabila is still in office and seems dead set on retaining the presidency. He has already exceeded him constitution-mandated limit of two terms in office. The opposition coalition group, RDC (Rally for Congolese Democracy, also known as Rassemblement), has continued to hold mass protests. However, one scheduled for April 10 failed to attract the large crowds seen in previous demonstrations. That may or may not mean anything, but Kabila supporters noted it. It is now doubtful that there will be new elections by December 2017. That was key element in the December Accord, the agreement mediated by Catholic bishops and reached on December 31, 2016. The agreement also specified that Kabila would not to alter the constitution and his government would free all political prisoners. The bishops belonged to the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which gave the agreement its backing. Yet in March CENCO said that continuing negotiations with Kabila had collapsed. Why does Kabila want to hold on to power? One obvious reason: Corruption in the government Kabila controls has made his family and associates rich. Kabila and his family are wealthy and that fortune could be lost or severely depleted if a reform-minded new government decides to recover stolen billions. Another theory is that Kabila, some of his key supporters, members of his personal security forces and Kabila loyalists in the military fear they would be subject to war crimes prosecution. As long as Kabila remains in power they are protected. This, too, may be explanatory. Another possibility: Kabila likes power and intends to keep it, no matter what harm it may bring to his country. Could he face a rebellion? Of course. It appears he is already facing an uncoordinated but spreading rebellion in southern Congo. The so-called Kamuina Nsapu rebellion that began in Kasai-Central province in July 2016 has now spread to three other nearby provinces, Kasai, Lomami and Sankuru. At least one report indicates that a militia fighting under the banner of “Kamuina Nsapu” is also operating in Kasai-Oriental province. The militias appear to be operating independently and are motivated by local issues. However, all of them distrust Kabila’s government. (Austin Bay)

April 30, 2017: Five UN peacekeepers are facing new sexual misconduct allegations. The group includes a Romanian military observer charged with sexual abuse and exploitation of a minor. He fathered a child with an underage Congolese girl. Two men are accused of fathering a child with adult women. The women seek paternal recognition. UN officials are investigating other complaints as well.

April 29, 2017: The UN is seeking an additional $65 million to aid one million people displaced by fighting in three southern Congolese provinces. The army is fighting militias in Kasai, Lomami and Sankuru provinces. The funding request is in addition to the $750 million budgeted for aid in Congo.

April 28, 2017: At least 29 people have died in a series of battles in North Kivu province between two factions in the Mai-Mai Nyatura militia over the last three days. At least 11 of the dead are militiamen. The Mai-Mai Nyatura is a Hutu self-defense militia organized to protect ethnic Hutus in their struggle with the Nande tribe. The Nyatura factions are both trying to take control of the village of Bweru, which is a Hutu enclave.

April 27, 2017: Uganda is willing to provide Central African Republic (CAR) security forces with military training assistance. Since April 19 Uganda has been withdrawing its troops in CAR that had been fighting LRA ( Lords’ Resistance Army) rebels since 2009. By 2016 Uganda announced it would end its operations against the LRA.

April 25, 2017: A grenade attack in Burundi (north of the capital, Bujumbura) killed one person and wounded four. The attack took place in Kamenge. The attacker was on a motorbike and he approached a car and threw a grenade into the car. Burundi has been plagued by sporadic violence since April 2015 when president Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in violation of the constitution and the Arusha Agreement which ended the civil war.

Poachers hunting elephants in Congo’s Garamba National Park killed two park rangers after a brief battle. This all began after the rangers heard gunshots and went to investigate. They tracked and caught six poachers butchering an elephant. Apparently at least one poacher was killed. Congolese officials are still investigating the incident.

April 23, 2017: The Central African Republic has held a series of talks with 14 armed groups in the capital, Bangui. The armed groups come from throughout the country. CAR officials are seeking a disarmament agreement as part of a UN-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program.

April 22, 2017: A group of Congolese Catholic bishops publicly defended their decision to halt mediation efforts between the Kabila government and the opposition. The bishops said politicians must be blamed for the collapse of the talks. The Catholic Church is a major institution in Congo. About two-thirds of Congo’s 71 million people are Roman Catholics.

April 19, 2017: The UN confirmed that an investigating team found 17 more mass graves in Kasai-Central province. The team found the graves during a three day deployment (April 5-7). The graves are located in an area where the army has fought several battles with the Kamuina Nsapu militia. UN investigators have concluded Congolese Army soldiers dug the graves in late March (possibly starting on March 26). That was right after a major clash in which at least 70 civilians were killed by government forces. UN investigators also visited Kananga. Between March 28 and 30 Congolese soldiers killed an estimated 40 people and wounded 21 more.

April 18, 2017: The government fired general Celestin Kanyama, the senior police commander in Kinshasa. The government did not give a reason. However Kanyama is notorious, so much so that in 2016 the U.S. sanctioned him. The individual sanctions included freezing his assets in the U.S. The sanction charged him with targeting civilians for violent attack and kidnapping civilians. He was in charge of the police unit that in January 2015 attacked opposition political demonstrators. At least 40 people died in the violence and at least half the dead were killed by police. Sacking Kanyama may be an attempt by Kabila to placate his Congolese political opponents and donor nations that are demanding he cede power.

April 15, 2017: The government turned over the body of Kamuina Nsapu to his family and supporters in Kasai-Central province. He was killed by government security forces in August 2016. Kamuina Nsapu led the militia force that bears his name. Since July 2016, least 400 people have been killed in fighting between the government and the militia. The government also confirmed it now recognizes Kamuina Nsapu’s successor, Jacques Kabeya Ntumba, as a customary chief in the region. The government’s decision to deny Kamuina Nsapu the title helped spark the rebellion.

April 14, 2017: Police arrested two men suspected of involvement in the murder of two UN investigators. One of the men arrested subsequently escaped police custody. Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalan, a Swede, disappeared on March 12. They were travelling in Kasai-Central province. In late March their bodies and the bodies of four Congolese who were working with them were discovered in a hastily dug grave near the village of Bunkonde (Kasai-Central province). The suspect still in detention was described as an insurgent.

April 12, 2017: The U.S. has imposed individual financial sanctions on two militia leaders in the CAR. One man leads a Muslim militia, the other leads a Christian “anti-balaka” militia. The reason for the individual sanctions was rather surprising: the two men are accused of collaborating to destabilize the country.

April 10, 2017: Congolese media reported scheduled opposition political rallies drew sparse crowds. The government had beefed up police patrols in Kinshasa, which may have deterred some demonstrators.

April 8, 2017: President Kabila has appointed Bruno Tshibala as prime minister in a transitional government. The transitional government is tasked with organizing the next presidential election that will ostensibly select Kabila’s successor. The European Union said Kabila was not fulfilling the December 31, 2016 agreement. The December Accord supposedly gave the power to pick the prime minister to the opposition coalition, not Kabila. The opposition had selected Felix Tshisekedi as prime minister. Felix Tshisekedi replaced his father, Etienne Tshisekedi, as coalition leader after Etienne died. Tshibala was a major figure in the opposition coalition. However, he has split with Felix Tshisekedi. Several opposition leaders said Kabila is trying to further fragment the coalition.

April 7, 2017: The UN has given command of its South Sudan peacekeepers to a Rwandan. General Frank Mushyo Kamanzi. Kamanzi had served as commander of the African Union-UN hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur (UNAMID)

April 6, 2017: Congo’s prime minister Samy Badibanga resigned from office. The resignation followed an announcement by President Kabila that he (Kabila) would appoint a new prime minister. Kabila appointed Badibanga in November 2016 and he took charge on Dec. 21, 2016.

April 3, 2017: In Congo fighters in a militia claiming loyalty to “Kamuina Nsapu” launched several attacks near the town of Luebo (Kasai province). Eight people died in the violence. Luebo is the capital of Kasai province.

April 1, 2017: A senior prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) said that recent atrocities in Congo’s Kasai-Central province could be prosecuted as war crimes. The prosecutor was referring to reports that Congolese security forces shot 70 civilians in one incident and a militia group killed and beheaded 42 police officers in a retaliatory attack. The retaliatory attack took place outside the city of Kananga, the capital of Kasai-Central province.

March 30, 2017: The UN confirmed that two bodies found in a grave near the village of Bunkonde (Kasai-Central province) are those of two missing UN workers. The bodies were those of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan. They disappeared March 12.

 

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