Tag Archives: DR Congo

Dr Congo – Senate drops election law proposals after popular protests

Reuters

Congo Senate bows to protests, drops reforms seen delaying vote

Photo
4:47pm GMT

By Aaron Ross

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s Senate on Friday scrapped a proposed change to the election law after four days of deadly protests against the proposal that the opposition said was aimed at keeping President Joseph Kabila in power.

Opposition supporters shouted “Victory! Victory!” on the streets of the capital Kinshasa after the decision was broadcast — but some of their leaders said they were ready to keep up the political pressure with more rallies.

Western powers this week urged the Senate to drop part of a draft election law that would have required a census to be completed before presidential elections, expected in 2016.

Activists argued that the census would have taken years to organise in an impoverished country the size of Western Europe, allowing Kabila to stay in office.

Kabila, who won a second five-year mandate in disputed elections in 2011, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. With several long-standing African leaders facing looming term limits, the process is being closely watched across the continent.

Congo’s powerful Catholic Church kept up the pressure on the government by condemning a crackdown on the protests which rights groups said killed more than 40 people.

The Senate agreed to modify the proposed law, which had already been passed by the lower house in its original form, to say that any revision of the electoral list must respect the constitutional deadline for elections.

“We have listened to the street. That is why the vote today is a historic vote,” Senate President Leon Kengo Wa Dondo said after the altered election bill was passed unanimously.

A parliamentary committee will now seek to reconcile the two chambers’ bills before a possible final vote in the lower house – the National Assembly – expected before the close of the current parliamentary session on Monday.

Some in the opposition said they were wary of declaring victory before the final version of the bill was drafted.

“Kengo just used a political calculus to calm down the situation,” said a youth protest leader, who asked not be named, calling the Senate vote a “trap”.

He added that students, who have played a leading role in the week’s protests, would meet later on Friday to decide what to do next.

Pascal Kambale, former Congo country director for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, said the Senate vote represented a major defeat for Kabila and predicted that the lower house would now accept the core of the Senate bill.

But Aubin Minaku — president of the National Assembly and a close political ally of Kabila — remained defiant.

“There will be no Burkina Faso in Kinshasa. Stop dreaming,” he wrote on Twitter in reference to a popular uprising that ousted Burkina’s President Blaise Compaore in October after he attempted to override term limits to seek another term.

Dr Congo – Catholic Church backs anti-Kabila protests

BBC

The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has thrown its weight behind protests against President Joseph Kabila extending his rule.

It called on people to peacefully oppose his move to delay presidential elections until a census is held.

At least 11 people have so far been been killed in the protests.

It is the worst unrest in the capital, Kinshasa, since the riots which broke out after Mr Kabila won a second term in disputed elections in 2011.

Mr Kabila, who first took power in 2001 following the assassination of his father Laurent, is constitutionally barred from running for another term in elections due next year.

Burnt car in Kinshasa (21 January 2015)The opposition accuses the government of trying to stage a “constitutional coup”

‘Dormitories ablaze’

The opposition says government plans for a census are a ploy to delay the poll so that he can hang on to power.

The government admits the election could be delayed, but says the census is vital to ensure polls are free and fair.

Protester in Kinshasa on 21 January 2015Protesters are adamant that the elections should be held next year

The Catholic Church, the largest in DR Congo, has shut its schools as violent protests continued in Kinshasa for a third day.

The BBC’s Maud Julien reports from the city that security forces and protesters clashed again at the government-run University of Kinshasa, the focal point of protests.

Demonstrators told her that security forces fired live ammunition, killing four of them. There is no independent confirmation of this.

During a visit to the campus, she saw many buildings gutted by fire, including dormitories for female students.

Windows had been shattered, and the impact of bullets was clearly visible.

Radio France International, the main foreign broadcaster in DR Congo, has been pulled off air, our reporter says.

Looting

On Tuesday, internet connections and text messaging services were blocked, apparently on the orders of the government.

Many shops had been looted and set ablaze as the protests turned violent, our correspondent says.

Catholic Church head Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya said “certain political men, with the security forces” were in “desolation” and causing insecurity in DR Congo.

“Stop killing your people,” he said in a statement.

Demonstrators burn tyres to set up barricades during a protest in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on 20 January 2015The government says it will not tolerate violence
Burnt vehicle in Kinshasa (21 January 2015) The unrest has caused extensive damage
Police detain a protester in Goma, DR Congo, on 19 January 2015The clashes are the some of the worst seen in Kinshasa since Mr Kabila was re-elected in 2011

The cardinal called on the public to challenge by all “legal and peaceful means any attempt to change laws that are essential to the electoral process”.

‘Constitutional coup’

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the 11 who died in Monday’s and Tuesday’s clashes included a policeman shot by a sniper and 10 civilians killed by security guards while attempting to loot private properties.

He said 22 people had been wounded, most of them policemen.

Opposition leader Vital Kamerhe disputed the government’s figures, saying 28 protesters had been killed – eight on Tuesday and 20 on Monday.

Protesters in Kinshasa on 21 January 2015Kinshasa is seen as an opposition stronghold
A man walks past a tyre set alight during a nation-wide protest as opposition parties tried to block a change in the law that may delay elections, in Goma eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (19 January 2015)Many shops were looted as the protest turned violent
Democratic Republic of Congo protesters block a street in Kinshasa, on 19 January 2015 The protesters have vowed to force Mr Kabila to step down

The protests coincided with a debate in the Senate, the upper parliamentary chamber, over government plans to hold a census before elections.

Most senators, including members of the governing party, said they were opposed to the plan because it risked destabilising the country.

The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, approved the plan on Saturday, in a vote boycotted by opposition MPs.

The opposition says this amounts to a “constitutional coup” by Mr Kabila, as it will take about three years for a census to be conducted in DR Congo, which is two-thirds of the size of western Europe, has very little infrastructure and is hit by instability in the east.

DR Congo, formerly known as Zaire, has never had a reliable census since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Rwanda rebels – UN head calls for action by DR Congo against FDLR

UN News Service

In phone call with DR Congo President, Ban urges ‘decisive action’ against armed group

UN peacekeepers patrol Camp Lieutenant General Jean-Lucien Bahuma in Kisangani, Oriental Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is hosting former FDLR combatants. Photo: MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh

7 January 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a phone call with Democratic Republic of the Congo’s President, Joseph Kabila, today appealed for decisive action against the armed group FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), after it failed to surrender on deadline.

Mr. Ban reiterated that the FDLR has “failed to deliver on its promise to disarm and that the deadline of 2 January had expired without significant results”, according to a read-out of the phone call provided by his spokesperson during the daily press briefing at UN Headquarters this afternoon.

The Secretary-General welcomed President Kabila’s assurance that his Government is ready to take action and noted that the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) is ready to engage in operations alongside the Congolese military, also known by the French acronym FARDC.

Echoing that sentiment, UN Force Commander of MONUSCO, Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz today in an interview with UN Radio said that as FDLR had failed to meet its deadline to surrender voluntarily, action to force disarmament may be imminent.

“As you know, 2 January was [the deadline] for the FDLR to surrender voluntarily. Unfortunately, they didn’t meet expectations. One option is to…defeat the FDLR and to force the surrender of this group,” General dos Santos Cruz said over the phone from DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

“It is very important for FDLR to stop its activities in the eastern part of Congo to bring stability to the region. We don’t have only FDLR as an armed group but they are very important politically and their surrender is important to stability here,” General dos Santos Cruz added.

He explained that MONUSCO and the Congolese army have joined forces to follow-up on the progress of disarming the group. An upcoming 15 January meeting with several regional organizations is expected to focus on the matter and decide what action to take.

In the meantime, General dos Santos Cruz said that the leaders of the 2,000-strong FDLR take action toward surrendering based on international negotiations.

“They need to surrender to bring more stability to the eastern part of Congo and to the whole region. If they don’t comply with that, we are ready to follow up with the political authorities and we are going start operations against them,” the General warned.

DR Congo – gunmen free hundreds of prisoners in North Kivu

Reuters

(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.

Reuters

Dr Congo – Kabila aiming for lifetime presidency

African Arguments

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

Kabila_fils

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

VoA/allAfrica

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

(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

BBC

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.

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Troublesome neighbours

Map
  • 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