Congo: Accounting For The Corruption

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June 22, 2022: First some good news. For many reasons Malawians are proud of the Malawi Battalion serving with the Force Intervention Brigade. This brigade was created in 2013 and is unique because it is the only UN peacekeeper brigade created to carry out offensive operations. The brigade usually has over 2,000 troops. There are two or three infantry battalions plus an artillery unit. Each battalion comes from a different country and only nations with troops of known competence and combat experience are assigned to the intervention brigade. The Malawi government is touting the success of its battalion’s deployment in Beni (Congo’s North Kivu province). For the past seven months the battalion has had several jobs, including protecting civilians in the area and supporting Congolese Army and National Police operations against the Islamist Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels. The Malawi battalion regularly conducted motorized and foot patrols in and around Beni. The battalion also had regular meetings with Congolese civilians to discuss the civilians’ defense concerns. The intervention brigade currently has infantry battalions from South Africa and Tanzania as well as Malawi.

Now the bad news. Malawi’s National Audit Office believes that between 2015 and 2020 over $100 million was stolen from the Malawi government. Auditors found that government ministries, departments and agencies failed to provide documentation for disbursement of the missing funds. Even the national police were involved as well as local governments. Government agencies were accused of deliberately destroying documents in order to hide the theft. The auditors are in the process of identifying “public officers” responsible for the theft. Bad news? This has a positive side. The country is trying to expose systemic government corruption, which is a major step towards ending it.

Congo applauded the Kenyan government’s proposed deployment of a regional military force to combat the M23 rebel group. However, the government said it will not allow Rwanda to participate in the regional force. Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting M23. Rwanda denies the allegation. A UN investigation concluded Rwanda and Uganda backed M23 in 2012 when the rebel outfit was very active, but in 2022 there are no clear connections. In 2012, M23 captured Goma, capital of North Kivu province. In 2013 Congolese and UN peacekeeping forces defeated M23.

M23 survivors retreated into Rwanda and Uganda where they supposedly demobilized. The UN’s Force Intervention Brigade played a prominent role in M23’s defeat. Despite this, M23 remained active and rebuilt. To deal with this the East African Community (EAC) has agreed to send a joint military force to eastern Congo (North Kivu province). The EAC consists of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The leaders of six of the seven member nations (including Congo and Rwanda) met in Kenya to discuss organizing the proposed regional force. The force would have a unified command (senior officers from all participating nations) and cooperate with UN peacekeeping forces in eastern Congo. Officially the force is being deployed to combat the surge in rebel and terrorist activity that began in late 2021. It may well do that, but it will also serve to keep Congo and Rwanda from going to war over the M23 militia’s new attacks. Congo claims Rwanda backs M23. Kenya is acting as the chief mediator between Congo and Rwanda with the goal of de-escalating tensions and avoiding a regional war. To be fair, Rwanda is concerned about radical Hutu organizations like FDLR and the RUD-Urunana faction. Both are associated with ethnic Hutu extremists involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. A counterattack by the Tutsi victims drove the genocidal Hutu factions into eastern Congo, where they have operated ever since, much to the discomfort of Congo and Rwanda and at great cost in lives to the people of eastern Congo. Rwanda believes both groups still have base camps in eastern Congo. Congo’s government approves of the EAC proposal as long as it doesn’t include Rwandan forces. (Austin Bay)

June 17, 2022: In Rwanda police shot and killed a Congolese soldier who crossed the Congo-Rwanda border. According to Rwanda, the Congolese soldier fired at Rwandan border security forces. Two Rwandan policemen were wounded in the incident. Rwanda later said the Congolese soldier was 25 meters over the border when he started shooting. The incident occurred about 50 kilometers away from the area where Congolese troops are fighting M23 rebels. In response to the death of the soldier, the Congolese government closed its border with Rwanda.

June 14, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) the provincial military governor accused Rwanda of invading Congo after ethnic Tutsi M23 rebels seized the town of Bunagana. Congolese authorities alleged that Rwanda military forces were involved in the attack. Rwanda did not immediately respond to the Congolese allegation. Bunagana, is only 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Goma, the provincial capital. Bunagana is a major border transit point between Rwanda and Congo.

Rwanda is preparing to accept its first group of migrants from Great Britain. Britain has denied the migrants asylum status—which means they are illegals. The EU has condemned the British plan to deport the migrants to Rwanda and the plan is on hold. Rwanda has an international center that accepts individuals deported from other countries.

Congo accused Rwanda of invading eastern Congo yesterday. The (M23) Hutu militia captured the eastern Congo town of Bunagana, which lies on the border with Rwanda. Congo accused Rwanda of being complicit in M23’s assault by deploying 500 soldiers in North Kivu province’s Tshanzu border area several days before the M23 attack. Rwanda denied it. M23 is a predominantly ethnic Tutsi rebel group drawing heavily on Congolese Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge Tutsis. Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, is a Rwandan Tutsi. Its leadership cadre are definitely Tutsis. Since June 14 the crisis has escalated. M23 sometimes refers to itself as the CRA (Congolese Revolutionary Army). (Austin Bay)

June 13, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) M23 rebels attacked and captured the border (with Uganda) town of Bunagana. The rebel group itself made the announcement. Congolese authorities confirmed the rebels occupied the town while 30,000 civilians fled the fighting, most of them taking refuge in nearby Uganda.

Uganda acknowledged its joint eastern Congo military operation with the Congolese troops is straining Uganda’s relations with Rwanda. Uganda and Congo claim this joint operation is a success. However, a recent independent civilian analysis pointed out the ADF has fragmented but has not been destroyed. The Ugandan military agrees that the ADF has not been eradicated but points out that western Uganda is being protected, including Uganda’s oil-producing Lake Albert area. Billions of dollars have been invested in the Lake Albert oil venture, to include building road infrastructure and a pipeline.

June 12, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) fighting between soldiers and M23 rebels broke out near the Rwanda border.

June 10, 2022: In southern Congo (Lualaba province) the China Molybdenum conglomerate denied reports that Congo’s state mining company has taken control of Tenke Fungurume Mining (the world's second-largest cobalt producer). This contradicts a statement made by the secretary-general of Gecamines, Congo's state mining company. China Molybdenum is the majority owner of Tenke Fungurume Mining. Congo has been prosecuting these Chinese mining operations for corruption and bribing senior government officials to get favorable (to China) contracts in Congo.

June 9, 2022: In southwest Congo (Kasai region) six amateur miners died when their improvised diamond mine caved in. According to the government, in 2021 amateur miners in Congo produced 9.2 million carats of diamonds. The heavy activity by amateur miners is a side-effect of the chaos created during the last decade by Kuba and Luba tribal militias feuding over farmland and farming rights. Several efforts to negotiate a long-term settlement have failed.

In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) the Hutu Mai Mai Nyatura militia attacked the Rujagati refugee camp, killing seven people.

June 8, 2022: In a visit to Congo Belgium's King Philippe said he regretted his country’s colonial exploitation of Congo, to include racism, “violent acts and humiliations.” Congolese media noted the king did not formally apologize for Belgium’s actions. These atrocities were carried out during the 19th century by the Belgium monarchy, which owned and ruled much of Congo. This was unique in African colonialism where other European colonies were run for the benefit of the nation that controlled them, In Congo all the profits went to the Belgium royal family.

June 5, 2022: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) ADF Islamic terrorists carried out attacks on towns that left at least 20 civilians dead and are suspected of responsibility for other attacks in the area that left sixteen dead. CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) rebels are the usual suspects for these attacks. CODECO is feuding with several other armed militias, including the ADF, over the rich mineral deposits in the area. CODECO rebels are primarily from the Lendu tribe, so it also targets the rival Hema tribe.

June 3, 2022: African and European diplomats warned that the revival of M23 has greatly increased the possibility of war between Congo and Rwanda. The diplomatic warnings follow Congo president Tshisekedi’s decision in late May to summon Rwanda's ambassador and accuse Rwanda of backing M23. Congo suspended air flights between the two countries and denied Rwanda’s government air carrier overflight rights.

June 2, 2022: Congo and Uganda formally extended their joint military operation in eastern Congo. Since December 2021 Uganda has had a contingent of at least 1,700 troops in Congo. At times the force has exceeded 2,000 soldiers.

May 31, 2022: Rwanda announced it will retaliate if it suffers further attacks from Congolese territory. Rwanda claims the Congolese Army fired artillery shells across the border in early May. The shells destroyed several houses. Rwanda also claimed that numerous former FDLR Hutu extremists are now serving in the Congolese army.

In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) claimed responsibility for an attack on a village where they claim to have killed nearly 20 Christians. Congolese authorities described it differently. The ADF launched the attack and killed at least 15 civilians. The terrorists also pillaged houses and burned six vehicles.

May 28, 2022: President Tshisekedi of Congo summoned Rwanda's ambassador to Congo and suspended RwandAir flights to Congo. He accused Rwanda of supporting M23’s offensive in eastern Congo. An M23 column reportedly advanced toward Goma and briefly took a Congolese army base. Congolese troops recaptured its base several days later.

In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF Islamic terrorists murdered at least 12 civilians in a remote village.

May 27, 2022: A Congo military court sentenced to death eight soldiers and three civilians for the crime of selling weapons to the CODECO rebels. Two other civilians received ten-year jail terms. The soldiers were also convicted of criminal association (with rebels), war crimes, and “participation in an insurrectional movement.” CODECO often uses terror tactics. Since 2017 CODECO has conducted a brutal rebellion in Ituri province. CODECO is a predominantly ethnic Lendu militia.

May 26, 2022: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) soldiers discovered 17 decapitated bodies near the Ituri River. Authorities believe the ADF was responsible.

Police in Uganda have arrested of a 26 people possibly involved in the murder of a senior army officer in a guest house near Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

May 25, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) soldiers fought M23 rebels in town the Rwandan border).

May 15, 2022: In Malawi (a small landlocked nation in southeast Africa) the UN conducted a joint investigation with the Malawian national police and uncovered widespread exploitation of men, women, and children at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp. The crimes include the selling of children, prostitution and forced labor. Forced labor can be a euphemism for selling people into slavery. One investigator discovered a market where children were bought and sold. Malawian police managed to rescue some of the victims. The Dzaleka camp is 40 kilometers from Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. It has been in operation since 1994 and currently houses 52,000 people from five different countries.

 

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