Congo: Power Peacekeeping

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June 23, 2021: The Kenyan Army’s QRF (Quick Reaction Force) has been selected to join the UN’s elite Force Intervention Brigade (FIB, also IBDE) developed for use in the Congo peacekeeping force for offensive operations against particularly hostile militias and Islamic terrorists found in eastern Congo. The Kenyan contingent expects to be operating out of the Mavivi base in North Kivu province, near the eastern Congo city of Beni. Recently Kenya and Congo signed four “framework” cooperation agreements. The two countries agreed to cooperate on security and defense, on maritime transport and on several economic issues.

The FIB is currently manned by elite infantry contingents from South Africa, Tanzania and Nepal. South Africa provides an artillery battery and attack helicopters. The FIB was created and first used in mid-2013. It is a unique UN peacekeeper brigade of 3,000 soldiers, though only 2,000 were initially deployed; Tanzanian and South African infantry battalions plus an artillery unit.

FIB was authorized to conduct offensive operations. This is a rare exception to standard peacekeeper “defense only” tactics. The Congo peacekeeper force has 14,000 troops, 660 military observers, 591 police and 1,050 policemen in paramilitary police units. In January the UN extended the existence of the Congo peacekeeping force until the end of 2021. Up until then there had been serious consideration of reducing and withdrawing the large and expensive peacekeeping force from Congo. The one-year extension indicates the depth of international support for newly elected president Tshisekedi. In light of events during the month of February, the extension of the FIB becomes more important. Former President Kabila is widely believed to have loyal officers in Congo’s national police force. The elite Presidential Guard force is personally loyal to Kabila. Many feared the police and military would launch a coup against Tshisekedi if he took action against Kabila. Tshisekedi has taken action – and so far, not a peep from the security forces. The UN Congo peacekeeping force is by far the strongest military outfit in central Africa. The FIB is by far the deadliest combat unit in Congo. The UN peacekeepers have a mandate to protect legitimate authority in Congo. If the Presidential Guard launched a coup to restore Kabila would the FIB react? Kabila can’t be certain it wouldn’t. Yes, this is a real scenario and so far, Kabila has not risked a military solution to regaining his rapidly eroding power. (Austin Bay)

June 18, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) thousands of residents of the city of Goma have begun returning to their homes during the last ten days. People left their homes because of the Mount Nyiragongo volcanic eruptions. On May 27 the government, fearing another, more powerful eruption, ordered more to flee. The government now expects all residents to return by June 20. The eruption destroyed over 3,500 homes in the area.

June 17, 2021: Rwandan prosecutors asked a court to sentence Paul Rusesabagina to life in prison on charges of terrorism. At one time Rusesabagina was praised for saving the lives of several hundred ethnic Tutsi civilians during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. However, the Rwandan government now says that in 2018 and 2019 Rusesabagina organized violent attacks by an “irregular armed group” operating inside Rwanda. Rusesabagina is also accused of financing terrorist attacks. He and his family deny the charges. Rusesabagina’s 1994 story inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda."

The UN rebuked the Central African Republic’s (CAR) security forces and some of its militia allies. The UN claims CAR security units and their allies had committed atrocities and targeted UN peacekeepers with hostile threats and acts. Earlier this month the Security Council condemned atrocities by CAR forces and attacks on UN peacekeepers may be considered war crimes. Russia and Rwanda both have troops in the CAR. The U.S. recently claimed there is evidence Russian military advisers have led military operations that have “confronted” UN peacekeepers. Russia denies the allegations.

June 16, 2021: A UN report said that a group of investigators had not been able to find evidence that directly links ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) to the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) Islamist militia operating in eastern Congo.

In eastern Congo (Ituri province) soldiers fought with CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of the Congo) rebel militiamen in Djugu, eastern Congo). The army accused CODECO of attacking their position. The attack failed with 42 CODECO rebels and two soldiers killed. Four soldiers were wounded.

June 15, 2021: Congo’s Senate rejected a request by government prosecutors that former Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon lose his immunity status. The prosecutors believe Matata helped steal $200 million from a government agriculture project in the Bukanga Lonzo region. He was prime minister from 2012 to 2016, serving under former president Joseph Kabila.

June 12, 2021: With the East African Oil Pipeline project approved, Landlocked Uganda announced it expects to export its first oil sometime in 2025. An oil industry analytic service reported Uganda could produce 230,000 barrels a day by 2026. Uganda’s oil fields are near Lake Albert.

June 10, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) Virunga National Park Park rangers arrested militia commander Jackson Muhukambuto on charges of murdering 19 rangers. Muhukambuto is also accused of poaching and smuggling ivory. His militia is called the Mai-Mai Jackson MFP. The Park has a ranger force with an authorized strength of 689 rangers. Virunga was reopened in early 2019 after being closed since May 2018 because in response to the kidnapping of two tourists and their Congolese driver and the murder of a park ranger who tried to defend the three victims. Virunga is huge, covering over 7,800 square kilometers.

June 9, 2021: Italian prosecutors have begun investigating a UN World Food Program officer for possible involvement in the ambush murder of Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio, his driver, and an Italian soldier accompanying the ambassador. The attack took place in February near Virunga National Park. Authorities called the attack an attempted kidnapping. Virunga is a notorious hideout for all sorts of criminal groups.

June 8, 2021: France announced it is suspending all military operations with CAR (Central African Republic) forces as well as $12 million in financial support for CAR forces. France also accused the CAR of conducting an anti-French disinformation campaign. Approximately 160 French military personnel have been providing support and training for CAR security forces.

June 4, 2021: In Congo medical authorities believe Congo is confronting a “third wave” of covid19 cases. The new outbreak is centered in the capital, Kinshasa, where there is the greatest concentration of people flying in from all over the world.

June 3, 2021: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) an unidentified militia killed at least 11 artisanal gold miners in the Djugu area. One report indicated the miners had been executed. It is believed the militia is attempting to take control of the gold fields that are worked mainly by freelance, often amateur, gold miners..

June 2, 2021: The Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad have asked the UN and AU (African Union) to investigate a May 30 attack on a border crossing. Six Chadian soldiers and three Russian military advisers serving in the CAR were killed in the attack. A Russian news agency reported another three Russian soldiers were killed in the area when a land mine exploded.

May 31, 2021: Former Ugandan Army chief of staff Katumba Wamala survived an assassination attempt in Kampala. Four attackers on motorcycles wounded Wamala and killed his daughter and driver. Wamala is currently serving as Uganda’s minister of transportation.

 

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