Tag Archives: DR Congo

DR Congo opposition calls for strike to bring Kabila down

Reuters

Opposition leaders in Democratic Republic of Congo called for a general strike next Tuesday to press President Joseph Kabila to step down when his mandate expires at the end of the year.

The decision represents a retreat from earlier plans for a mass pro-democracy march after the powerful Catholic church pulled its support last month, saying the event had been co-opted by political interests.

Kabila succeeded his assassinated father in 2001 and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011. Critics accuse him of trying to skirt constitutional term limits and stay in power by delaying a presidential election slated for November. Dozens died in Jan. 2015 in protests over the issue.

“We are called upon to stay at home, to not go to work and to not send our children to school,” opposition leader Charles Mwando Simba told reporters in the capital, Kinshasa, flanked by leaders from most major opposition parties.

Kabila has refused to comment on his future and has appealed for dialogue to resolve difficulties in organising this year’s voting. The opposition rejects dialogue as a delaying tactic and says protest is needed to force Kabila to hold a presidential vote this year.

The election commission took a step on Wednesday toward restarting the process by rescheduling elections for interim provincial governors for March 26, commission spokesman Jean-Pierre Kalamba told Reuters.

Local, provincial and national elections, originally slated for 2015 and 2016, could not be held until new governors were installed, Congo’s highest court ruled last September. The consequent delays after that ruling threw the entire election schedule into disarray.

Kalamba did not say when an election calendar with the presidential poll would be released. The commission plans to update voter rolls before national elections, a process it has said could take 13 to 16 months.

Also on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch urged the U.S. government to impose targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on Congolese officials responsible for what it called a violent crackdown on Kabila’s election critics.

In testimony before Congress on Tuesday, U.S. Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes region, Tom Perriello, said Washington is considering “measures including sanctions to hold accountable individuals who threaten the peace and security of the DRC.”

(Additional reporting by Amedee Mwarabu Kiboko; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

DR Congo – Peacekeepers and army to resume joint fight against Rwandan rebels

Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo’s army and U.N. peacekeepers agreed on Thursday to resume military cooperation against Rwandan Hutu rebels, the U.N. mission said, beefing up efforts to root out one of the region’s most notorious rebel groups.

The U.N. mission pulled out of a planned joint offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) a year ago after the government named two generals the U.N. suspects of widespread human rights abuses to command it.

The FDLR includes former Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide who then fled into eastern Congo. Its presence on Congolese soil has been cited as a reason for a series of military interventions by Rwanda.

Millions died of conflict, hunger and disease during a 1998-2003 war in eastern Congo, fuelled by Rwandan intervention, and the region remains plagued by dozens of armed groups that exploit its vast reserves of gold, diamonds and other minerals.

Thursday’s agreement was signed in the capital Kinshasa by Congo Defence Minister Crispin Atama Tabe and U.N. deputy mission chief David Gressly, the latter told Reuters.

“Where we jointly agree that there is a common objective, we will work in a coordinated way using whatever assets we determine, collectively, make the most sense,” Gressly said. Assistance, he said, could range from logistical aid to armed support by troops from MONUSCO, as the U.N. mission is known.

The Congo army’s spokesman said he was not aware of the agreement. The government spokesman and defence minister could not be immediately reached for comment.

Gressly said the two sides agreed to establish a formal mechanism to address allegations of human rights abuses by commanders and that MONUSCO had also put in place a new internal assessment system to reduce the risk of rights violations.

After the government refused to withdraw the generals and launched unilateral operations against the FDLR last February, MONUSCO said it would accept other measures to guard against abuses. But talks about resuming cooperation stalled for months.

While the government says its ongoing military efforts have decimated the FDLR, U.N. officials and independent analysts say the offensive has been hampered by poor logistics and has failed to kill or capture key rebel leaders.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Joe Bavier/Mark Heinrich)

DR Congo – can Colgolese army and forces unite to fight Hutu rebels?

IRIN

  
Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN

MONUSCO troops providing an armed escort

KINSHASA, 15 January 2016 (IRIN) – A year ago, the Congolese army and MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, were supposed to launch joint operations to take on Rwandan Hutu rebels. Everything was planned down to the last detail, before a major difference of opinion stopped the effort in its tracks.
What fouled everything up?
The Congolese government was already highly irritated by MONUSCO’s criticism of its poor human rights record and its democratic shortcomings when the head of the mission at the time, Germany’s Martin Kobler, demanded that two Congolese generals, Bruno Mandevu and Fall Sikabwe, be replaced before operations began due to suspected human rights violations.
Kinshasa refused to change the commanding officers it had selected for the mission and strongly denounced what it decried as an intrusion into Congolese sovereignty.
The result of this diplomatic tussle: the UN headquarters in New York announced that MONUSCO was pulling its support for the Congolese army, which responded on 28 January by attacking the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels on its own.
According to several military and civilian sources, the FDLR – believed to then number about 1,500 fighters, including some Congolese nationals – largely refused to be drawn into the fight and succeeded in dodging most of the army’s offensives.
What threat do the rebels pose today?
While UN experts stressed in October that the FDLR’s capacity was intact, Kinshasa announced on 12 January that the army had neutralised “more than 1,000” rebels in 2015, and claims fewer than 400 are still on the run. 
Although it is now drawing down, MONUSCO has become one of the largest missions in the world with around 20,000 peacekeepers, a budget of $1.35 billion, and sophisticated equipment like surveillance drones. Since March 2013, it has also had the Force Intervention Brigade at its disposal. This separate 3,000-strong combat force is comprised of South African, Tanzanian, and Malawian soldiers with a unique mandate to go after rebel forces, but operates under MONUSCO’s command and control.
Since the bust-up, the Congolese army and MONUSCO have carried out several joint operations, notably in June against the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), and in November against Ugandan rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in response to an unprecedented wave of attacks that left at least 24 dead, including eight civilians, four soldiers, and one UN peacekeeper.
But there has still been no official joint offensive against the FDLR, whose leaders participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda before fleeing to eastern Congo. Concerned about the general stability of the Great Lakes region, infected for the past 20 years by the poisonous presence of these rebels, the international community is urging renewed cooperation and a return of the “strategic dialogue” that MONUSCO and Kinshasa began in March 2015.
This dialogue must define the future objectives of the UN mission, deployed since 1999, in the midst of the Second Congo War (1998-2003). It must also draw up the parameters for its withdrawal. This is expected to be gradual and dependent on the situation in the east, where dozens of armed groups, both local and foreign, are waging myriad conflicts for ethnic reasons, land, or for control of valuable natural resources like minerals and wood.
How active are the rebel groups?
The FDLR is mainly active in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. Over time, it has lost a number of fighters to MONUSCO’s Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) programme, which in 2002 repatriated more than 12,500 ex-FDLR fighters and as many again of their family members.
See: Sapping the strength of DRC militias
The rebels – who deny accusations of murder, rape, child enrolment, and of generally pillaging Congolese civilians – have been weakened by several military offensives, including Umoja Wetu (Our Unity, in Swahili) in 2009, when the Congolese and Rwandan militaries acted in concert. Congolese and UN operations followed: Kimia (Peace, in Swahili) and Amani Leo (Peace Now, in Swahili).

  
Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN

Still partners? An FARDC soldier in Virunga National Park, Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu Province

The Congolese army says the hunt for the FDLR, with whom some officers allegedly collude to traffic minerals, was derailed by the creation in North Kivu in May 2012 of the March 23 Movement (M23). According to UN experts, this Congolese Tutsi rebellion was backed by Rwanda and Uganda, although both countries deny this. In November 2013, after the defeat of the M23 by the army and MONUSCO, the Congolese government announced the FDLR as the next target.
Instead they went after the ADF. Since October 2014, the supposedly weakened Ugandan rebel group has been blamed for killing some 500 men, women, and children in Beni Territory in northern North Kivu, where its founders – opponents of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni – have hidden out since 1995.
At the end of 2013, the FDLR earned a reprieve after announcing it would lay down its arms and commit to peace. In exchange, it hoped to obtain the support of the international community to return to Rwanda and open up a dialogue with Kigali, which categorically refuses to offer an amnesty. Ultimately, the surrender plan has been a failure: barely 200 fighters have turned themselves in.
How is the MONUSCO drawdown going?
The UN has taken some measures to try to encourage the Congolese government to reopen dialogue. Maman Sidikou, of Niger, has replaced Kobler, and a South African general, Derrick Mgwebi, has relieved Brazil’s Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz as MONUSCO’s commanding officer. Kinshasa is understood to be happy about the choice of the two Africans, reckoning that there will be fewer “misunderstandings” now.
In another olive branch, in his MONUSCO report to the Security Council dated 24 December, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he planned to retool the mission by giving it rapid response units, greater mobility generally, and boosting its surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities.
In this context, he added, a reduction in MONUSCO personnel should not weaken civilian protection: the core of the UN peacekeeping mandate. The plan foresees the withdrawal of 1,700 soldiers in addition to 2,000 whose departure was already decided in March 2015 – against the demands of the Congolese government, which originally pushed for the withdrawal of 7,000 before revising this number downwards.
If the UN Security Council decides – possibly in March, when MONUSCO’s mandate is up for renewal – to withdraw the additional 1,700 peacekeepers, this will perhaps be a way to “keep to the blueprint proposed by Kinshasa,” a high-ranking Congolese officer told IRIN, on condition of anonymity. He therefore welcomed what he called “a first encouraging step” from the UN, but underlined that “some officials believe the threshold of 7,000 must be achieved by the end of the year”.
Too soon to draw down?
Whatever the number, Juvénal Munubo, a lawmaker and member of the Congolese parliament’s Defense and Security Commission, is wary. “The reduction in MONUSCO numbers must not have as its sole justification the desire of the Congolese government to boast about its sovereignty,” he said. “It must be the result of actual progress in the reform of the Congolese security sector – something that is far from being the case today.”
Munubo’s point was underlined by a recent massacre. In the night of the 6th and 7th of January, some 15 people of the Nande ethnic minority were killed by men armed with knives in the Miriki area of Lubero, a territory in the northwest of North Kivu Province. The identity of the perpetrators remains unclear but the killings have been widely blamed on the FDLR, despite its denials.
The massacre occurred near MONUSCO and Congolese army positions, prompting angry demonstrations against both. Bullets were fired, apparently by the Congolese army, and one demonstrator was killed. 
Shortly after the massacre, an army spokesman announced that reinforcements had been deployed to Miriki to keep people safe and track down the FDLR. His statement implied that the army and MONUSCO were preparing the launch of a joint operation against the Rwandan rebels. A defense department official confirmed this, although the UN would only allude to unofficial collaboration until an official announcement on the resumption of such a partnership by Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

Dr Congo – parties in Kabila’s coalition warn him against clinging on to power

Reuters

Congo parties warn Kabila against hanging onto power

Leading parties in Democratic Republic of Congo’s ruling coalition warned President Joseph Kabila that actions by his allies had given the impression that he intends to violate the constitution by hanging onto power beyond 2016.

In a letter to Kabila, seen by Reuters, the heads of the so-called G7 parties demanded immediate steps to ensure that the presidential election, scheduled for Nov. 2016, is held on time. If held successfully, the vote would be the country’s first ever peaceful transition of power.

DR Congo – Ntaganda trial to start at ICC

BBC

Rwandan-born Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda is seen during his first appearance before judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, 26 March 2013
Image captionBosco Ntaganda faces 13 counts of war crimes and five charges of crimes against humanity

Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda is due to go on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for war crimes.

He denies all 18 charges which include murder, rape and the recruitment of child soldiers.

More than 2,000 victims have been cleared to take part in the trial, including former child soldiers who will be called as witnesses.

Gen Ntaganda fought for different rebel groups as well as the Congolese army.

The 41-year-old is accused of killing at least 800 civilians during separate attacks on a number of villages between 2002 and 2003.

He is also accused of raping girl soldiers and keeping them as sex slaves.

File photo of Bosco Ntaganda in eastern DR Congo, 11 January 2009
Image captionGen Ntaganda is accused of recruiting child soldiers

In 2013, he handed himself in at the US embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

He had evaded capture for seven years after the ICC first issued warrants for his arrest.

Bosco Ntaganda was part of the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group, led by Thomas Lubanga who in 2014 became the only person convicted by the ICC.

Gen Ntaganda was one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which had fought government troops until signing a peace deal in 2013.

Eastern DR Congo has suffered two decades of violence linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for the control of the area’s rich mineral resources.

The unrest began when some of the ethnic Hutu militants accused of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda fled into DR Congo.


Who is Bosco Ntaganda?

  • Born in 1973 in Rwanda
  • Fled to DR Congo as a teenager after attacks on fellow ethnic Tutsis
  • At 17, he begins his fighting days – alternating between being a rebel and a soldier, in both Rwanda and DR Congo
  • In 2006, indicted by the ICC for allegedly recruiting child soldiers in Ituri
  • In 2009, he is integrated into the Congolese national army and made a general
  • In 2012, he defects from the army, sparking a new rebellion which forces 800,000 from their homes
  • In March 2013, hands himself in to US embassy in Kigali

Great Lakes defence and security chiefs meet over Burundi, DRC and South Sudan

allAfrica

PRESS RELEASE

Luanda, Angola — The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Chiefs of Defense Staff and Chiefs of Intelligence and Security Services are meeting today in Luanda, Angola preceding the meeting of Ministers of Defence which will take place on 12th May, 2015 to discuss on the Security and humanitarian situation in the region with special focus on Republic of Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of South Sudan and the menace of terrorism.

The meeting convened by the Republic of Angola as the Chair of ICGLR, will receive reports from the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism and Joint Intelligence Fusion Centre. Will also receive briefs on the security and humanitarian situation from the Chiefs of Defence Staff from Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of South Sudan, Central African Republic, Republic of Burundi. The Chief of Intelligence and Security Services of the Republic of Kenya will brief the meeting on the threat of terrorism in the Great Lakes Region.

The meeting of Ministers of Defence preceding the Summit of Heads of States and Government on 18th May, 2015 in Luanda Angola, will consider the report of the meeting of Chiefs of Defense Staff and Chiefs of Intelligence and Security Services and the Briefs from the Ministers of Defence from Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of South Sudan, Center African Republic, Republic of Burundi and Republic of Kenya.

ICGLR Member States are: Republic of Angola, Republic of Burundi, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Sudan, Republic of South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Uganda and Republic of Zambia.

The meetings will also be attended by representatives of the African Union, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region.

DR Congo-Rwanda – Rwandan rebels kill ten soldiers in ambush

Reuters

A Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) soldier walks toward a distribution center near Lushubere Camp in Masisi, km ( miles) northwest of Goma, December 19, 2008.     REUTERS/T.J. Kirkpatrick
 

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Rwandan rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo killed around 10 soldiers in an ambush this week, an army source said on Wednesday, the insurgents’ deadliest attack since the start of a military campaign against them in February.

The military source, who asked not to be identified, said that two colonels were among those killed and several other soldiers were injured in the attack by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The ambush took place on Monday in the Masisi region of north Kivu province, he said.

The FDLR, a Hutu force of some 1,400 fighters, includes soldiers and militiamen involved in neighbouring Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. It has embedded itself in the communities of eastern Congo, a region plagued by dozens of armed groups.

FDLR fighters have sought to exploit the region’s rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin and waged periodic war with the Kinshasa government and other armed groups.

Many analysts say that defeating the FDLR is critical to breaking a catastrophic cycle of violence in eastern Congo.

However, a slow start to the military campaign has raised doubts about its ability to defeat the FDLR, which has fought alongside the army in the past against other Rwanda-backed rebels.

General Leon Mushale, the top Congolese army commander in eastern Congo, said only 13 FDLR fighters had been killed since the campaign began. He said this was because the army was taking care not to incur civilian casualties.

At least one Congolese soldier was killed in the first week of the campaign, but military authorities have not given an overall toll for their casualties.

FDLR fighters have fled deeper into the dense forests of eastern Congo rather than risk open combat. The army says it has captured dozens of towns held by the rebels and that hundreds of combatants have been captured or surrendered.

The operation is being carried out unilaterally by the Congolese army after a row over alleged human rights violations by two Congolese commanders led the U.N. peacekeeping force to withdraw its support.

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