Congo: Entering 2024 With the Same Problems

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February 4, 2024: Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi recently won reelection for a second term. Tshisekedi had to overcome opposition from his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who resisted being replaced. Diplomatic and local opposition eventually persuaded the incumbent, since 2001, President Joseph Kabila to stop trying to become a president-for-life. Kabila tried to revive the one-party dictatorship based on corruption and exploiting ethnic divisions. Since 2001, President Joseph Kabila and his father Laurent Kabila, who was president from 1997 until his assassination in 2001, had grown up opposing that sort of thing but there it was again. Laurent Kabila was supposed to leave office after the 2016 elections selected a new president. He could not run again and was unable to get the constitution changed. He was forced to allow elections at the end of 2018 but was able to rig the vote to get someone willing to cooperate with the corrupt system Kabila wanted to keep going. Félix Tshisekedi, the new president, would presumably benefit if he went along. Tshisekedi took on Kabila and his powerful parliamentary coalition. Tshisekedi found allies in the UN and among donor countries and blocked Kabila’s efforts to hide his corrupt activities while president. By 2021 the mining contracts Kabila agreed to with China were being audited and evidence of extensive wrongdoing by Kabila and China were documented. China is losing those contracts, so Kabila is very much on the defensive, as are his cronies in parliament and the courts.

Kabila’s misdeeds were the reason Congo was facing widespread chaos and civil war that is made worse by the ongoing ethnic divisions. Solutions have been sought since the 1960s and in 2013 the UN tried something novel, a special combat brigade of peacemakers. This brigade was given a license to kill, and kill as often as needed, to eliminate the last few rogue militias operating in the east. This solved many of the peacekeeping problems there, at least temporarily. Despite that, multiple tribal and political militias, plus an increasing number of bandits, continue to roam the eastern border area, perpetuating the bloodiest and least reported war of the 21st century with over six million dead. There is similar but less intense unrest in other parts of the country, especially the separatist minded southwest. The Congolese government discovered that it had to cope with the continuing corruption and lack of order in the east and southwest. The reason was always money, the millions of dollars available each year to whoever has gunmen controlling the mines that extract valuable ores and allow the stuff out of the country. Congo is finally emerging from this deadly chaos. Elsewhere in Central Africa, Burundi General Évariste Ndayishimiye has been President of Burundi since 2020 and blames neighbor Rwanda for the continued violence in the region. Rwanda makes similar accusations against Burundi. This hate/hate relationship has been the norm for years and efforts to end the tense relationship have so far failed.

Another neighbor of Congo is the Central African Republic/CAR which remains mired in a civil war that began in 2012 and resists all efforts to stop the fighting. The war began after the overthrow of a corrupt and incompetent dictator and then evolved into another Moslem versus Christian and other non-Moslems conflict. CAR is very poor and has a population of nearly six million people.

 

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