The language has changed from fear to measured worry. For the last three weeks, international and Congolese efforts to contain the Ebola virus epidemic have made progress. That said, the epidemic isn’t over. However, international and Congolese health workers have a new weapon in their arsenal. Two days ago 11,000 doses of the new American Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine arrived in North Kivu province. North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri are the three provinces in the epidemic’s epicenter. Another 39,000 doses will arrive shortly. As of October 20, there were 3,243 Ebola virus cases and 2,185 deaths in Congo. Uganda has had four confirmed cases and three deaths.
Sadly, in 2019 measles has killed more people in Congo than Ebola. So far over 4,100 Congolese have died this year from measles. Estimates are that Congo had over 200,000 total measles cases in 2019. Over 140,000 of those cases were children under the age of five years. (Austin Bay)
November 3, 2019: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province), gunmen murdered a radio announcer who had been active in the effort to contain the Ebola virus in eastern Congo. The killers stabbed to death Papy Mumbere Mahamba, wounded his wife and set fire to his home. The government and medical aid organizations are battling rumors that Ebola is a hoax. The radio announcer had urged his listeners to take the disease seriously. Many locals refuse to believe Ebola is what local and foreign doctors say it is. Traditional healers and the few Islamic terror groups in the area also oppose efforts to use modern medicine to treat Ebola. The traditional healers see it as a threat to their livelihoods while the Islamic terrorists believe Western medicine is really an infidel (non-Moslem) plot to poison Moslems or Africans in general. Opponents to Ebola treatment encourage violence against those providing this treatment and that has led to some deaths and a considerable amount of violence.
October 31, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), the army launched a “large scale” offensive against rebels in the Beni region. This area has suffered numerous attacks on Ebola virus treatment and inoculation clinics. The first offensive thrust was a ground attack near the city of Beni. The offensive began with an artillery bombardment of rebel positions. Some armored vehicles supported the attack. The army believes the ADF (Islamist Ugandan rebels) are responsible for many of the attacks. The government stressed that no foreign forces are involved in the offensive. Foreign in this case means no forces from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. UN peacekeepers are involved.
October 30, 2019: Facebook has removed several networks (accounts, pages and groups) tied to Russia that targeted Congo, Cameroon, Madagascar, the Central African Republic (CAR), Mozambique, and the Ivory Coast. Allegedly these accounts were engaged in information warfare operations (fake news).
October 29, 2019: Here’s an irony. Ugandans have started faking defection from rebel groups in order to obtain the monetary benefits and other perks the government promises rebel fighters. Government officials say poverty motivates the scammers. What are the benefits? A recent Lords Resistance Army defector, a real defector who was abducted by the LRA, received $73, three hoes, a blanket, a wash bucket, cups, cooking utensils and other household items to start off life. Some defectors also receive vocational training.
October 28, 2019: In northeastern Congo (South Kivu province), Babembe, Bafuliru, and Banyindu Mai Mai militia forces have been fighting with Banyamulenge Tutsi forces. To a degree its farmers versus herders. Babembe, Bafuliru, and Banyindu tend to be farmers. The Banyamulenge farm but also raise cattle. Much of the fighting has taken place in mountainous areas near Banyamulenge territory. Locals report that since May, the Mai Mai militias have attacked around 160 Banyamulenge villages and killed 200 people.
October 25, 2019: The UN said that it will not provide support to any of Congo’s neighbors who intervene in Congo with military forces. This came after Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania indicated they were willing to send forces into Congo to defeat rebel groups.
In Burundi, local and international efforts are being made to free four journalists arrested by security forces. The reporters were covering a battle between the army and Burundian RED-Tabara entering Burundi from eastern Congo, where the rebels maintain their bases.
Rwanda signed a nuclear energy production deal with Russian firm Rosatom. Uganda has agreed to a similar deal.
The CAR (Central African Republic) president confirmed that his nation is considering a Russian request that it host a Russian military base. The CAR leader also said the CAR is asking Russia to supply its military with new weapons.
October 23, 2019: Burundi claimed its military and police forces killed 14 armed infiltrators who were preparing to attack targets in Bubanza province (northwest Burundi). The rebels entered Burundi from Congo and were intercepted by soldiers.
October 18, 2019: Congo’s Ebola epidemic is still a public health emergency and will likely continue to be an emergency for at least three months. However, only 15 new cases were reported in the previous week. In mid-April, there were 130 new cases a week.
October 15, 2019: In central Congo (Sankuru province), rumors swirl about the recent (October 10) plane crash near the town of Kole which killed members of president Felix Tshisekedi’s staff. The plane took off from northeastern Congo (North Kivu province) and was heading to the national capital (Kinshasa). Investigators have found four unidentified bodies in the wreckage of the Russian An-72 transport aircraft. According to authorities, two of the dead Russians who were believed involved with weapons smuggling operations.
October 13, 2019: In south-central Congo (Lomami province), five local medical administrators have been charged with embezzling foreign aid funds they were responsible for.
October 10, 2019: An AN-72 cargo aircraft carrying four members of the presidential staff crashed while headed for the capital. All eight passengers and aircraft crew were killed. The government said that the staff members were the president’s driver and three bodyguards. Tshisekedi supporters immediately staged a demonstration in Kinshasa expressing their concern that the plane crash was tied to a coup attempt by supporters of former president Joseph Kabila.
October 9, 2019: In Congo leaders of the UN peacekeeper force point out that armed groups continue to threaten eastern Congo, particularly Ituri province. On October 8 a force of Mai Mai – Bafuliru militiamen attacked the Nyamulenge (Tutsi) ethnic community in Ituri province and killed at least 100 people.
October 7, 2019: According to the UN, 15.9 million Congolese are classified as “severely food insecure.” That makes Congo number two in that unfortunate category – behind Yemen.
October 6, 2019: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province), Mai Mai militiamen demanded health workers pay them money or they would attack an Ebola treatment center.
October 4, 2019: In Rwanda, rebels, likely members of the FDLR, launched an attack 80 kilometers northwest of the capital (Kigali). The rebel attack killed 14 people. National Police killed 19 attackers and captured five.
October 2, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), gunmen launched an attack on an Ebola treatment center. Municipal police officers stopped the attack.
Elsewhere in the northeast (Ituri province), 30 Mai Mai militiamen attacked a group of Ebola medical workers in late September. Local police intervened and drove off the attackers.
October 1, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), attackers armed with knives invaded the Ikala health clinic and burned medical equipment.
The U.S. announced that it is blocking the import of goods and material it believes were either made or extracted using forced labor. Congo is one of the five countries subject to the new restrictions. Because of that gold mined in Congo cannot be imported into the United States. The other proscribed products and countries: rubber gloves made in Malaysia; bone black from Brazil; and clothing from China.