Tag Archives: DR Congo

DR Congo – 40 policemen beheaded by local militia in Kasai conflict

BBC

UN vehicle in Tshimbulu, Kasai province, 20 March 2017Reuters  The UN mission in Kasai has reported 400 people killed since last August

Militia fighters in DR Congo have decapitated about 40 police officers in an ambush in the central province of Kasai, local officials say.

Fighters from the Kamwina Nsapu group attacked a police convoy.

Six policemen who spoke the local Tshiluba were freed, but the rest were killed, Kasai Assembly President Francois Kalamba said.

The unrest in Kasai began last August, when security forces killed the Kamwina Nsapu leader.

Friday’s attack targeted a police convoy travelling between Tshikapa and Kananga.

The state Governor Alexis Nkande Myopompa said an investigation had been launched into the killings.

The UN says 400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced in the Kasai region since Jean-Pierre Pandi, the Kamwina Nsapu leader, was killed.

This came two months after Kamwina Nsapu launched a bid, in June 2016, for him to be officially recognised as a local chief and for state bodies to withdraw from the region.

Why have 10 mass graves been found in Kasai?

map

The UN says it has identified 10 mass graves where those killed in the unrest have been buried, as well as another seven suspected mass burial sites.

Two UN experts, an American and a Swede, were kidnapped in the area two weeks ago with four Congolese colleagues and are still missing.

DR Congo is in a state of increasing political uncertainty as President Joseph Kabila remains in power beyond the end of his mandate ,which expired last December.

Elections are now due to be held before the end of this year, but no firm date has been set.

DR Congo – Tshisekedi death could damage political deal

BBC

Upset supporters of Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi mourn his death outside his residence in the Limete in Kinshasa, DR CongoREUTERS Etienne Tshisekedi’s supporters, mourning his death, said he was an incorruptible politician

Supporters of Etienne Tshisekedi, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s veteran opposition leader, have gathered in the capital, Kinshasa, to express their shock at his death.

A prominent opponent of successive leaders, he was due to head a transitional council under a deal for President Joseph Kabila to step down.

The 84-year-old died in Belgium where he went last week for medical checks.

The information minister said he would be given a state funeral.

Mr Tshisekedi returned to Kinshasa last July to a hero’s welcome after two years in Brussels for medical treatment.

His death comes at a sensitive time for DR Congo and follows fierce clashes last year when it was announced that President Kabila would stay in power until April 2018.

Tshisekedi arrives in Kinshasa in July 2016AFP/GETTY Mr Tshisekedi (C) remained popular and could draw huge crowds

BBC Afrique’s Anne-Marie Dias Borges says Mr Tshisekedi was a hugely popular figure in Kinshasa and nicknamed the “Sphinx of Limete”, because the mythological creature reflected his long career and many political guises. Limete is his home neighbourhood in the capital.

What next for the peace deal? By Alex Duval Smith, BBC Africa

Mr Tshisekedi’s death comes as the opposition and government were negotiating the departure of President Kabila after 16 years in power.

The unfinished talks still require the creation of a transitional government and agreement on election dates. Mr Tshisekedi had been expected to chair a transition oversight committee.

He was a brave proponent of democracy. For more than half a century, a vast nation could unite behind him, against the autocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko or the Kabilas, father and son. But in that time, Mr Tshisekedi became a monument in his own right. His intransigence, at times, may have hindered democratic progress.

In the past three years of Mr Tshisekedi’s illness, his son Felix has taken an increasingly prominent role. The future of the the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party is now in the balance. Other, younger, opposition leaders may now find room for manoeuvre in transition talks that are expected to continue under the auspices of the Congolese bishops’ conference.

What has been the reaction to his death?

Witnesses say as word of his death spread in Kinshasa on Wednesday evening, clashes broke out between a small group of his supporters and police, who fired teargas.

Mourners who gathered at his son’s house in Kinshasa said they were concerned about the future.

“This man sacrificed his life, his youth for us all. This man made us open our eyes. He was our icon. This man was an icon for Africa. He was great. We lost a great man,” one woman told the BBC.

Another said his supporters saw him as incorruptible: “He was an historic opponent. [Nelson] Mandela was the best and Tshisekedi comes after.”

Didier Reynders, the foreign minister of Belgium – the former colonial power – described Mr Tshisekedi as a “remarkable political figure”.

“Belgium joins forces with the Congolese people in their grief and their desire to see his work bear fruit,” the AFP news agency quotes him as saying.

What did he achieve during 57 years in politics?

  • One of DR Congo’s first lawyers, his political career took off with independence in 1960 when he became an adviser to Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and then joined a short-lived secessionist administration of Kasai
  • Served as a minister under autocratic ruler Mobutu Sese Seko when the country was known as Zaire
Mobutu Sese SekoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMobutu Sese Seko (C) seized power in 1965 and was ousted in 1997
  • When elections were cancelled in 1980, he helped set up the UDPS, the first organised opposition platform
  • During the 1990s, when the country was in economic turmoil, Mobutu named his rival prime minister at least three times. But they frequently clashed
  • He remained in the opposition when rebel leader Laurent Kabila took power, but was arrested twice for election-related violence and then sent into internal exile to his home village in the Kasai region
  • Re-launched his political career in 2011 but was again defeated in a disputed poll won by incumbent Joseph Kabila
  • Led an opposition coalition demanding that President Kabila leave power when his mandate expired in December 2016. In a deal brokered by the Catholic Church, he was to oversaw a power-sharing deal that would see Mr Kabila leave office this year.

Lord’s Resistance Army – “you belong to Kony”

African Arguments

“You belong to Joseph Kony”: How Dominic Ongwen and others became child soldiers

Testimony from a former child soldier of the Lord’s Resistance Army highlights the moral and human complexity of Ongwen’s case at the ICC.

The Lord's Resistance Army terrorised northern Uganda for several years. Credit: Martin Bekkelund.

Earlier this month, one of the most morally complex cases to face the International Criminal Court (ICC) resumed. In it, Dominic Ongwen stands accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

In December 2016, Ongwen pleaded not guilty to the charges, arguing that since he was abducted by the LRA as a child, he is a victim of the rebel group.

Ongwen is the only LRA member out of the five indicted by the ICC who was abducted as a child. The other four reportedly joined voluntarily, including the still-at-large Joseph Kony, who founded the LRA in the late-1980s and is the only other surviving indictee.

The prosecution argues that Ongwen’s status as a former child abductee should not absolve him of responsibility for alleged crimes though the Chief Prosecutor conceded it might be a mitigating factor in his sentencing. The defence insist Ongwen was traumatised by the LRA and should be seen as a victim.

If accounts of other former LRA members can act as a guide, entrance into the group would certainly have had a profound effect on Ongwen. His abduction and daily existence in the LRA would have been characterised by extreme violence, both targeted at him and forcing him to target others, all in ways specifically designed to recondition him into a loyal fighter.

This is clear from the following vivid testimony of Okello, another LRA fighter who was also abducted as a child in early days of the brutal rebel group. His traumatic story reflects the experiences of many children forcibly conscripted. Without providing any answers, it highlights the complexity of the questions around responsibility and blame raised by Ongwen’s case.

It is excerpted from my 2016 book, When The Walking Defeats You: One Man’s Journey as Joseph Kony’s Bodyguard.

LRA child soldiers. Mid 2015, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo obtained by Paul Ronan.

Okello’s story

Okello started to talk about his life, as people usually did around the fire in LRA camps, following the Acholi tradition known as wang oo. Okello started his speech by lamenting the fact that he had no family of his own left, and that the LRA government was now his family, and Joseph Kony his father.

“My own father died when I was born, or that is what my mother told me. I had an older brother named Paul. People said he was crazy but Paul was not crazy, I knew him well. Paul had a sickness that made it difficult for him to understand others, but he was nice and always helped my mother and me. We lived in Minakulu, by the big road that links Gulu with Kampala.

The holies [LRA fighters] came to our village in 2003 when I was thirteen. It was early in the morning but it was still dark outside. Kidega was the commander, I know him well now. They kicked our door and grabbed us while we slept.

One of the youngus [child soldiers] held a razor blade to my neck and told me to go out. Someone grabbed mother and Paul. Paul was only sixteen, but he was tall and strong. He refused to be dragged and ran towards mother, who was being whipped by Kidega. She was too scared and confused to sit on the floor like Kidega asked her.

Kidega’s guard yelled at Paul to drop on the floor but Paul did not understand. He tried to help our mother so Kidega’s guard shot him in the stomach. Then they all beat Paul in front of us and let him bleed to death. We saw him die slowly, his blood just poured until he dried out, like a sheep being prepared for cooking. Kidega said mother was stupid for not controlling Paul, who now was dead because of her. ‘You are a bad woman,’ he said, and slit her throat.’”

Okello continued, his voice quivering when mentioning his mother.

“I was scared. When I saw Paul and my mother dead on the ground covered in blood, I could not move my hands or feet. It was like an evil spirit pinned me down. I was sure I was going to die and I wanted to. Kidega pointed his knife at my head and said, ‘You are now with the LRA, forget your family.’ The others pulled me up as I could not stand up and tied me with other children from Minakulu, also taken that night. We walked for hours until we reached the bush. I did not think I would live.

But these people here teach you to be strong. You have no choice but to obey and be strong or to die weak. The day after I was taken as we walked towards Kitgum, one kid called Olweny, whom I knew very well because we played ‘nine-stones’ together, tried to escape but they caught him and brought him back to where we stopped. Kidega then ordered all abducted children from Minakulu, thirteen of us, to pick up sticks and beat Olweny to death.

We were all in a circle around Olweny, who was really scared. He was small bodied and young, maybe eleven years old. He asked us not to kill him and started crying. Kidega made fun of him because Olweny pissed his pants. Kidega said, ‘If you don’t kill him, we will kill you.’

I picked my stick and hit him in the face, then everyone else hit him many times until he stopped moving and his brain came out of his head. I felt bad but I knew I had become a man then, a soldier.

Kidega told us to throw Olweny’s body in the bush, warning us that anyone who tried to escape would suffer the same fate. ‘You are now real soldiers of the Lord,’ Kidega said, ‘and you belong to Joseph Kony, our father.’

This is how I ended up here. This is now my family because God wanted me to be Kony’s child.”

Ledio Cakaj is the author of When The Walking Defeats You: One Man’s Journey as Joseph Kony’s Bodyguard (Zed books, 2016).

DR Congo – M23 rebels feared to have entered from Uganda

Reuters

By William Clowes | KINSHASA

Armed fighters led by the military commander of former Congolese rebel group M23 have crossed the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo from Uganda, Congolese officials said on Sunday.

The rebels had been in camps for demobilized fighters in Uganda following their defeat in 2013. Formerly, they were the largest of dozens of armed groups in the country and controlled huge swaths of the country’s mining heartland in the east.

Renewed violence would be a major challenge for President Joseph Kabila, who is trying to fend off mounting opposition over his decision to stay beyond his mandate which expired last month. Some observers fear tensions could spark a new civil war.

“They made an incursion yesterday from Uganda at Ishasha in two columns and the Congolese armed forces have dealt with them for now,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende, referring to a border crossing near Virunga National Park.

He said rebel commander Sultani Makenga was among them, leading one of the two columns.

Julien Paluku, governor of the North Kivu province, also confirmed the encroachment and condemned Uganda for allowing them to leave on U.N.-funded Radio Okapi.

In a brief telephone conversation with Reuters, he denied that there had been fighting. Officials in Uganda were not available for comment.

It was not clear where the fighters had gone. A letter from the ministry of defence sent to Reuters by a Congolese security official on Sunday requested an urgent investigation into allegations that 180 ex-M23 fighters had entered the country.

At its peak, M23 controlled North Kivu’s capital Goma but was driven out by U.N. and Congolese forces. Since then, the fighters have been scattered in camps in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda awaiting amnesties.

Many other armed groups remain active.

In the same province, armed fighters attempted to free prisoners from a facility in Beni overnight, according to a statement from local activist group The Centre of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (CEPADHO).

Reinforcements drove them away and one of the attackers was killed, the group said. It said the fighters were likely “Mai Mai” self-defence groups – militias originally created to resist Rwandan invasions.

(Reporting by William Clowes; Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

DR Congo – political deal to end crisis hangs by a thread

Al Jazeera

Police have been criticized for ushering in heavy-handed tactics on protesters [Reuters]

Hopes of a deal to end the Democratic Republic of Congo’s dangerous political crisis before Christmas were fast dissipating on Saturday, after fruitless all-night talks over President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to quit power.

Kabila’s second and final five-year term ended on December 20, but he has shown no intention of leaving office soon, sparking violent protests that have left at least 40 people dead this week, according to the United Nations.

The influential Catholic Church has been brokering talks between the government and opposition and hopes rose this week of an imminent deal, with a draft seen by AFP news agency outlining plans for fresh elections at the end of next year, when Kabila would step down.

But that optimism has been slipping, and negotiators from the two camps left church offices in Kinshasa just before 5:30am local time without a deal to prevent a fresh descent into a new political crisis.

“The work is practically finished – the final touches are all that is left to do before the deal is signed,” insisted Marcel Utembi, president of the Congo National Episcopal Conference (CENCO), who had pushed for a deal before Christmas.

But others indicated there was still a long way to go.

 The Catholic Church has been central to the negotiations between Kabila and opposition leaders in Kinshasa [Reuters]

“Everything is still blocked on how (public affairs) will be managed during the transition period,” said opposition delegate Francois Muamba.

Two opposition delegates said the squabbling sides could return to the table later on Saturday, but there was no confirmation from CENCO. Negotiators from Kabila’s political alliance were remaining tight-lipped.

A frustrated CENCO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, blasted Congo’s political class for “serious mediocrity” in their inability to reach a deal.

“They have called into question everything we arranged the day before,” the official said as talks stretched into the night.

Time is pressing, as the bishops overseeing the talks are due to quit the capital Saturday afternoon to return to their congregations in time for Christmas Eve mass.

Tensions are still running high, with security forces spraying live ammunition at a string of anti-Kabila protests in Kinshasa and other towns this week, killing at least 40 civilians, according to the UN.

Congolese police put the toll at 20 dead, saying they had largely been killed in “looting” or by “stray bullets”.

Other sources say somewhere between 56 and 125 people have been killed in a week of clashes, not counting the unknown toll from fighting between security forces and an anti-government militia in the central town of Kananga.

Kabila, 45, has been in power since the 2001 assassination of his father Laurent at the height of the Second Congo War.

He was confirmed as leader of the DRC in 2006 during the first free elections since independence from Belgium in 1960, and re-elected for a second term in 2011 in a vote marred by allegations of massive fraud.

More than two dozen people killed in DRC protests

Constitutionally banned from seeking a third term, he obtained a controversial court ruling in May stating that he could remain in power until a successor was chosen.

Two decades ago, the country collapsed into the deadliest conflict in modern African history.

Its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s pulled in at least six African armies and left more than three million dead.

Source: News agencies

DR Congo – deal said to be near for Kabila to step down in 2017

Reuters

Congolese Catholic Church (CENCO) Bishops (L-R) Fidele Nsielele, Marcel Utembi, Fridolin Ambongo, and Abbe Donatien Nshole mediate talks between the opposition and the government of President Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
By Aaron Ross | KINSHASA

Political parties in Democratic Republic of Congo paused talks on Saturday, close to a deal under which President Joseph Kabila would leave power in 2017 and elections would be held the same year, participants at the talks said.

The talks between the ruling coalition and opposition parties mediated by a conference of Catholic bishops broke up at around 5.30 a.m local time (0430 GMT) after about 12 hours of nonstop negotiations and were set to reconvene at 11 a.m.

“At that time … it will be possible to propose a final document that can be signed this afternoon,” opposition delegate Francois Mwamba said, adding that some points remained outstanding.

A deal could be a breakthrough for a country that has not seen a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgian colonial rule in 1960. It would also come as a surprise following a week in which security forces killed dozens of people protesting Kabila’s tenure.

Kabila took power after his father, Laurent, was assassinated in 2001. Critics saw this week’s violence as an attempt to crush dissent and enable the extension of his constitutional mandate, which ended on Tuesday after two terms in office.

Under the deal, Kabila would stay in power for a year but the constitution could not be changed to let him run again.

A prime minister would be named from the main opposition bloc and veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi would oversee the deal’s implementation, opposition leaders Martin Fayulu and Jose Endundo told Reuters.

Congo is the fourth most populous nation in Africa and its top copper producer so a deal there could also bolster democracy in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The presidents of neighbouring Rwanda and Congo Republic changed their constitutions last year to allow themselves to stand for a third term. However, democracy activists across a continent, where some leaders have ruled for decades, say they want to see an end to this practise.

There was no immediate comment from Kabila, whose representatives participated in the talks.

A deal could mark a win for the Catholic church, which bills the talks as an attempt to stop Congo sliding back into war. Millions died during regional conflicts between 1996 and 2003 mainly from hunger and disease and Pope Francis has heaped pressure on all sides to find a peaceful solution.

The head of the U.N. human rights agency said on Friday security forces killed at least 40 and arrested 460 in protests this week.

The violence prompted several nations that provide aid to Congo to condemn Kabila for failing to stand down. A presidential election set for last month was postponed until at least April 2018 because of delays registering voters.

(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Sam Holmes)

DR Congo protests leave more than 20 dead

BBC

More than 20 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, over President Joseph Kabila’s failure to give up power, a UN official has said.

Some of the dead were shot at close range by troops, witnesses said.

Mr Kabila’s 15-year rule was due to have ended on Monday at midnight, but has been extended to 2018.

Mr Kabila’s main rival said the refusal to give up power amounted to a coup.

DR Congo conflict explained

The electoral commission cancelled elections that were scheduled for last month, citing logistical and financial difficulties in organising them.

Mr Kabila has now formed a 74-member transitional government to lead the vast central African state until elections are held in 2018.

There were “solid” reports that 20 civilians had been killed in clashes in Kinshasa, said Jose Maria Aranaz, the UN human rights director for DR Congo.

“On the issue of deaths, it looks bad,” he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Protester in Kinshasa, DR Congo – 20 December 2016


DR Congo’s capital has been a flashpoint of violence

Residents chant slogans against Congolese President Joseph Kabila during demonstrations in the streets of the Democratic Republic of CongoImage copyrightREU

Protesters say Mr Kabila is ruling the country illegally

Gunfire was also heard in the second city, Lubumbashi, but it was unclear who was behind the shooting.

In a video posted on social media, main opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi called for peaceful protests to demand Mr Kabila’s resignation.

“I launch a solemn appeal to the Congolese people to not recognise the… illegal and illegitimate authority of Joseph Kabila and to peacefully resist [his] coup d’etat,” Mr Tshisekedi said.

His message was not available in DR Congo, where authorities have restricted access to social media networks, the AFP news agency reports.

DR Congo has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Mr Kabila took power in 2001 following the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila.

The constitution bars him from seeking a third term in office.