Congo: No Place To Hide

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February 2, 2021: As 2021 begins, China remains very involved in Congo’s mineral extraction and mining-related operations. Chinese companies control an estimated 70 percent of Congo’s mineral deposits and mining industry. The Chinese state-owned CNMC (China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company Ltd.) owns huge cobalt and copper reserves in Congo. CNMC is actually a group, with four very large subsidiary corporations. The MMG (Mineral and Mining Group), another Chinese organization, has stakes in several Congolese mines. In Lualaba province there is CMOC (China Molybdenum Company) which recently acquired a 95 percent interest in Congo’s huge Kisanfu copper and cobalt deposits. CMOC bought the interest from an American company, Freeport-McMoran, and reportedly paid around $550 million. Since 2012 Chinese companies have invested over $10 billion in Congolese mineral assets. That’s the common open-source figure but some analysts contend the figure is somewhere over $12 billion. Given the high levels of corruption in Congo and the opacity of many Chinese business operations (corruption in China), the appropriate answer is “who knows, but it’s a lot.” Chinese production of electric vehicles is a major reason China invests in Congolese minerals. Congo is the world’s biggest cobalt producer, each year producing from 55 percent to 65 percent of the world’s total cobalt. Industry sources estimate Chinese companies control around 40 percent of Congo’s “cobalt mining capacity” – meaning deposits and means of extraction. Cobalt is critical in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – it is a stabilizer. It takes about 22 pounds (10 kilos) of cobalt to manufacture an electric car battery. Communist China is committed to producing electric vehicles (EVs) of all types. There is one type that has a particular political importance: the very small “city-town” mini-EVs that can go about 300 kilometers on one charge. The Chinese people want these, so the demand is huge. The deal the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) makes with the Chinese people is they can have goodies if they don’t challenge the CCP dictatorship. The mini-EVs are a pay-off. Hence, the Chinese government wants to assure uninterrupted access to cobalt and other minerals used in producing electric devices. Interestingly enough, since mid-December the price of cobalt has risen by 20 percent to about $35,600 a ton. (Austin Bay)

January 27, 2021: Central African countries have made some efforts in the last few years to deal with their massive internal corruption problems. Despite occasional positive government press releases, outside observers cannot see any real progress. In 2020 Congo ranked 165 out of 180 nations in a worldwide survey of corruption, largely unchanged since 2016. The smaller neighboring Congo (Brazzaville) has remained tied with Congo at 165th place in 2020 while Angola rose from the 165th place tie to 246th place in 2019 and 142nd in 2020. CAR (Central African Republic) rose from 149th in 2018 to 146th in 2020. Uganda fell from 137th in 2019 to 142nd in 202. Rwanda has fluctuated between 48 and 51 in the last few years while neighboring Burundi has remained part of the five-nation tie at 165th place. Tanzania has been improving, going from 99 in 2019 to 94th in 2020. Zambia fell from 105 to 117th place. 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 Yemen/15, Syria/14, South Sudan/12 and Somalia/12) have a rating of under 15 while of the least corrupt (Finland, New Zealand and Denmark) are over 84.

The current Congo score is 18, the same as 2019 and down from 21 in 2017 compared t0 19 (19 in 2019) for Congo (Brazzaville), 27 (26) for Angola, 26 (25) for CAR, 27 (28) for Uganda, 54 (53) for Rwanda, 19 (19) for Burundi, 38 (37) for Tanzania and 33 (34) for Zambia, 71 (71) for UAE, 61 (61) for Israel, 15 (15) for Yemen, 67 (69) for the United States, 33 (35) for Egypt, 25 (26) for Nigeria, 44 (44) for South Africa, 21 (20) for Iraq, 40 (39) for Turkey, 53 (53) for Saudi Arabia, 33 (30) for Ukraine, 47 (45) for Belarus, 56 (58) for Poland, 80 (80) Germany, 65 (65) for Taiwan, 40 (39) for Turkey, 40 (41) for India, 30 (28) for Russia, 61 (57) for South Korea, 42 (41) for China, 18 (14) for North Korea, 36 (37) for Vietnam, 85 (85) for Singapore, 74 (73) for Japan, 37 (40) for Indonesia, 38 (38) for Sri Lanka, 34 (34) for the Philippines, 31 (32) for Pakistan, 26 (26) for Bangladesh, 25 (26) for Iran, 19 (16) for Afghanistan, 28 (29) for Burma, and 25 (28) for Lebanon.

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 generally followed a similar pattern.

January 23, 2021: In Congo a majority in the National Assembly (lower house of parliament) approved filing a no confidence motion. That means Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, a supporter of former president Joseph Kabila, has two days to resign his office or face a no-confidence vote that would remove him. The fact that a majority of these legislators supported filing a “motion to remove” is another political victory for clean government. President Tshisekedi is slowly chipping away at the power structure Kabila left in place so he could maintain control while out of office. Tshisekedi’s new political coalition, called Sacred Union, does not officially hold a majority in the National Assembly. Removing Ilunga would allow Tshisekedi to remove Kabila supporters who still control several major government ministries. The president would then finally get to appoint his own ministers.

January 22, 2021; In northeastern Congo (Ituri province) 150 civilians have been killed and over a hundred wounded in the Beni area over the last seven weeks with. The violence forced almost 70,000 people to flee their homes. Two groups are believed to be responsible for the worst violence near Ituri: the predominantly ethnic Lendu Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) militia and the Ugandan ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) Islamist terror group. The ADF also operates in nearby North Kivu province.

In Uganda, opposition leader Bobi Wine accused president Yoweri Museveni of staging a “coup” by rigging the January 14 election. He urged Ugandans to conduct non-violent demonstrations to protest the election.

January 19, 2021: In northeastern Congo (Ituri province) there are demands for an investigation of the mass murder of 46 Twa tribe Pygmies. The massacre likely occurred on January 14. The government initially blamed the ADF but there is evidence tribes neighboring the Twa were involved in the slaughter. For thousands of years pygmies have been persecuted by the majority of Africans of normal height. As a result, pygmies sought to live reclusive lives, often deep in forests away from majority populations. As the population has grown from 46 million in 1500 to 93 million in 1900, 385 million in 1975 and 1.24 billion in 2020. For the pygmies there is no place left to hide.

January 18, 2021: In southeastern CAR (Central African Republic) CPC (Coalition of Patriots for Change) militias have taken positions outside the city of Bangassou and ambushed a peacekeeper patrol, killing two peacekeepers (one from Gabon and the other from Morocco) operating17 kilometers from the city. Rebels seized control of Bangassou in early December 020 but UN forces retook it.

January 16, 2021: In Uganda president Yoweri Museveni and his ruling NRM (National Resistance Movement) party are calling for unity after Musveni’s alleged victory in the January 14 vote. Museveni has been in power since 1986. Opposition candidate and pop star Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi) plans to contest the election results. According to official statistics, Museveni won 58.6 per cent of the vote and Wine received 35%. Wine’s NUP (National Unity Platform) party now has at least 56, and possibly 61 seats in the 500-seat parliament, which makes it Uganda’s largest opposition party. The election did demonstrate Wine’s appeal to Ugandans under the age of 40. The NRM won 310 seats. The Forum for Democratic Change, another opposition party, won 29 seats.

January 12, 2021: Ugandan opposition leaders are condemning security forces for their failure to stop election violence perpetrated by president Yoweri Musveni’s supporters. Opposition sources accused soldiers of raiding Bobi Wine’s home and arresting one of his bodyguards.

In the CAR fighting over the December elections has forced over 200,000 from their homes and about half sought refuge in Congo.

January 11, 2021: In Angola China has granted the country three years of debt payment relief. Angola is Africa’s second-largest oil exporter. Angola owes various Chinese organizations over $20 billion, with the China Development Bank holding about 70 percent of that debt. Angola is seeking more aid for the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile, the Angolan government continues its anti-corruption drive. Last year the government began moving assets seized from corrupt entities and politicians into Angola’s central bank.

January 10, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) Virunga National Park suffered more violence when six rangers were ambushed and murdered with another one wounded. A Mai-Mai militia was believed responsible because two Mai-Mai fighters were killed in the attack. The park has a ranger force with an authorized strength of 689 rangers. The park was reopened in early 2019 after being closed since May 2018 after the kidnapping of two tourists and their Congolese driver and the murder of a Congolese park ranger who tried to defend the tourists and driver. The park is huge, covering over 7,800 square kilometers.

January 9, 2021: In northeastern CAR rebels attacked Bouar and Grimari. Heavy fighting occurred near the peacekeeper outside the town of Bouar but that attack was repelled. Heavy fighting continued in and around Grimari. Peacekeepers still control both towns. Two French fighter-bomber aircraft supported the soldiers working with peacekeepers near Bouar. At Grimari the rebel assault concentrated on the Burundian Army detachment posted in the town.

January 8, 2021: In Congo president Felix Tshisekedi has asked leaders in parliament to help him expand his new Sacred Union political coalition. He wants them to encourage members of Joseph Kabila’s political party to join Sacred Union.

January 7, 2021: China has cancelled $30 million worth of Congo’s interest-free loans, specifically the loans that matured in 2020. Most of these loans were for infrastructure development related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

January 5, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) Ugandan ADF Islamic terrorists are blamed for an attack that left at least 22 Christian villagers dead. Peacekeepers recently warned that the ADF is making increasing use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in its attacks on civilians and the army. The ADF has been active in this part of Congo for a long time and often justifies its murders by claiming to be defending Islam from Christians. Over 90 percent of Congolese are Christian. ADF is a Ugandan rebel organization with strong connections to Moslem tribes in northern Uganda. In fact, since 2014 is has been regarded as an Islamist group. Peacekeepers launched several operations in 2014 against ADF bases in the Congo. The 2014 operations weakened the ADF did not eliminate it. After action analysis of 2014 anti-ADF operations indicated that the ADF had around 500 fighters in Congo. Its bases near the Ugandan border could have supported up to 2,000 fighters. Interrogators spokes with several captured ADF fighters who reported that the ADF had a very active recruitment network in east Africa. The ADF financed itself via smuggling, with smuggling timber (logs) a major source of income. The ADF also enforced his own interpretation of Islamic (sharia) law. ADF fighters could enslave local Congolese women and children. If someone was caught trying to escape from an ADF camp, they faced death by beheading or crucifixion. All this was similar to ISIL practices and that explains why ADF chose to affiliate itself with ISIL.

January 4, 2021: In CAR the December 27, 2020 election results were announced showing that incumbent president Faustin-Archange Touadera has been reelected with about 53 percent of the votes. The UN urged everyone in the CAR to peacefully accept the results of the election. The rebel CPC (Coalition of Patriots for Change), an umbrella organization of several armed groups, opposes Touadera.

January 3, 2021: In Congo the government is under increasing local and foreign pressure to thoroughly investigate the December 2018 Yumbi Massacre of ethnic Banunu and punish those responsible for committing the massacre. It is claimed that a heavily armed mob composed of “several hundred” ethnic Batende tribesmen attacked Yumbi village in western Congo (Mai-Nadombe province) on December 16, 2018 and killed at least 170 people. The next day the same group attacked the villages of Nkolo and Bongende. All told an estimated 535 people were murdered although some sources report over 800 were murdered.

January 1, 2021: In southeastern CAR unidentified attackers killed three peacekeepers. The attack occurred near Dekoa.

In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) fourteen ADF rebels and two soldiers were killed in a firefight. UN peacekeepers supported the Congolese Army in the clash.

December 31, 2020: Russian announced that it has deployed 300 military instructors in the CAR. The advisers will help train CAR security forces.

 

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