Congo: Progress Forced To Retreat


September 8, 2017: The brutal conflict, in the southwest (the Kasai region) continues to plague the Congo. This is one reason why the number of people displaced by Congo violence has roughly doubled (to 3.8 million) since the end of February 2017. The Kasai conflict has displaced about 37 percent of them. The surge in people displaced by fighting in Kasai began in March. The fighting in Kasai has killed 3,000 people, although some estimates are double that. The Kasai conflict is a growing political problem for president Kabila.

The conflict erupted in August 2016 when government forces killed a traditional local chief, Jean-Pierre Mpandi. Mpandi because he objected to government interference in tribal affairs and the fact the Kabila government had appointed individuals (supporters of Kabila) from outside the region to local government posts. Mpandi called on local citizens to resist. Leaders of the Kamuina Nsapu militia continue to accuse Kabila of seeking “unjust political domination”. That accusation has resonance among other political and ethnic groups in Congo who oppose Kabila. Kabila was supposed to cede power when his presidential term ended in December 2016. However, he refused to do so. Despite signing an agreement to step down and hold elections in 2017 (the December Accord, mediated by Congolese Catholic bishops), Kabila continues to remain in office. The growing resentment and anger is why cooler heads say the Kasai insurgency illustrates what could happen throughout the country if Kabila continues to illegally remain in office. (Austin Bay)

September 6, 2017: Leaders from South Sudan, Congo and CAR met and agreed among themselves to not tolerate rebel groups crossing borders seeking sanctuary.

September 5, 2017: In Burundi the UN accused the Hutu government of deliberately promoting violence against the Tutsi minority. Because of this violence by the current government over half a million Tutsi have fled Burundi and the violence inside Burundi continues.

September 4, 2017: September 2, 2017: Rassemblement, the Congolese opposition political coalition, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) of mishandling voter registration and committing registration fraud. In late August CENI reported that it had registered over 40.6 million potential voters. Some members of the political opposition believe that the Kabila government has corrupted CENI's registered voter list in order and will try to hold a referendum to change the constitution so Kabila can remain in power.

September 1, 2017: Corrupt Congolese military officers continue to operate illegal mining and smuggling operations. A recent UN investigation concluded the corrupt soldiers pay little attention to developed world regulations that attempt to restrict the illegal sale of minerals and other products (including elephant ivory). They also pay little attention to Congolese law. A key figure in the report is Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba. Although he faces several serious criminal charges for murder and widespread abuse of civilians, Amisi is still the commander of Congo's First Defense Zone (Kinshasa and parts of western Congo). According to Congolese domestic mining law, military personnel cannot own mining rights. Investigators, however, have learned that Amisi operates an illegal gold mining racket in Tshopo province (northeastern Congo). Apparently a Congolese Army unit protects this operation.

August 29, 2017: In Burundi the rebel BPF group announced it will launch more attacks against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government. The goal of the attacks is to force Nkurunziza to conduct serious peace talks with the political opposition. Local media believe the BPF is the Burundian Forebu (Republican Forces of Burundi) rebel group operating under a new name. Forebu was founded in December 2015 by a former Burundian Army officers and may have base camps in eastern Congo.

August 25, 2017: Uganda denied a claim made by South Sudanese rebels that a South Sudanese army patrol crossed into Uganda passed through the Ugandan towns of Moyo and Koboko.

August 20, 2017: In CAR (Central African Republic) at least 13 people were killed and 20 wounded in fighting between Moslem Seleka rebels and a Christian "anti-balaka" during several days of fighting over control of a town. Meanwhile foreign aid groups asked the UN to take "immediate action" to keep the conflict in the CAR from escalating to all-out war. So far this year somewhere between 800 and 900 civilians have died in sectarian violence in the country.

August 19, 2017: Congolese in South Africa are accusing SADC (Southern African Development Community) of helping Congolese President Joseph Kabila illegally remain in office. Kabila was in South Africa attending an SADC meeting where he discussed how SADC leaders could "benefit" from Congo's mines and mineral wealth.

August 17, 2017: Sweden and the U.S. asked the UN to continue to pursue an independent international investigation of the murders of two UN investigators (Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan), in Congo's Kasai region last March.

August 16, 2017: Congo's economic fragility may yet prove to be President Kabila's greatest political vulnerability. Kabila's government has asked Western donor nations and the International Monetary Fund to help it stop an economic crisis from developing. The inflation rate is currently about 50 percent a year. Congo could run out of money in the next three to six weeks. Low commodity prices and corruption have contributed to the emerging crisis. Western donor nations, however, say Kabila is an illegal president. They are not inclined to provide cash to prop up his rule.

August 15, 2017: The other Congo (Brazzaville) admitted it is facing a huge economic crisis spurred by the drop in the price of oil. The public debt has risen to 117 percent of GDP. The government is asking the political opposition for help in stabilizing and revitalizing the economy.

August 11, 2017: The Ugandan defense ministry announced that it had completed the withdrawal of its military forces from the CAR, which began on April 19.

August 8, 2017: A two day strike organized by a political opposition group managed to shut down commercial activities in several areas in Kinshasa. Activity in the central business district was substantially reduced. The Rassemblement opposition coalition claims that its members can organize strikes that hinder the Congolese economy and stalling the already weak economy will weaken President Kabila.

August 7, 2017: In Congo security forces attacked protestors from the BDM movement in the capital (Kinshasa). This led to a series of street clashes that left at least 27 people dead. Three of the dead were police the rest were civilians and at least 11 of them were BDM members. There was a call for an impartial investigation into the clashes because this was not the first time this happened. At the same time the Kinshasa violence took place several BDM members were killed in the southwestern city of Matadi. The BDM was formerly known as the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) and that name appears in some news reports. The movement seeks the independence of the Bas-Congo region (western Congo) from the rest of the Congo. Its adherents have to renounce western and eastern religions. It also wants to revive the pre-colonial Kongo Kingdom. That would take some doing. A revived Kongo Kingdom would include parts of Gabon, Angola, and both Congos.

August 5, 2017: No surprise, none at all. Rwandan president Paul Kagame has been elected to a third term. The government announced he had won 98.63 percent of the votes. Kagame predicted he would win re-election and that was met with accusations that the vote is rigged. Perhaps the election won't be fair and square. Kagame has intimidated his opponents with physical threats and jail terms. However, he is unquestionably the most popular leader in Rwanda. Even his many critics admit he is modernizing Rwanda's economy and attacking corruption. Only five percent of Rwanda's GDP and 17 percent of the government budget comes from aid and other donations. Kagame is not term limited. He pulled the "change the constitution" trick in 2015 when he held a referendum to change to constitution so he could run for a third term. Under the new post-referendum system he could remain in power until 2034. Kagame became president in 2000, but he has basically been in charge of the country since his Rwandan Patriotic Front took power after the 1994 Hutu-Tutsi genocide.




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