UN officials insist that the current force of 16,000 UN peacekeepers will withdraw from Congo "as quickly as possible", but responsibly in that the withdrawal must not create a security void. UN peacekeepers first arrived in Congo in the 1960s but left after about four years. UN peacekeepers returned in 1999 and are finally departing, at the request of Congo, sometime in 2024.
The peacekeepers will leave behind a lot of unresolved problems. For example, over 80,000 people have recently fled North Kivu province and are now seeking refuge in South Kivu province. The surge has created an emergency refugee crisis, one of several in Congo caused by several armed and angry rebel, Islamic terrorist or tribal groups.
Most of Congo is at peace and because of that the government has made progress in dealing with several lingering problems. For example, the government said it is about to settle a five-decade old oil rights dispute with Angola. The dispute involves an “offshore drilling block” in the Atlantic Ocean. Congo has a very small coastline at the mouth of the Congo River. Highly productive oil fields lie off Angola’s shore to the south and off Angola’s Cabinda exclave to the north. The government indicated Congo and Angola will each receive a 30 percent royalty from the disputed block. The oil company handling production gets the other 40 percent.
Other countries in the region are also seeking to settle old problems. For example, Malawi’s (a small landlocked nation in southeast Africa) government reported that neighboring Rwanda has asked for help in arresting 55 people wanted in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda believes the genocidaires are living in Malawi. On May 25 South African police arrested Fulgence Kayishema, an extremist Rwandan Hutu accused of massacring over 2,000 people. Rwanda and South Africa reported Kayishema used a fake Malawian passport with a pseudonym to travel between South Africa from Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). Kayishema was living in Eswatini. (Austin Bay)
In eastern Congo (North Kivu and Ituri provinces) the army soldiers claim to have killed over a thousand ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) Islamist rebels since May 2021 when President Tshisekedi declared a state of siege (martial law) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Tshisekedi argued the rampant, daily violence justified his decision. The army focused on its own actions but the Ugandan Army has participated in joint operations against the ADF in North Kivu. The army report said it used “body count” numbers and over 1,000 ADF rebels died in anti-ADF operations. Note the Congolese usually refer to ADF fighters as terrorists. The press statement also claimed FARDC had “arrested” (captured) 702 ADF rebels. Men identified as Jordanian, Pakistani, Kenyan and Afghan nationals were among the captured ADF fighters.
June 10, 2023: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) CODECO militiamen attacked an army unit guarding civilians. No soldiers were hurt, but CODECO killed seven civilians.
June 8, 2023: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF terrorists hacked twelve people to death in a remote village.
Angola announced that it has signed an agreement to share military intelligence information with Egypt.
June 7, 2023: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) ADF rebels attacked three towns, looted them and killed at least 18 people.
June 6, 2023: In Burundi, the CNL (National Council for Freedom), the main political opposition coalition, claimed Burundi’s Interior Ministry has forced it to suspend political activities. The CNL said the government has violated Burundi’s constitution.
June 5, 2023: In Angola, leaders from ICGLR (International Conference of Great Lakes Region) praised SADC’s decision to deploy peacekeeping troops in eastern Congo
June 3, 2023: Uganda confirmed that 54 Ugandan peacekeepers were killed in an attack by al Shabaab Islamic terrorists on an AU (African Union) peacekeeper base in Somalia. The base was 120 kilometers southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu. Ugandan forces counterattacked and retook the base. Al Shabaab used a car bomb and several suicide bombers to lead the surprise attack.
June 1, 2023: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) the M23 rebels withdrawals from some occupied areas has not convinced many refugees to return home. That are still about a quarter-million of these displaced people in refugee camps. Since October 2021 M23 militiamen have killed nearly three hundred people in eastern Congo.
At a meeting of East African Community (EAC) senior leaders Rwanda insisted representatives from the M23 rebel group participate in peace talks regarding eastern Congo. The meeting was held in Burundi.
In Congo the government confirmed that in late 2022 it granted a firm from the UAE (United Arab Emirates) an exclusive 25-year deal to export artisanal gold. The government said it hopes the deal will curb the smuggling of artisanal (informally mined) gold. An organization that monitors resource sales said the contract’s time span was too generous. The UAE firm also received tax advantages. The announcement comes as Congo continues to renegotiate the China Deal. This is what the media call the unfair minerals and resource-for-infrastructure agreement with China. The China Deal dates back to 2007-2008 and was negotiated by the thoroughly corrupt government of President Joseph Kabila. The deal definitely shortchanges Congo.
May 31, 2023: Congo’s Ministry of Mining issued a study of national mineral production and sales during 2022. Fifty percent of diamonds exported went to the United Arab Emirates while 46.3 percent went to Belgium. India purchased around 3.5 percent. The other 0.2 percent was divided among Israel, Canada and the U.S. These are legal diamond exports. Congo produced 2,516,000 tons of copper. It also produced 115, 371 tons of cobalt.
May 30, 2023: The CAR (Central African Republic) announced that CAR will hold a national referendum sometime in July. The referendum will address proposed changes to the constitution as well as an end of term limits. For the record, the CAR’s highest court ruled that these proposals are unconstitutional. If the CAR ends term limits the current president could run for a third term in 2025.
Burundi reaffirmed its "neutrality" in the Russo-Ukraine war. The Burundian government made the statement while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was visiting the country.
May 29, 2023: In Russia, the CAR ambassador said that CAR needs a Russian military base “with 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers.” The base would promote “military-technical cooperation.”
May 28, 2023: In southeastern Congo (Virunga National Park) poachers ambushed and killed two park rangers. Another six rangers and guards were wounded in the incident. A Congolese conservation organization blamed a Mai-Mai militia for the murders. The poachers were in the park hunting a hippopotamus.
May 27, 2023: Uganda reported its forces had suffered heavy casualties when Al Shabaab Islamist rebels in Somalia attacked a military base manned by Ugandan Army peacekeepers.
May 23, 2023: Congo formally requested the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate and prosecute M23 rebels and Rwanda Army (Rwanda Defense Forces) personnel who have engaged in “systematic pillaging of natural resources” in Congo. TO government asked the ICC to focus on 2022 and 2023. Congo accuses Rwanda of backing M23. Rwanda denies the allegation.
May 19, 2023: Russia announced that its foreign minister has signed a bilateral declaration with Uganda’s foreign minister that commits both countries to “refrain from initiating the deployment of weapons in outer space.” Uganda has a satellite program.
May 18, 2023: Mai-Mai militiamen ambushed a vehicle convoy in Virunga National Park and killed three rangers. Another individual in the convoy was also slain. Six people were wounded.
May 15, 2023: In southwestern Congo (Kwango province) there has been a n upsurge in tribal violence during the last week. The Yaka tribe Mobondo militia attacked several villages in Kwango province.. The army is trying to clear the militiamen from National Route 1, the main highway to the national capital Kinshasa. At least 11 civilians have been killed this time. In nearby Maï-Ndombe province (north of Kwango province) there has also been intermittent violence between the Yaka and Teke tribes for at least four years.
May 10, 2023: Congo and Uganda are discussing shipping Congolese oil through Uganda’s planned crude oil pipeline. The EACOP (East African Crude Oil Pipeline) will run from the Lake Albert oil fields to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean seaport of Tanga. That’s about 1,445 km (900 miles). Uganda estimates the pipeline will cost $3.5 billion. Uganda will start oil production and oil exporting in 2025.
May 9, 2023: In Botswana (north of South Africa) the government supported the possible deployment of Southern African forces to replace the EACRF. He said there are problems with the East African force. He said his government believes there is “a cohabitation” between some EACRF contingents and the M23 “terrorists.”
May 6, 2023: The East African Community praised its East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) peacekeeping contingent for forcing the M23 rebel group to withdraw from villages. The EAC is referring to the M23 rebels as “occupiers,” which implies the peacekeepers are liberators. Residents in these areas began returning to their homes around May 1. Despite the success, EAC leaders are not pleased with Congolese president Tshisekedi’s recent call for a regional force that will “target” armed rebel groups, especially M23 Tshisekedi seems to want the EAC to deploy a unit like MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB, or FBDE). The UN gave that unit a mandate to conduct offensive operations. Tshisekedi wants a force that can “impose peace” in the region. (Austin Bay)