As 2019 closes the “realistically rigged” presidential election of December 2018 still seeds deep distrust in the Congo’s national government. Opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu continues to dispute CENI’s (Independent National Electoral Commission) decision to name Felix Tshisekedi the winner. Fayulu still calls the CENI decision an “electoral coup.” Independent election observer groups back Fayulu. Congo’s Catholic Church collected evidence that Fayulu won by a landslide with about 60 percent of the vote, another study put it at 59 percent. Nevertheless, on January 10 CENI claimed Tshisekedi won 38.6 percent of the vote and Fayulu 34.8. According to CENI, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, former president Joseph Kabila’s personally selected successor, took 23.8 percent, but Fayulu’s supporters say that’s a lie. Independent observers concluded Shadary got around 12 percent of the popular vote, 15 percent at most. On January 17 the African Union questioned the results. Tshisekedi was inaugurated on January 24 – a peaceful handover of power in Congo. Fayulu and his supporters predicted Kabila would manipulate Tshisekedi and maintain control of the security forces. Summer 2019 proved Fayulu’s predictions were correct. Kabila supporters were given the key mining and financial ministry portfolios and his supporters run the security forces. Kabila’s party controls the parliament and vote fraud occurred in the parliamentary elections. No wonder Congolese distrust the government. The distrust noted, at year-end, the Congolese people have grudgingly accepted Tshisekedi despite the rigged election. The general public acceptance was evident in late February. Why? Tshisekedi isn’t Kabila, that’s the primary reason. Here’s another: the Congolese people are tired of war. Despite Tshisekedi’s kowtowing to Kabila, the Congolese don’t want another civil war to erupt. The worrisome scenario: attempting to remove Tshisekedi might provoke pro-Kabila security forces to launch a coup that returned Kabila to power. (Austin Bay)
December 22, 2019: In northeastern Congo (South Kivu province), the army turned over 71 CNRD militiamen and 1,500 Hutu civilians to the Rwandan government. Most of the militiamen belong to the Rwandan CNRD, a breakaway faction of the radical Hutu FDLR. The army captured 1,951 CNRD fighters and their families in an extended operation in the Kalehe region. The CNRD is a splinter group of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the group primarily responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The CNRD is led by a former FDLR commander, Laurent Ndagijimana. The CNRD still has some base camps in Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
December 20, 2019: The Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo is now restricted to four health zones in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. During one week (December 9-15), 22 of the 24 confirmed new cases came from the Mabalako health zone. The Beni (Biena) and Mandima health zones had one each. Oicha is the other “hot” zone. At one time the virus was a virulent threat in 29 health zones in the three provinces. WHO is concerned about the virus spreading in rural areas which lack health clinics. UN health workers are now running a limited helicopter-delivered vaccination operation in an attempt to reach rural communities. As of December 18, there have been 3,351 total cases and 2,211 deaths. So far 1,089 people have either survived infection by the virus or are currently undergoing treatment. Of the 3,351 total cases, 3233 are confirmed and 118 probable.
December 19, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province) an uptick in violence that began in mid-November continues in and around the city of Beni. Local residents accuse the UN peacekeepers of failing to act to protect civilians and using excessive force against protestors. The demonstration occurred after the November 27 Ugandan (ADF) terrorist group killed 19 people in a village near the town of Oicha (30 kilometers from Beni). The ADF also murdered eight people in Beni on November 24. Another attack occurred on December 14. The local protests aren’t the only reason to question the peacekeepers' usefulness. These peacekeepers have been on the ground in Congo for 20 years. It is estimated there are still about a hundred armed groups operating in North and South Kivu provinces. Ituri province has a number of armed militias. All told, there are around 160 armed groups operating in eastern Congo. The peacekeepers are is in the process of reducing their strength. It still deploys around 17,000 peacekeepers and its annual budget is in excess of $1 billion. To be fair, the Kabila government, which was in power for 18 years, did almost everything it could do to thwart peacekeeper ant-corruption efforts. Kabila usually supported and often cooperated with peacekeeper military operations, but not always.
December 17, 2019: A foreign aid group is suing several big-name digital technology and manufacturing firms. The lawsuit represents 14 Congolese families and seeks damages for the deaths and injuries of children injured while mining for Congolese minerals used in manufacturing devices. Tesla, Google, Apple and Microsoft are some of the firms the lawsuit targets but there are others. Two mining companies are also named Glencore and Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt.
December 16, 2019: The Central African Republic’s (CAR), former president Francois Bozize has returned to the country from exile. The Seleka rebel coalition toppled his government in 2012.
December 14, 2019: ADF terrorists launched another attack in Beni and killed at least six people. The attack threatened Ebola virus vaccination teams operating in the city.
Ugandan and Rwandan negotiators once again failed to resolve their border control issues. The nations continue to accuse each other of “destabilizing actions” and failing to protect the rights of their respective nationals. Uganda accuses Rwanda of trying to infiltrate its intelligence and security agencies. Rwanda accuses Uganda of arbitrarily arresting Rwandan nationals who have legally entered Uganda.
December 13, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), a foreign aid group claimed that armed groups have murdered over 150 people in and around Beni since the end of October. Authorities reported that the ADF is committing the massacres in retaliation to attacks by the army.
In Burundi, foreign aid groups report that the government is once again using the Imbonerakure to physically intimidate and attack those opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza and his government. The Imbonerakure is the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s youth organization (sometimes called its youth wing). A recent report accused the Imbonerakure of extorting “contributions” from people to supposedly support the upcoming elections.
December 12, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), it is estimated that there are over 680,000 displaced people living in camps in the Masisi, Rutshuru and Walikale areas. The displaced are either in camps or are being given shelter by local residents.
There were 27 new cases of Ebola virus confirmed in eastern Congo since December 5. That is an uptick because the infection rate in November was about ten new cases a week. The new cases appear to be in rural areas.
December 10, 2019: In Angola, the Cabinda independence movement hasn’t totally disappeared. A foreign aid group accused the government of using excessive force to disperse a pro-independence political rally today in oil-rich Cabinda province. It was claimed that armed security forces attacked demonstrators with batons. Several dozen demonstrators were arrested. In 2006 the government and the FLEC, the major Cabinda separatist militia signed an agreement gave the Exclave of Cabinda a special status within Angola. It also called for the demobilization of rebel fighters. The agreement did not end the insurgency and Angola kept the province under military control. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) has continued to wage a very low-level rebellion. Cabinda was, in the 19th century, a separate Portuguese colony surrounded by the two Congos and a few kilometers north of the much larger Portuguese colony of Angola. Cabinda has most of Angola’s oil production, which would make Cabindans rich if they did not have to share it with the much larger Angola.
In Congo, the United States imposed individual sanctions on Musa Baluku, the senior commander of the Islamist ADF terror group. Five other ADF leaders were also sanctioned for various atrocities, including mass rape, murder and torture. The U.S. claimed that the ADF operates a financial network with global connections and engages in money laundering.
December 8, 2019: In northeastern Congo (Ituri Province), peacekeepers stopped an attack on a peacekeeper facility in the town of Biakato. Five to six gunmen tried to attack the facility and the attack was repulsed.
December 6, 2019: In northeastern Congo (South Kivu province), 306 members of the Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels surrendered to the army. The Congolese army has been attacking rebel camps in the area.
December 4, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), some medical relief organizations have had to relocate staff following attacks on two Ebola treatment centers. Two of the raids were blamed on a Mai-Mai militia. The Red Cross has halted its operations in the towns of Mangina, Beni and Butembo. The medical aid organizations fear the withdrawal of aid personnel could lead to a resurgence of the Ebola virus.
December 2, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), angry demonstrators in the city of Beni demanded the UN withdraw from the city. The demonstrators contend the UN has failed to protect civilians from rebel attacks. What forces would then protect the city? Good question.
December 1, 2019: In the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN reported that the February 2019 CAR peace agreement between the government and 14 armed groups gave the country hope. However, chaotic fighting continues throughout the country, much of the fighting spurred by local grievances. The government is too weak to provide security. The chaotic violence is why the UN renewed the mandate for the peacekeeping operation in CAR. The peacekeepers arrived in September 2014.
November 30, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), soldiers killed Mouhamed Mukubwa, one of the senior leaders of the ADF. He was killed in a firefight in the Mapobu forest after armed men (probably the ADF) killed 13 civilians in a nearby village.
November 28, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), a group of Mai-Mai militiamen attacked an Ebola treatment center in the town of Biakato. Three health workers and one resident of Biakato were murdered. Congolese forces killed an attacker and captured two others.
November 26, 2019: In northeastern Congo (North Kivu province), the threat of rebel attack on health facilities is extremely high. Ebola health workers have been moved to a protected UN base area in town. Some health workers may be withdrawn from the area. Fifty “non-critical” personnel working for the UN have already been evacuated to the city of Goma. On November 25 angry Beni residents stormed the UN headquarters after rebel gunmen killed eight people in an attack in the city.