Congo: Disputed Elections Abound

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December 28, 2020: The UN is still uncertain when the peacekeeping force will be withdrawn from Congo. The current plan is to withdraw by province. Currently peacekeepers are present in six provinces plus the capital Kinshasa. Three provinces receive most of the peacekeepers’ attention because they are the most violent: North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, all located in eastern Congo. This month, before the December 6 announcement that Congo’s governing coalition had collapsed, MONUSCO confirmed that it plans to withdraw all peacekeepers and police from two provinces in the Kasai region by June 2021 and from Tanganyika province in June 2022. UN analysts anticipate trouble in the Kivus and Ituri well beyond December 2022. Some advisers and support staff would remain to work with the national police. As December ends, it is reasonable to question the decision to withdraw any UN peacekeepers until the Congo government’s political situation clarifies. Though Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi appears to be gaining political support in his struggle with former President (dictator) Joseph Kabila, Kabila supporters still control Congo’s most powerful internal security forces. In developing the withdrawal schedule, the UN cited the “peaceful” power transition in 2018, when Tshisekedi replaced Kabila as president. However, we now have evidence the power transition is not complete. (Austin Bay)

December 27, 2020: In the Central African Republic (CAR) the national elections for president and parliament went ahead despite efforts by former CAR dictator Francois Bozize and his followers to disrupt and discredit the process. Violence in the CAR has increased dramatically this month and began after December 3 when the Constitutional Court ruled that former president Bozize could not run in this month’s election. The court had good reasons. In 2003 Bozize seized power by coup d’etat. He currently faces allegations of ordering murder, kidnapping and torture when he held power. He also faces UN sanctions. Witnesses report that after the court ruling Bozize met with the leaders of several local armed factions. On December 15, six armed factions met in the town of Komba Kota and issued a coalition declaration that condemned the December 27 as being “ill prepared.” This coalition included a former Seleka Muslim rebel faction and two anti-balaka (predominantly Christian) armed groups. Two days later several armed groups, presumably from the coalition of six, occupied and blocked supply routes to the capital, Bangui. At least three of the armed groups involved in these actions had signed the February 2019 peace agreement. On December 19 one faction leader called for “popular insurrection” in the country. For good reason, the CAR government is accusing Bozize of trying to destabilize the country. Despite those efforts there was an unprecedented turnout for the election of a new president and 140 members of national assembly. There are about 1,500 candidates for the 140 national assembly seats. For any candidate that does not get a majority of the votes there will be a runoff election in February. Preliminary results of today’s vote will be available January 4th and final results on the 19th.

In Congo president Felix Tshisekedi has been discussing coalition government possibilities with Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi. The first talks were held in late November, before Tshisekedi’s December 6 announcement that his coalition with Kabila had ended. Bemba has previously served as a Congo vice-president. Katumbi is a very popular Congolese leader and is from Katanga, Congo’s wealthiest and most powerful province. In 2018 Kabila prevented both Bemba and Katumbi from running for the presidency. Kabila falsely accused Katumbi of treason and succeeded in getting a compliant court to press the charges. Kabila disqualified Bemba on shady legal grounds, even after Bemba was acquitted of war crimes charges in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In central Uganda a bodyguard protecting Ugandan opposition leader and presidential candidate Bobi Wine was killed and two journalists injured when a military police vehicle struck and killed his bodyguard. The election is January 14. Wine accuse Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni of conducting a campaign of repression and violence against his political opponents. Museveni has been in power since 1986.

December 26, 2020: In the Central African Republic (CAR) three Burundian peacekeepers were killed and two wounded when attacked by militia loyal to former president Francois Bozize. In 2019 Bozize returned from exile. He is prohibited from running in the December 27 presidential election. Some rebels loyal to Bozize claim they are advancing to the capital, Bangui. A rebel force seized the town of Bambari on December 22 but the town was quickly liberated by peacekeepers. Several hundred Rwandan peacekeepers were positioned to block further rebel advances. A contingent of Russian forces was also made available.

December 24, 2020: In Congo president Tshisekedi scored another victory over former president Kabila when the board of the Congolese Business Federation (FEC) voted to elect Dieudonne Kasembo as its chairman. Albert Yuma, a Kabila supporter, had been chairman for 15 years. The vote signals that Congo’s most powerful business executives oppose Kabila.

December 23, 2020: In the CAR the UN calling for mediation and a ceasefire so the December 27 election can be held.

December 22, 2020: In Congo there appear to be dissident factions developing in former president Kabila’s FCC party. There appear to be four main factions that have come to be nicknamed FCC-Renovator, FCC-Progressive, FCC-Republican and FCC-Renaissance. The factions are not specifically anti-Kabila, but this is another indicator that president Tshisekedi is winning the political power struggle in the capital Kinshasa. Discontent in the FCC may be one reason Kabila hasn’t turned Kinshasa into a war zone, another is the presence of peacekeepers and a lot of UN officials.

In Zambia gunfire killed three demonstrators outside a police headquarters in the capital, Lusaka. Several hundred demonstrators had gathered to support Hakainde Hichilema, President Edgar Lundu’s most powerful political opponent. Police claimed they ordered the crowd to disperse before the shots were fired.

In central CAR rebels attacked the town of Bambari (370 kilometers northwest of the capital Bangui). Peacekeepers immediately responded.

December 19, 2020: On December 3 Southern African Development Community (SADC) announced that the Malawi Defense Forces (MDF, Malawi’s army) would be deployed to Mozambique to help confront a group of Islamic State terrorists allegedly allied with the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP). The group claims to operate in Congo. However, on December 7 Malawi said that announcement was false. Since that denial sources in Malawi have acknowledged that the Malawi government is very concerned about Islamist fighters in Mozambique. (Malawi is wedged among Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.) Islamist attacks in Mozambique began in October 2017. On April 7, 2020 ISCAP terrorists murdered 50 civilians in the town of Xitaxi (near the Tanzania-Mozambique border). Malawi has a small but professional army. A Malawian battalion serves with MONUSCO’s elite Force Intervention Brigade (IBDE).

December 15, 2020: At the end of October 2020, 934,000 Congolese citizens were refugees in other countries. However, the Congo was also a refuge for 526,000 refugees from other nations.

December 12, 2020: In Congo the capital (Kinshasa) remains tense as supporters of president Tshisekedi and predecessor Joseph Kabila continue to confront one another, in the streets, in media and in heated discussions. On December 6 Tshisekedi ended his political coalition with Kabila. Congolese media and international observers point out that Kabila is widely despised and Tshisekedi is popular. However, Tshisekedi did not really win the presidential vote held in late 2017. He cut a deal with Kabila, who had rigged the election in favor of his personally selected successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. But Shadary got very few votes and Kabila couldn’t fake enough votes to elect him. According to witnesses, Martin Fayulu very likely won 60 percent of the vote but Kabila got Congo’s CENI’s (Independent National Electoral Commission) to name Tshisekedi as the winner. Congo’s Catholic Church claims to have evidence Fayulu was the landslide winner with about 60 percent of the vote.

December 10, 2020: In Congo pro-Kabila parliamentarians belonging to Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) party are accusing Kabila’s successor as president Felix Tshisekedi of "a flagrant and intentional breach of the constitution.” That’s rich. In 2016 Kabila completely ignored the constitution and remained in power another two years. FCC parliamentarians are also claiming Tshisekedi’s supporters are trying to bribe them. Kabila and his henchmen control most of the country’s wealth and its best security forces. In Congo Kabila has been the king of bribery. False flag?

December 8, 2020: Congolese continue to react to the December 6 collapse of the Tshisekedi-Kabila “co-habitation” government. The situation, at least in Kinshasa, is described as a major political crisis. Media reported that on December 7 Kabila supporters in Parliament destroyed desks and threw chairs in the parliamentary chamber. Some of the rampage was recorded on cell phone cameras and ended up on the Internet. Tshisekedi has had emergency talks with prime minister Sylvestre Ilunga, who is a Kabila supporter. Today he threatened to dissolve the entire government unless he can form a new coalition. Dissolution would mean new elections must be held.

December 6, 2020: In Congo president Tshisekedi announced he was ending his political coalition (co-habitation) with his predecessor Kabila. Rumors of a coalition collapse began six months ago. Since Kabila’s FCC controls over 300 seats in Congo’s parliament, Tshisekedi and his Heading For Change (CACH) political coalition have been prevented from reforming Congo’s government and addressing atrocities and dirty politics tolerated and practiced by Kabila. Tshisekedi vowed to stop all that. This is a radical move on Tshisekedi’s part, but Kabila has essentially been running Congo from behind the scenes. Tshisekedi really wants new elections in which the CACH gains control of parliament.

December 4, 2020: Uganda has approved the engineering and environmental plans for a $3.5 billion pipeline that will connect Uganda’s Albertine Rift oilfields with the Tanzanian port of Tanga on the Indian Ocean. Environmental groups oppose the pipeline.

December 3, 2020: The SADC (Southern African Development Community) announced that the Malawi Defense Forces (MDF, Malawi’s army) would be deployed to Mozambique to help confront a group of Islamic State terrorists allegedly allied with the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP), which claims to operate in Congo. Four days later Malawi said that announcement was false. Since that denial sources in Malawi have acknowledged that the Malawi government is very concerned about Islamist fighters in Mozambique. Malawi is wedged among Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. Islamist attacks in Mozambique began in October 2017. On April 7, 2020 ISCAP terrorists murdered 50 civilians in the town of Xitaxi near the Tanzania-Mozambique border. Malawi has a small but professional army. A Malawian battalion serves with the UN’s elite Force Intervention Brigade (IBDE) in Congo.

 

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