Tag Archives: DR Congo

DR Congo – gunmen free hundreds of prisoners in North Kivu


(Reuters) – Heavily armed gunmen freed some 300 inmates from a prison in eastern Congo on Saturday, the provincial minister of justice said, amid fears over deteriorating security in the mineral-rich region.

Christophe Ndibeche said the attackers easily overpowered the security guards, freeing all the prisoners from the central prison of Butembo, a town in North Kivu province.

By Sunday evening, authorities had recaptured about 30 of the fugitives, he added.

“These are enemies of peace who committed this attack to liberate the bandits in the prison. We are going to do everything to find them,” Ndibeche said.

The assault comes at a time of growing alarm in North Kivu, a mineral-rich province bordering Rwanda and Uganda that has long been plagued by dozens of armed militias.

Last week, suspected rebels from the Ugandan ADF-NALU group carried out two overnight raids near the town of Beni, 50 km (30 miles) north of Butembo, killing more than 50 people.

Ndibeche said that highway bandits were the most likely culprits in the prison break given that group’s strong representation among the prison population.


Dr Congo – Kabila aiming for lifetime presidency

African Arguments

DRC: Kabila eyes lifetime presidency and must be given a way out – By Theophile Costeur


Current events in the elite politics of the DRC should be of great concern for those who follow developments in the country. Systematic efforts are being made by the Presidency and sections of the Presidential Majority to modify the 2006 constitution or, more likely, to have a new constitution passed by referendum. This would enable the incumbent President to abolish the current two-term limit to his presidential mandate. This new constitution would open the door for a lifetime presidency, leaving President Kabila in power until he dies or until he goes into exile. The extensive efforts made since 1998 to turn the bullet into the ballot risk being wasted. However, if concerted action is taken then the lifetime presidency can be prevented before it’s too late.

A first effort from the President to remain in power occurred during the 2013 National Dialogue which regrouped the major part of the political elite, majority and opposition.  President Kabila tried to turn the Dialogue into a forum on the modification of the constitution. This effort met with an almost total refusal from its participants and the final report included a statement of refusal to modify the constitution’s art. 220 (which limits the President’s mandate to two terms.) Unfortunately, this statement was eliminated from the list of one hundred priority recommendations drafted by the Dialogue’s follow up committee in December 2013.

Another scenario imagined by the Presidential Majority was the inclusion of the opposition in a government of national cohesion. As its members would very likely prefer to remain in power beyond the 2016 election deadline, this was a way to postpone the next elections and to buy time.  A variant of this idea was to put Senate President Kengo Wa Dondo in power as President of the Republic, to prepare for a return for Kabila after the completion of his term.

Until the end of June, it seemed likely that this would happen, until for reasons that remain unclear, Kabila put a halt to the idea and decided to force a solution. During the 30 June Independence Day parade, he displayed his Republican Guard in full force and sent a message that he remains in charge and controls important military means. During his speech he underlined that he would apply the recommendations from the National Dialogue, but without any haste…

From about mid-July however, the President’s PPRD party and some members of his Presidential Majority started a campaign in favour of the modification of the constitution. PPRD President Boshab and Presidential Advisor Kambila introduced the argument that the 2006 constitution was drafted by warring parties without any legitimacy, and that it was not adapted to the current situation which is oriented to the launching of the DRC as an ‘emergent’ country.

It is too easily forgotten that this same constitution was massively approved by referendum in December 2005 and that President Kabila himself, in his 18 February 2006 speech, declared that the vote was a victory for the Congolese people and not of one party over another; the constitution inaugurated a new era of institutional stability and a departure from the period of ‘transition’. Kabila explicitly referred to art. 220. Still, the head of the ‘Maison Civile’ of the President, Pastor Théodore Mugalu, called in an interview for a new constitution “that respects God” because the current constitution excludes God…

Indeed, why the sudden need to discard or modify the 2006 constitution? The more general argument against recurrent revisions is that institutions take time to take root, and that a constitutional modification with each new election (as happened in 2011 and is now scheduled for 2016) is not really conducive to constitutional stability. The current constitution was meant to inaugurate a new republic and to prevent a return to dictatorship. Does the country really need a new constitution adapted to the ‘new’ project of transforming the DRC into an ‘emergent’ country?

There is not a single element in the current constitution that would impede the DRC from taking this path, except of course if – and this is the real argument – one equates the person of Kabila with stability. But haven’t we heard this before under the Mobutu regime? A modification or the introduction of a new constitution very probably will lead exactly to the contrary: an economy to enrich the incumbents – who will no longer have to fear electoral sanction – and the likelihood sooner or later of a new rebellion or armed conflict. Monopolization of power in the DRC inevitably means that one needs military action to have access to power.

Obviously, nobody can object to a sovereign people voting in a new or modified constitution – provided this vote is transparent, free and fair. But it is hard to see how a constitutional referendum could be won by the incumbent President without the massive use of fraud: there seems to be a general rejection of Kabila’s rule all over the country. This is most explicit in his home province of Katanga – a result of his rule by and in favour of the private interests of the presidential family, with little concern for the population.

Another possibility would be the forced vote by the United Chambers of Parliament, as occurred in January 2011 – but this would give much less legitimacy to the operation than a (possibly rigged) referendum. The whole operation entails significant risks for the current regime. A key element in the setup is the ANR security service, which has been engaging in a campaign of intimidation of the opposition and the general population. This was shown by the arrest of the Secretary General of the UNC Party Jean Bertrand Ewanga and the previously unheard of short arrest of CENI President Malu Malu, respectively a Member of Parliament and an official with the rank of Minister!

If the entire project is implemented, and if it succeeds because of fear from the population or lack of an alternative, the consequences will be very serious. President Kabila will have eliminated all limits to the exercise of his power, and will remain until he dies or is forced into exile. His current rule in favour of his family will of course be intensified. The politics in favour of the enrichment of small elite will continue. Development will be limited to a series of symbolic and high prestige projects. A group of opportunistic and very mediocre managers will overtake all levels of power, in the image of the current ANR Director General. And most importantly: Official Lies will once again become the Official Truth, with all the devastating consequences this has on the country’s social fabric.

Where have we heard this before? Yes, under Mobutu, and previous Mobutu stalwarts such as Minister Kin Kiey Mulumba again occupy key positions.  A change of constitution will gradually imply a return to the point of departure in 1990: Mobutu.  Does this mean that fifteen years of endless suffering for the Congolese population will have been totally useless? Does this mean that twenty three years of struggle for a regime change will have been pointless? Does this mean that the international community since 1999 has wasted its time and money? This scenario should at all cost be avoided.

It is still possible to give President Kabila an honourable way out. He undeniably has his merits, most notably in putting an end to the 1998-2002 war, reuniting the country and in giving the country a new and forward looking constitution (yet to be fully implemented.) But all these positive points now risk being jeopardized, and the scenario set for a new war. What motivates Kabila is probably fear of what will happen if he steps down. It is possible (and crucial) to give him guarantees for his personal safety and the safety of his family.

But international pressure must also be discreetly stepped up and it must be made publicly clear that no international support exists for the return to a personal rule through the adoption of a new constitution. Pressure could potentially be exerted through selected neighbouring countries. It should also be made clear that the same rule of limits to presidential mandates will be applied to other African countries, such as Rwanda or Uganda.

Some say that it is ‘African’ to remain in power for a lifetime. It would be more correct to say that this era is gone and many African countries have witnessed a growing respect for the constitution, institutionalisation of a regime rather than a person and the end of personal rule.  Ultimately however, in the DRC, everything will depend on the emergence of a politically realistic and competent alternative to the current presidency. There are many, but they must have the courage to stand up.

Theophile Costeur, Brussels, 14 08 2014

SADC leaders urge mass movement of Rwandan Hutu rebels from eastern DR Congo


By Sebastian Mhofu

Victoria Falls — Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) want the United Nations to assist in removing members of a Rwandan rebel group from eastern Congo.

The 15-member bloc made the appeal at the end of a two-day summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The leaders of southern African countries also resolved to speed up the industrialization of their countries to fight poverty.

They said the region was “generally peaceful and stable,” but appealed to the United Nations to help address the situation in the Great Lakes region.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, a Southern African Development Community member, is hoping to rid its eastern provinces of rebel groups that have kept the region in the grips of chaos and violence for years.

“On the Democratic Republic of Congo, [the] summit also called upon the United Nations in co-operation with the African Union, to play its role in repatriating the FDLR elements that have voluntarily surrendered and disarmed or provide them with temporary resettlement in third countries outside the Great Lakes Region,” said Stergomena Lawrence-Tax, SADC executive secretary.

FDLR refers to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group, comprised in part of men who took part in Rwanda’s genocide in 1994.

The region’s leaders noted “humanitarian assistance and malnutrition still remain a challenge” and they endorsed a 10-year regional food and nutrition security strategy to improve food security.

The leaders were silent on issues of human rights abuses and poverty, which civic organizations had wanted them to address at the summit. allAfrica

Shooting across Rwanda-Dr Congo broder after seizure of soldier


(Reuters) – Heavy weapons fire broke out between Rwandan and Congolese troops near their border on Wednesday after the Congolese government said Rwandan forces crossed the frontier and seized a Congolese soldier.

Rwandan rebels have long skirmished with troops from Democratic Republic of Congo, but it is rare for soldiers from the two armies to clash directly outside of occasional accusations of shelling.

Rwanda officially withdrew troops from eastern Congo from a previous war a decade ago.

“Elements from the Rwandan army crossed the border not far from Kibumba around 3:30 a.m. and took a Congolese corporal, which provoked a reaction from our soldiers there who opened fire,” Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

The gunfire eased off after the exchanges in the early hours, but resumed again later in the day.

“The Rwandan army attacked our positions at the border with heavy artillery,” governor for the North Kivu province Julien Paluku told Reuters.

“They are advancing on our positions, naturally we have responded but we don’t want it to escalate into a conflict between the two countries,” he added.

It was not immediately clear whether Rwandan troops were on Congolese territory. Rwandan government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Renewed tensions between the two neighbours may undermine international efforts to bring stability to Congo’s mineral-rich, lawless east and the wider region after years of conflict.

The two countries have fought two wars in two decades in eastern Congo. Violence has often been prompted by Rwandan interventions in Congolese territory, which it says are required to hunt down Hutu militia that fled Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The eastern province of North Kivu is where Congo’s army, backed by U.N. peacekeepers, defeated the Tutsi-led M23 rebellion last year. Rwanda denied allegations by Congo and United Nations officials that it had backed the rebellion.

Numerous rebel groups still operate in the eastern provinces and the Congolese government has vowed to target them. General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, commander of U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, told a news conference on Wednesday fighting had taken place and said the United Nations would investigate the clash.

A Reuters reporter said that several Rwandan army helicopters were circling above the Kigali airport on Wednesday, although it was not clear if they were linked to the operation. Reuters


Rwanda and DR Congo ‘battle over kidnapped soldier’

Democratic Republic of Congo government soldiers in the east pictured in 2012 Friction in between DR Congo and its neighbour has led to decades of instability in the east

Rwandan forces and troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo are fighting each other on the border, the Congolese information minister says.

Lambert Mende told the BBC the battle began when a unit of Rwanda soldiers crossed over the border and attacked in early on Wednesday.

After fighting for nearly two hours, the Rwandans kidnapped an army corporal and went home, he said.

Clashes resumed when the Congolese learnt the officer had been killed.

The Rwandan authorities have yet to comment on the violence.

The neighbours have had a fractious relationship since the 1994 genocide when those accused of involvement in the killings of an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus set up a militia in eastern DR Congo.

People carrying their belongings flee fighting near Kibumba - 2008 Over the years residents near the border with Rwanda have often had to flee their homes because of conflict

Mr Mende said the fighting was in Buhumba in North Kivu province.

The Rwandan soldiers came over the border at about 04:30 local time (03:30 GMT), he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

He said the fighting broke out again in the afternoon when Congolese soldiers heard the news about their captured colleague.

“There is now fighting. There are also talks – we need really to know what is happening with them,” Mr Mende said.

Rwanda has been accused by the UN of playing a part in the unrest in DR Congo over the years, a charge it denies.

Most recently it was accused of backing a rebellion by the M23 – a mainly ethnic Tutsi movement, which was defeated by the Congolese military and a special UN brigade in November.


Troublesome neighbours

  • April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
  • June 1994: Paul Kagame’s Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutu fighters flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
  • Rwanda’s army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
  • 1997: Laurent Kabila’s AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa
  • 1998: Rwanda accuses Kabila of not acting against Hutu rebels and tries to topple him, sparking five years of conflict
  • 2003: War officially ends but Hutu and Tutsi militias continue to clash in eastern DR Congo
  • 2008: Tutsi-led CNDP rebels march on North Kivu capital, Goma – 250,000 people flee
  • 2009: Rwanda and DR Congo agree peace deal and CNDP integrated into Congolese army
  • 2012: M23 mutiny led by former CNDP leader Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda
  • 2013: M23, which Rwanda denies backing, is defeated
  • BBC


ICC ready to put DR Congo’s Ntaganda on trial


ICC ready to put Congolese warlord on trial


Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda appears at the International Criminal Court charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in a hearing in The Hague February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos/Pool

Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda appears at the International Criminal Court charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in a hearing in The Hague February 10, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos/Pool

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Prosecutors have presented enough evidence to justify putting on trial a Congolese militia leader accused of rape, murder and enlisting child soldiers, judges at the International Criminal Court said on Monday.

Bosco Ntaganda, widely known as “the Terminator”, surrendered to the U.S. embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali in March and was transferred to the ICC in The Hague.

Judges said in a statement there was sufficient evidence of his involvement to proceed to a trial. He will face 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in a surge of ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than a decade ago.

Prosecutors will now seek to prove the charges against Ntaganda, who commanded the United of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia, in a trial.

“There was a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population,” the judges said in a statement. The UPC militia targeted “civilians perceived to be non-Hema, such as those belonging to Lendu, Bira and Nande ethnic groups”.

The decision marked a rare success for prosecutors, who have struggled to build solid cases at the court, established more than a decade ago to prosecute individuals responsible for war crimes.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said Monday’s decision would open the way for broader justice in wartorn east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The ICC decision sending Ntaganda to trial opens the door to justice for victims of horrific crimes in Ituri,” said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“Ntaganda’s upcoming trial will send a powerful message to those responsible for grave crimes in Congo that justice will eventually catch up with them.”  Reuters


Many killed in eastern DR Congo fighting


At least 30 people have been killed in an inter-ethnic attack on a village in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, say local officials.

Witnesses say the dead included women and children, some killed inside a church where they had been sleeping.

All the victims were of the Bafuliru ethnic background.

It was not immediately clear who had carried out the attack, but the region has seen ongoing conflict between the Bafuliru and Barundi communities.

“It was about a dispute over cows,” South Kivu governor Marcellin Cishambo told Reuters news agency, putting the number killed at 27.

“The problem is that everyone in this area carries a weapon.”

One local councillor put the number of dead at 33, telling AFP they were “eight men, 14 women, 10 children and a soldier”, and that another 28 people were wounded.

A Reuters reporter said the victims had been shot, stabbed or burned in their homes, and that some of the women were pregnant.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Around a dozen armed groups still operate in the region, many taking advantage of the weak government to seize the control of the area’s rich natural resources. BBC

DR Congo says Rwanda protecting M23 rebels

Rwanda ‘protecting M23 DR Congo rebels’

The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused Rwanda of “protecting” M23 rebel leaders wanted for war crimes.

A government official told the BBC that seven months after the end of the rebellion, Rwanda was also delaying attempts to interview about 500 ex-fighters currently in a camp in Rwanda.

Some 800,000 people fled their homes in eastern DR Congo during the insurgency.

Rwanda has long denied that it supported the rebels and says it is co-operating with DR Congo’s requests.

The M23 took up arms in eastern DR Congo in April 2012, accusing the government of marginalising the ethnic Tutsi minority and failing to honour previous peace accords.

Following their defeat at the hands of the Congolese army and a UN brigade in November 2013, former fighters gathered in camps in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

At the scene: Maud Jullien, BBC Africa, Rwanda

It was surprisingly easy to find the camp in the town of Ngoma, in eastern Rwanda – far from the Congolese border.

When we arrived, dozens of young men were gripping onto the camp’s fence – peering outside onto the road.

After more than a year in the camp, most of them say they are fed up with the wait, and want asylum in Rwanda. Despite DR Congo’s offer of amnesty, they don’t feel it is safe to return.

Inside, the camp looked quite neat and peaceful. A garden, a few red buildings and a stretch of large white tents, where the former rebels sleep in groups of six.

They cook for themselves in an outdoor kitchen. They only leave the camp to go see a doctor, but they are allowed to keep their mobile phones.

On the whole, it seems like a comfortable camp – certainly not a prison. Officials tell me more than 100 of them have run away since they arrived 15 months ago.

The group’s former leader Jean Marie Runiga has no intention of leaving. Despite being accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in DR Congo, he is requesting asylum in Rwanda. He is hosted in a house outside the camp, which he told me was very comfortable.

The subsequent peace accord stipulated that former fighters would be granted an amnesty on their return to DR Congo – and leaders of the group should be returned to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But Francois Muamba, who works for DR Congo’s government to ensure regional peace and security, has accused Rwanda of dragging its feet over these promises, to contrast to Uganda.

He said Rwanda was “protecting” four wanted M23 leaders, but DR Congo did not want to press the issue as it was “not looking for war” with its neighbour.

All four are under UN sanctions.

Attempts by Congolese officials to interview former fighters about their return to DR Congo had not been authorised by the Rwandan authorities, he said.

“I am speculating that this is because we will discover that about 70% of former combatants are Rwandan, not Congolese,” Mr Muamba told the BBC.

“They could also be keeping these people as a means of pressure,” he said.

The M23 has been DR Congo’s most active group until it was defeated in November 2013
Made up mostly of ethnic Tutsis, like Rwanda’s leaders
US and other donors have cut aid to Rwanda, accusing it of backing the M23
Rwanda denies the charges
At least 10 other armed groups still operate in eastern DR Congo
They often make money by controlling the trade in the region’s minerals such as gold, tin and coltan, used in mobile phones

However, Rwanda’s Justice Minister Johnston Busingye told the BBC correct procedures had to be followed and that DR Congo had not yet provided the necessary documents for a transfer of the wanted M23 leaders, including the group’s political leader Jean Marie Runiga.

DR Congo initially made its transfer request in July 2013 – and has not yet replied to requests for further documents.

Mr Buingye said Rwanda had a duty of care to all the former rebels as human beings.

“Were we supposed to just throw them out on to the streets? We respect international humanitarian law.”

On a visit to a camp in Rwanda for former M23 rebels, the BBC’s Maud Jullien said many former fighters were applying for asylum in Rwanda and did not want to go back to DR Congo.

Many people in DR Congo feel strongly that the former rebel leaders should be brought justice, our reporter says.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Rwanda’s current government is mostly made up of ethnic Tutsis who fought against the Hutu genocidal government.

Laurent Nkunda, another Tutsi who led a rebel group in eastern DR Congo, remains in Rwanda five years after he fled there. He is officially under house arrest but there are no moves to prosecute him.