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StrategyPage.com: Congo: Bloody Borderlands

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Congo: Bloody Borderlands

January 23,  2018


January 22, 2018: Aid organizations estimate that 13 million people in Congo require some type of humanitarian assistance, primarily food and medical aid. A third of the 13 million are IDPs (internally displaced people), which indicates they need shelter as well as food and medicine. The war in the southwest (Kasai region) is a major factor in the increase in IDPs. Another factor is in the instability of the government and president Kabila attempting to operate as a dictator.

Meanwhile, in Angola, the new government's crackdown on corruption continues -- and at times it looks like an attack on the old regime. President Joao Lourenco has replaced Isabel Dos Santos as head of the national oil company, Sonangol. She is the daughter of former president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos. She is very rich with an estimated worth of $2.5 billion. Dos Santos was president of 38 years. Other Dos Santos appointees are also being fired, including those running other national mineral companies and the central bank. Lourenco has also promised to change the way public building projects are negotiated and managed. Is this an attack on corruption? It could be. Lourenco says corruption persists in Angola because of "impunity" -- the corrupt are politically connected and cannot be touched by the judicial system. But reform depends on whom Lourenco chooses as replacements. Lourenco's own background is in defense and he served as defense minister under Dos Santos. (Austin Bay)

January 21, 2018: In eastern Congo, where North Kivu and South Kivu provinces border Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, heavy fighting against Ugandan ADF rebels and various local militias continues. The ADF is an Islamic group that fled Uganda for the relative safety of North Kivu province. There the ADF joined local militias in exploiting illegal mining operations in the area. In the capital there were demonstrations against president Kabila, who has illegally remained in office since the end of 2016. Police killed five demonstrators and wounded over 30 during efforts to disperse the crowds. Police arrested over sixty people, most of them outside the capital where there were also anti-Kabila demonstrations.

January 20, 2018: In Congo the government ordered the Internet service haled in the capital while security forces erected checkpoints on all roads into the city in order to control anti-Kabila demonstrations set to take place on the 21st.

January 19, 2018: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) Ugandan Islamist ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) rebels ambushed and killed at least twelve soldiers. ADF rebels also attacked two army camps in North Kivu province. The army claimed at least four rebels were killed. Soldiers, with the assistance of UN peacekeepers, began another offensive against the ADF in January 13. Uganda and Congo launched similar operations on December 22.

In CAR (Central African Republic) the fighting escalated and has left over a hundred dead and more than 60,000 people fleeing since the violence began after New Year. The fighting between the MNLC (National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic) and RJ (Revolution and Justice) militias began in late December and UN peacekeepers have been unable to pacify and rampaging militias who are fighting each other over who will control the Chad border. The militias impose “taxes” on nomadic tribesmen who must move across the border regularly to find water and pasture for their animals. The fighting has disrupted the ability of foreign aid groups to bring in food and refugees in camps have had their rations cut in half.

January 18, 2018: The "hidden war" in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has seen a spike in violence. The two major indicators are more refugees and observers confirming the existence of military "free fire zones" between Brazzaville and the main seaport, Pointe-Noire. The hidden war began in March 2016 after Denis Sassou Nguesso was re-elected president in a disputed election. There were several clashes in and around Brazzaville, then fighting broke out in the Pool region (west of Brazzaville). The government claims the resistance in Pool is led by former Ninja rebels who fought against Sassou Nguesso-led regimes during the intermittent civil wars that began in the 1990s and continued for almost two decades. Ninja leader, Frederic Bintsamou (also known as Pastor Ntumi) says the Ninjas are not involved in the new rebellion.

January 17, 2018: In CAR (Central African Republic) UN peacekeepers have given two militias (RJ and MNLC) operating in northern CAR 48 hours to get out of the town of Paoua and move at least 50 kilometers away. Peacekeepers intend to clear a 50 kilometer perimeter around the town.

January 15, 2018: eastern Congo (South Kivu province) gunmen kidnapped two army intelligence officers although one managed to escape. Meanwhile, ADF rebels attacked a Congolese Army position near the town of Beni (North Kivu province) and killed three soldiers.

Volkswagen confirmed that in the second quarter of 2018 it will begin manufacturing cars in Rwanda. The first Rwanda-made vehicles may be available by late May. The manufacturing deal has been in the works since December 2016. According to senior management, Volkswagen chose Rwanda as a manufacturing site because the country has political stability, does not tolerate corruption, has a growth rate of almost seven percent a year and "a young and tech savvy population." Also this month, Rwanda and Tanzania announced an agreement to build a 407 kilometer-long standard-gauge railroad line between Kigali (Rwanda's capital) and the Tanzanian town of Isaka. At that point the new link will connect to existing rail lines running to the seaport of Dar es Salaam. A new line into Burundi will eventually connect to the Rwanda-Tanzania rail net.

January 14, 2018: A Congolese Army court has sentenced a rebel leader Guylain Mumbere Kitambala to death for illegal possession of weapons and other crimes. Kitambala lead a Mai-Mai militia in North Kivu province. The death penalty in Congo is rarely carried out.

January 13, 2018: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) the army and UN peacekeepers began an offensive against the Ugandan ADF. The offensive will target ADF rebels and their bases in the vicinity of Beni.

January 12, 2018: In Congo police used teargas to disperse a crowd of mourners who had attended a church service dedicated to the memory of seven people slain in anti-Kabila protests at the end of 2017 and the beginning of this year. Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was in the crowd.

January 10, 2018: In northern CAR (Central African Republic) violent clashes between militias have forced at least 30,000 people to flee the city of Paoua. Many of the refugees have fled to Chad. One of the militias attacked a local hospital and militiamen were seen plundering civilian homes.

January 7, 2018: Uganda announced that its military has increased its pace of operations against the ADF in eastern Congo. Presumably that means Ugandan forces are continuing to track and pursue ADF fighters that fled the joint Uganda-Congo operation that began December 22.

January 5, 2018: The AU (African Union) has asked all political parties and "stakeholders" in Congo to cooperate in order to hold national elections in December 2018 that would also select a new president. The AU statement also deplored the slaying of five demonstrators on December 31 by security forces in Kinshasa. The demonstrations were organized by political opposition parties and various Catholic Church groups. The opposition contends the police killed 12 people.

January 4, 2018: Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has signed a bill that deletes the presidential age limit from the constitution. Until today, the president could not run for office past the age of 75. Museveni is 73 and he says he will run for re-election in the 2021 election.

January 3, 2018: Leaders of Congo's Catholic Church accused the police in the capital (Kinshasa) of "barbarism" after security forces killed five demonstrators on December 31. Opposition groups report two more people have died in other incidents since the demonstrations.

January 1, 2018: In Congo another year has passed and Joseph Kabila has succeeded in illegally remaining president of Congo. Kabila triggered the current political crisis when he refused to leave office when his term expired in December 2016. Though the government ostensibly agreed to hold elections in 2017 but the government continually found reasons to delay elections. Militia violence was one reason. The government also claimed the national election commission could not update the voter rolls. Kabila has been head of the government since 2001 when his father was assassinated. Donor nations have turned on the Kabila regime and begun imposing selective sanctions. For example, on December 21, 2017 the U.S. sanctioned Kabila associate Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire who has petroleum and mining interests in Congo. Allegedly Gertler helps broker illicit oil and mineral for Kabila and his supporters. (Austin Bay)

December 31, 2017: In Congo a demonstration in the capital against the Kabila government's failure to cede power turned bloody when police fired on demonstrators outside a Catholic Church and five were killed.

December 29, 2017: In Congo police arrested Constantin Tshidime Bulabula, the man suspected of murdering UN investigators Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan in March 2016. The two victims were investigating reports of massacres in the Kasai region.

December 28, 2017: Congolese authorities and security personnel are in the process of detaining South Sudanese refugees that South Sudan suspects are rebel fighters. So far at least 12 men have been detained. The government said that the detainees will probably be extradited to South Sudan.

December 27, 2017: Uganda reported that a joint operation with the Congolese army had killed over 100 members of the ADF in eastern Congo (North Kivu province). The joint operation began on December 22 with a Ugandan air and artillery attack on eight ADF base camps in eastern Congo. The Ugandan military said that Ugandan and Congolese ground forces then began pursuing ADF "survivors" in Congolese territory. Five days later the pursuit continues. The latest Ugandan statement implied that Uganda had prepared blocking positions along the border to prevent ADF fighters from fleeing to Uganda. The joint operation was a reprisal for the December 7 ADF attacks on UN peacekeepers that killed 15 Tanzanian soldiers and injured 53 others. Meanwhile the U.S. condemned the ADF for "targeting children" and committing war crimes, to include rape and abduction.

December 25, 2017: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) a country house (on a farm near the village of Musienene) belonging to president Kabila was attacked and burned. Some reports describe it as a country home. The Kabila family owns property throughout Congo. It was not clear who launched the attack although a local a Mai-Mai militia was suspected. At least two Mai-Mai militias operate in the area. The ADF operates in the area as well. The question is relevant since it may well have been an act of banditry instead of political violence.

December 22, 2017: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) a rebel Mai-Mai militia launched two ambushes against soldiers in the Baraka area, leaving nine soldiers dead.

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