In Congo supporters of political opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu continue to bitterly contest CENI’s (Independent National Electoral Commission) decision to name Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the December 30, 2018 presidential election. Fayulu maintains he won the election outright, and several independent election observer groups agree. Congo’s Catholic Church has evidence Fayulu was the landslide winner with about 60 percent of the vote. Under any circumstances, both opposition candidates crushed Kabila’s personally selected successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. There was no way Kabila could manufacture enough votes for Shadary.
On January 10 CENI claimed Tshisekedi took 38.6 per cent of the vote, Fayulu 34.8 and Shadary 23.8. Immediately independent election observer organizations and several foreign nations questioned the results. Fayulu rejected CENI’s tally as evidence of a rigged election and called it an “electoral coup.” On January 17 the AU (African Union) questioned the results. Fayulu continues to argue that CENI, on behalf of former president Joseph Kabila, named Tshisekedi (another opposition candidate) because Kabila can manipulate him whereas Fayulu would threaten Kabila and his corrupt kleptocrats. Kabila will maintain control of the security forces and Tshisekedi will be his puppet.
However, as the first week of February ends, it appears that a majority of Congolese voters are willing to accept Tshisekedi even if his election was rigged. There are two reasons. First of all Tshisekedi isn’t Kabila. Second, the Congolese people are tired of war and don’t want another civil war to erupt. They prefer a peaceful handover of executive power and hope Tshisekedi can resist Kabila’s manipulation.
Since Tshisekedi's inauguration (January 24) several Catholic Church officials (including some lay leaders) have grudgingly indicated they are willing to accept the imperfect election. They have been more specific about their security concern. They fear attempting to remove Tshisekedi may provoke pro-Kabila security forces to launch a coup. Would the coup attempt to restore Kabila? It’s a possibility. However, Fayulu continues to vocally resist and calls for “peaceful resistance” to the Tshisekedi government. (Austin Bay)
Central African countries have made some efforts in the last year to deal with their massive internal corruption problems. Despite occasional positive government press releases, outside observers cannot see any real progress. In 2018 Congo ranked 161 out of 180 nations in a worldwide survey of corruption, unchanged compared to 2017 and 2016. The smaller neighboring Congo (Brazzaville) did about the same while Angola ranked 165, CAR (Central African Republic) was 149 (tied with Uganda) while Rwanda did much better at 48, Burundi much worse at 170, Tanzania at 99 and Zambia at 105. Progress, or lack thereof, can be seen in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index where countries are measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations (usually North Korea/14, Yemen/14, Syria/13, South Sudan/13 and Somalia/10) have a rating of under 15 while of the least corrupt (New Zealand and Denmark) are over 85.
The current Congo score is 20 (down from 21 in 2017) compared 19 (21) for Congo (Brazzaville), 19 (19) for Angola, 26 (23) for CAR, 26 (26) for Uganda, 56 (55) for Rwanda, 17 (22) for Burundi, 36 (36) for Tanzania and 35 (37) for Zambia, 34 (35) for Ethiopia, 27 (28) for Kenya, 24 (20) for Eritrea, 14 (16) for Yemen, 13 (12) for South Sudan, 16 (16) for Sudan, 17 (17) for Libya, 32 (31) for Mali, 43 (40) for Morocco, 43 (42) for Tunisia, 19 (20) for Chad, 34 (33) for Niger, 70 (71) for the UAE (United Arab Emirates), 62 (64) for Israel, 61 (61) for Botswana, 72 (75) for the United States, 35 (33) for Algeria, 25 (25) for Cameroon, 40 (39) for Benin, 41 (40) for Ghana, 43 (43) for South Africa, 45 (45) for Senegal, 41 (40) for India, 72 (73) for Japan, 38 (37) for Indonesia, 57 (54) for South Korea, 18 (18) for Iraq, 41 (40) for Turkey, 49 (49) for Saudi Arabia, 28 (28) for Lebanon, 28 (30) for Iran, 16 (15) for Afghanistan, 33 (32) for Pakistan, 28 (29) for Russia and 39 (41) for China. A lower corruption score is common with nations in economic trouble and problems dealing with Islamic terrorism and crime in general. Congo’s corruption score has not changed much since 2012 when it was 21. Neighboring nations were generally the same.
February 4, 2019: Several health and medical aid NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are asking WHO (World Health Organization) to consider designating Congo's continuing Ebola epidemic as an international public health emergency. The epidemic has now lasted six months. The advocates want WHO to establish a special emergency committee to monitor the epidemic and help end it.
In Uganda, a convoy of eight trucks carrying weapons and equipment for UN peacekeepers in Congo remains stalled in the Ugandan town of Vurra on the Congo border (the northeastern Congo Ituri Province). The issue is unpaid transport and customs fees. The convoy has been stalled there for over a month.
Congo has extradited two FDLR ethnic Hutu rebels to Rwanda as part of a previously made legal agreement. The two men identified as senior FDLR commanders.
February 3, 2019: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), 20 Mai-Mai militiamen and two soldiers died in a battle outside the city of Beni.
February 2, 2019: In eastern Congo, there are, as of the end of January 31, more than 730 cases of Ebola reported and 459 confirmed deaths.
February 1, 2019: The UN is willing to ease the arms embargo on the CAR (Central African Republic) that was imposed in 2013. The CAR government says the restrictions are hindering its own security forces which are battling several heavily armed militias in the country. A draft resolution would keep the arms embargo in place but lift sanctions so that government forces can receive weapons, ammunition and equipment. At the moment there are 13,000 UN peacekeepers in CAR.
January 31, 2019: In Uganda, security forces seized 750 pieces of ivory smuggled into the country from South Sudan. The ivory and several thousand pangolin scales were hidden in hollowed out timber logs which were inside six-meter long containers. Police arrested two suspected smugglers, both of whom were Vietnamese men. Authorities claimed poachers had to kill between 300 and 325 elephants to acquire the amount seized.
January 29, 2019: In northwestern Congo (Bandundu Province), UN investigators found 15 graves containing at least 170 bodies. It is believed the bodies are those of people slain in ethnic fighting between the Banunu and Batende tribes. Since late 2018 an estimated 900 have died in clashes between the Banunu and Batende. The presidential election played a role in the violence. Batende leaders and elders have supported Kabila’s ruling coalition while Banunu leaders supported opposition candidates.
In Congo, CLC (The Catholic Laity Committee for Coordination) denounced the inauguration of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi but also said the group will not conduct public protests that challenge the election.
In southwest Congo (Kasai region), three senior leaders in the Kamuina Nsapu (Black Ant) militia surrendered to security forces. One of the men surrendering, Lokondo Luakatebua, is accused of leading a militia operation that left 39 policemen dead. The government calls their death murders. The action occurred in 2017 during the height of the Kamuina Nsapu rebellion. The other two men are also accused of committing atrocities. Mubiayi Dewayi is accused of beheading the wife of a former government administrator in Kasai’s Luebo territory. When Dewayi turned himself 60 of his militiamen followed him out of the jungle. His men gave authorities four AK-47 rifles and reportedly asked to become part of the Congolese Army. One of the men indicated their surrender was a sign of support for Congo’s new president, Felix Tshisekedi.
January 28, 2019: In Burundi, a grenade attack in the capital (Bujumbura) killed eight people. Police blamed terrorists.
January 27, 2019: In southern Congo (Upper Katanga province), three people were killed in a protest in Lubumbashi. One of the dead was a policeman and another was a university student. The demonstrators were protesting water shortages and electricity outages at Lubumbashi University and surrounding neighborhoods. The areas have not had water and electricity for three days.
January 24, 2019: In Congo, Felix Tshisekedi was inaugurated as president. He said he wanted to be president of a “reconciled Congo.” Former president Joseph Kabila stood next to Tshisekedi during the ceremony. Defeated pro-Kabila candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary was also present. Noticeably absent was opposition candidate and leader Martin Fayulu and any senior leaders of Fayulu’s coalition group. Catholic Church leaders – particularly bishops who are leaders in Congo’s Catholic Bishops Conference (CENCO) – were not involved in the ceremony.
In Sudan (the capital), talks to end chronic violence in the CAR began. The AU is sponsoring the negotiations which are officially named the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic Inter-Central African Dialogue between Government and Armed Groups.
In Burundi, media reported a group of Burundian soldiers and members of the ruling party's Imbonerakure youth wing crossed the border into eastern Congo (South Kivu province) on January 21. There was no confirmation of this from Congo. The Burundi government also reinforced units deployed on the Rwandan border.
January 22, 2019: In northeastern Congo (Ituri Province), soldiers attacked a Mai-Mai Simba militia position. Seven militiamen were killed, including the militia commander, Manu. Elsewhere in Ituri unknown attackers killed at least four soldiers.
January 20, 2019: In Zimbabwe, Russian military advisers have been seen working with local security forces. This follows a recent announcement that Russia had invested in Zimbabwe’s diamond industry and had financed two other business deals worth some $270 million.
In CAR there has been more fighting. From January 17-19 Portuguese paratroopers fought several battles in and around the town of Bambari. On January 20th some of the militia fighters had regrouped in a Bambari. The Portuguese peacekeepers arrived in the area on January 10 with orders to protect civilians from further attacks by UPC fighters who had already killed two police officers in the area. The UPC is a Seleka splinter faction that is regarded as particularly violent and militant. Two French Mirage 2000 jets overflew Bambari on January 11 as a show of force supporting the paratrooper peacekeepers. A few sporadic clashes occurred but on January 17, the Portuguese units and Nepalese peacekeepers began an “hours-long assault” on UPC compounds in Bambari. Meanwhile, Portuguese peacekeepers were also involved in the action in Bokolobo (60 kilometers southeast of Bambari). That attack began January14-15. Bokolobo is the UPC’s main headquarters. Or at least it was. The Portuguese attack destroyed the UPC’s Bokolobo headquarters and several militia checkpoints and barricade-type fortifications. The peacekeepers also seized numerous weapons. Apparently, 30 to 40 UPC fighters had retreated into the jungle after attempting to ambush and delay Portuguese forces. It was unclear whether this action took place before the assault on Bokolobo or after the assault.
January 19, 2019: In Congo opposition candidate Martin Fayulu rejected a national court (constitutional court) ruling that he lost the December 2018 presidential election. He took the bold step of declaring himself the election victor and the legitimate president. The court is packed with pro-Kabila judges.
January 18, 2019: In CAR a contingent of 140 Rwanda National Police (RNP) arrived to serve for one year with the UN peacekeepers.
January 16, 2019: The AU called on the Congo government to delay the release of final election results since there were so many doubts regarding the election’s validity. The alleged election runner-up, Martin Fayulu, has requested a manual vote recount. Fayulu also accuses the declared winner, Felix Tshisekedi, of making an illicit deal with outgoing president Joseph Kabila. Meanwhile, the Congolese independent election observer organization SYMOCEL accuse CENI of relying on results taken from voting machines using USB sticks instead of hand-counted tallies as required by law.
The UN reported that ethnic violence in December 2018 in the Yumbi area (Mai-Ndombe province) killed at least 890 people. The fighting occurred from December 16-18. The original death toll was estimated at 150 then raised to 400. But now grave sites are turning up. During the three days of carnage Banunu and Batende fighters battled in four villages in Yumbi. 470 buildings and homes were either burned or plundered, including two small schools and a health clinic. The fighting displaced 16,000 people. Many fled across the Congo River to the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).
January 15, 2019: Portuguese paratroopers in the CAR reported they were attacking UPC rebel positions in Bambari (400 kilometers from the capital, Bangui). They were also engaged in an operation against the UPC “major base” in Bokolobo.
January 14, 2019: European media are declaring Martin Fayulu “the clear winner” of Congo’s December 2018 presidential election. In a startling report that appeared in The Financial Times, “election data” that represented 86 percent of the votes cast indicated Fayulu received 59.4 percent of the vote. This is a major media outlet estimate, but it is a careful estimate and one in line with other estimates by monitoring groups, including one relying on data gathered by the Catholic Church. This certainly indicates mass election fraud has occurred. As a result, several EU nations and many of Congo’s neighbors are calling for recounts. The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a 12-member African inter-government body that includes Angola and Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), has called for a recount. The U.S. and Britain have also expressed “concern” that a contested election will lead to Congo-wide violence. Disgust with the Kabila government’s corruption could turn into disgust with Felix Tshisekedi if his legitimacy is questioned. (Austin Bay)
January 13, 2019: In Burundi, several foreign NGOs have shut their offices in the country and begun to curtail operations. Diplomats in Bujumbura estimate that at least 30 NGOs may cease operations entirely and leave Burundi. That will cost Burundi from $280 million to $300 million in aid. Some 130 NGOs operate in Burundi and the ones shutting down failed to comply with the new hiring laws the government imposed. December 31, 2018 was the deadline for meeting the requirements. The chief problem was a government requirement that when recruiting staff for their offices and operations the foreign NGOs had to meet the same strict ethnic hiring quotas Burundi government jobs require. Several NGOs that are curtailing activities told media and members of the diplomatic community that they had to hire personnel based on skills and experience. This is particularly important for small NGOs operating health-related, education, and medical rehabilitation services. The government began interpreting an article in Burundi’s constitution (Article 148) that states government jobs (public enterprises) must hire personnel based on this formula: 40 percent are ethnic Tutsi and 60 percent Hutu. The NGOs argue they are “civil society” operations, not public sector enterprises. But now the government contends all foreign NGOs must comply. Why? Many aid workers and activists note that NGOs frequently criticize the Burundian government’s lack of concern for human rights. Several have also criticized President Pierre Nkurunziza for his authoritarian behavior, such as using his party’s youth wing to physically intimidate political opponents and changing the constitution so he could secure a third term in office. (Austin Bay)
January 12, 2019: In western Congo (Kinshasa, the capital), Republican Guard (presidential guard) soldiers and national police officers loyal to the Kabila government surrounded the residence of opposition candidate and alleged presidential runner-up Martin Fayulu. Fayulu’s supporters were protesting what they argue was a rigged election. When the security forces appeared the supporters either fled into Fayulu’s residence or dispersed into the city. Meanwhile, the CENCO asked the UN Security Council for help in releasing election vote results so the results could be verified. CENCO is also concerned with reported parliamentary results that claim Kabila’s coalition won a majority of seats (at least 288 of the 500 seats). Many opposition leaders reject that tally.
January 11, 2019: The declared election victor, Felix Tshisekedi, said that current president Joseph Kabila would be an "important partner" as he becomes president and establishes his administration.
In Uganda, the finance minister announced that in his opinion Uganda's growing debt is sustainable. Another government official had warned that major loans by some foreign lenders could lead to the lenders acquiring “sovereign Ugandan assets.” That warning spoke to a fear shared by many in Uganda – that major lender China has forced the Ugandan government to use oil reserves as collateral for its large loans. There are also worries that if default occurred Beijing could gain control of power generation facilities and dams built with Chinese money.
January 10, 2019: In Congo CENI released provisional presidential election results. According to the report, Tshisekedi received 38.6 percent of the vote and Fayulu 34.8 percent. Kabila’s candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, got 23.8 percent. Independent observers believe Fayulu received well over 50 percent of the popular vote and Shadary got 15 percent (or less). Fayulu immediately dismissed the results as fraudulent. He accused CENI of conducting an “electoral coup” by denying him the office. (Austin Bay)
January 9, 2019: The CAR government said it does not oppose giving Russia a permanent military base within the country. The announcement was made while the CAR’s minister of defense spoke with Russian media. Russia already has a training facility in the CAR. Russian military advisers and military contractors train CAR security forces. The count is unofficial, but CAR government sources say around 175 Russian military and contract “instructors” are in the country. A few media reports speculate that some Russian security contractors also provide security for commercial operations within the country.