Tag Archives: Kabila

DR Congo – mass graves in central Congo show level of violence


By Aaron Ross | TSHIMBULU, Democratic Republic of Congo

TSHIMBULU, Democratic Republic of Congo The increasingly brutal nature of fighting in central Congo between the army and local militia is on vivid display in the village of Tshienke, where the bodies of rebel fighters last month were dumped into a mass grave following intense clashes.

A visit to this site this month was the first time that journalists including Reuters have been able to see the toll that the Congolese military has exacted on fighters of the Kamuina Nsapu militia, whose insurgency poses the most serious threat to the rule of President Joseph Kabila.

Reuters was unable to determine the exact number of bodies in eight mass graves dug in January and February in Congo’s Kasai-Central province. The graves were also confirmed by nine local witnesses.

The United Nations said it suspects that Congolese forces killed 84 militia members close to the town of Tshimbulu between Feb. 9-13.

The government denies its soldiers used disproportionate force and says they have recovered automatic weapons from militia fighters after clashes.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters that the bodies in the mass graves were those of Kamuina Nsapu fighters and it was the group who had buried them, not the army.

“I don’t see why the soldiers would hide the fact, that after clashing with the terrorists, the terrorists died,” he said, adding that the army killed militia fighters in the clashes.

Leaders of Kamuina Nsapu could not be reached for comment.


At one grave site at Tshimbulu, a human femur poked out of the dirt and shards of bone dotted the perimeter.

“We saw arms and legs. There were … people who were entirely exposed because they hadn’t been buried well,” said one man who found the mass grave last month with fellow farmers.

He, like about a dozen witnesses Reuters interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the army.

Two km (1 mile) away in Tshienke, another farmer pointed out two more mass graves she said contained bodies dumped by an army truck between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the night of Feb. 12, following intense clashes on Feb. 9 and 10.

A red headband of the kind worn by members of the Kamuina Nsapu militia was wedged in the grass near the graves.

In a statement to Reuters, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo said it informed the government earlier this month of three alleged mass grave sites in Tshimbulu and, in December, of seven more in the village of Nkoto, about 150 km (90 miles) northwest. The government says the graves were dug by the militia.

Kabila’s decision not to step down when his presidential mandate expired in December was followed by a wave of killings and lawlessness across the vast central African nation.

Kabila has said he is committed to respecting the constitution but an election to choose his successor cannot take place until a lengthy voter registration process is completed.

However, the rebellion that began in Kasai-Central has spread to five of Congo’s 26 provinces and resulted in hundreds of deaths.


Kabila’s opponents have used violence to exploit the uncertainty caused by his decision to stay on. Last August, a local chief known as Kamuina Nsapu after his native village, was killed in a clash with soldiers.

He had rejected the authority of the central government in Kasai-Central and demanded that government forces leave. Since then, Kamuina Nsapu militants do not appear to have a leader and some of the latest violence appears to be ethnic score-settling.

But they have also demanded that the government move to implement a deal signed on Dec. 31 requiring Kabila to step down after an election this year.

“It has taken on a political dimension because the aim is now to see Kabila no longer at the head of the country,” said Alphonse Mukendi, a human rights activist in the provincial capital Kananga.

Kamuina Nsapu’s tactics have alienated many, according to local residents, who say it uses child soldiers, some as young as 10.

It has attacked schools and churches, institutions it sees as oppressive, and executed police officers, soldiers and rival chiefs.

Mende, the government spokesman, said Congolese forces also suffered casualties at the hands of this group, including about 30 police officers killed last August.

But in battles with the military, the militia has faced machine gun fire while its fighters are armed with machetes, batons and home-made rifles.

After a video appearing to show soldiers massacring militia members was posted on social media, the United Nations called on Congo’s government to end “human rights violations, including apparent summary executions, by the … armed forces”.

The military’s top prosecutor, Major General Joseph Ponde, announced on Saturday that seven soldiers had been charged in connection with the video, including for the war crimes of murder and mutilation. [nL5N1GV0A9]

Ponde also said investigators plan to exhume two graves discovered near where the video was shot in neighbouring Kasai-Oriental province.

(Editing by Tim Cocks and Giles Elgood)

DR Congo – Tshisekedi death could damage political deal


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.

DR Congo – Tshisekedi leaves legacy of democratic struggle, unfulfilled promise


By Aaron Ross | KINSHASA

The dates below the framed black-and-white photograph of Etienne Tshisekedi in the reception hall of the prime minister’s offices in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, testify to a fraught and complicated relationship with power.

Tshisekedi, who died on Wednesday in Brussels at 84, was named prime minister four times of the country then known as Zaire, between 1991 and 1997.

His longest stint lasted three-and-a-half months; the shortest just five days after he purposely omitted a reference to autocratic ruler Mobutu Sese Seko as “guarantor of the nation” from his oath of office, and was promptly fired.

Nicknamed “the Sphinx” for not speaking much but causing a lot of trouble when he did, Tshisekedi was a crusading voice for political pluralism and democracy in Congo, whose politics since independence in 1960 from Belgium has been marred by foreign intervention, civil war, coups and authoritarian rule.

While his popularity in Congo made him impossible to ignore, his legendary irascibility may have thwarted his hopes of reaching the summit of Congolese politics.

Now, as Congo experiences its latest political crisis over President Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate last December, Tshisekedi’s absence will test Congo’s divided and often ineffectual opposition.

Tshisekedi began his political career as a close loyalist of Mobutu but broke ranks in 1982 to found the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

As the first organised opposition platform at a time of strict one-party rule, the UDPS endured harsh repression and Tshisekedi was repeatedly imprisoned. But he tapped into widespread discontent as Mobutu’s kleptocratic rule entered its third decade and the appeal of his calls to Zairean “authenticity” wore thin.


The post-Soviet democratic wave that swept across Africa forced Mobutu to accede to multi-partyism in 1990, but he held onto power for another seven years.

He finally fell in 1997 to an invasion by Rwanda, Uganda and other neighbouring countries in support of a rebel movement led by Laurent Kabila. That war and a subsequent 1998-2003 regional conflict killed millions of Congolese, most from hunger and disease.

Under the rules of Laurent Kabila and his son, Joseph, who took power in 2001 after Laurent’s assassination, Tshisekedi reprised his role as opposition leader, presiding over a UDPS party installed across the vast central African country.

But many, including some collaborators, thought his legendary stubbornness and disdain for what he perceived to be the establishment squandered repeated opportunities to unseat entrenched rulers.

He called for a boycott of the 2005 constitutional referendum and also sat out the 2006 presidential vote, Congo’s first free elections in over 40 years, won by Joseph Kabila.

He finished runner-up to Kabila in the 2011 presidential election, a vote international observers said was marred by widespread fraud.

Foreign diplomats and investors were wary of the unpredictable Tshisekedi who, in turn, harboured lingering suspicions of the western powers who had backed the anti-communist Mobutu during the Cold War.

“He’s someone who attacked ferociously but didn’t know how to take power,” said Jean Omasombo, Congo expert at the Royal Central Africa Museum in Belgium.

He spent much of his latter years outside the country receiving medical treatment as Congo spiralled toward constitutional crisis.

Dozens have died in anti-government protests over the last two years, including about 40 last month when Kabila failed to step down at the end of his term.

Under a deal cut on Dec. 31, Tshisekedi was set to take the top post in a transitional council that would oversee Kabila’s exit by the end of this year.

His son, Felix Tshisekedi is tipped to be named prime minister in a forthcoming power-sharing government, though no other opposition leader has proved able to match his mobilising prowess or reputation for principled opposition.

“Etienne Tshisekedi represented true political resistance in our country,” said Chantal Muya, a law student, hours after the leader’s death. “We don’t know what will come after Tshisekedi.”

(Additional reporting by Amedee Mwarabu Kiboko; Editing by David Gregorio)

DR Congo – veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi dies


By Aaron Ross | KINSHASA

Congo’s main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, one of the country’s most important advocates of democracy, has died in Brussels aged 84, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

Tshisekedi stood up to Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country, then known as Zaire, for decades before being overthrown by Rwanda, Uganda and other forces. He was also the most prominent civilian opponent of Laurent Kabila, who took power in 1997, and his son, President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001.

As such, he was a pivotal figure in Democratic Republic of Congo, a country whose history has been marked by foreign intervention, civil war, coups and authoritarian rule. His stalwart activism meant he could draw huge crowds.

Tshisekedi served as a minister under Mobutu before helping found the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party (UDPS), the first organized opposition platform in Zaire, in 1982.

He was named prime minister four times in the 1990s as Mobutu contended with pro-democratic currents in the country, but Tshisekedi never lasted more than a few months as he repeatedly clashed with the charismatic autocrat.

He was set to take the top post in a transitional council agreed in December under a deal to pave the way for Kabila to leave power in 2017 and refrain from running for a third term as president.

The UDPS said he went to Brussels last week for a medical check up.

(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Catherine Evans)

South Africa expresses concern over violence in DR Congo


2016-12-20 22:46

Joseph Kabila. (File: AFP)

Joseph Kabila. (File: AFP)

Johannesburg – The South African government has expressed concern over the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) said on Tuesday.

This after Congolese living in South Africa protested outside the embassy in Pretoria against President Joseph Kabila. Kabila looks set to stay on despite the expiry of his mandate.

“These incidences threaten the hard-won democratic gains made by the DRC through the past two elections,” spokesperson Clayson Monyela said in a statement referring to Kabila.

Protesters had earlier pelted the embassy with stones and with any other object they could find.

The were shouting: Kabila must go.

French news agency Agence France-Presse reported that Congolese opposition head Etienne Tshisekedi called on citizens to “no longer recognise” Joseph Kabila as president in a video released on YouTube.

“I am launching a solemn appeal to the Congolese people to no longer recognise the authority of Mr Joseph Kabila, to the international community to no longer deal with Joseph Kabila in the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the country’s mainstream opposition party said.

A court has said Kabila can remain in power until a new election. The ruling party says there is “no possibility” of one in 2017.

The opposition wants it as soon as possible.

Exercise restraint

Tshisekedi is calling on people inside and outside DRC to no longer recognise Kabila’s authority and calls his actions “treason”.

However, the SA government called on parties to seek peaceful solutions to the political developments in the DRC in line with the country’s Constitution and the Security Council Resolution 2277 (2016).

“The South African Government supports the outcomes of the National Political Dialogue facilitated by AU facilitator Mr Edem Kodjo, as well as the current National Episcopal Conference of Congo’s (CENCO) direct talks led by President Mgr. Marcel Utembi.”

“South Africa likewise renews the call on all stakeholders to uphold the principles, ideals and aspirations of the Congolese people as enshrined in the DRC Constitution in accordance with the SADC and AU principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

“South Africa continues to call on all parties to exercise restraint and to take urgent steps to end the violence and restore the protection given to the people of DRC through its Constitution. Likewise, the Congolese Diaspora is urged to work through their political leaders in the DRC, and not to resort to violence.”

Government also called on the international community to assist the DRC.

DR Congo protests leave more than 20 dead


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.

Dr Congo – commission may suggest vote delay until December 2018


By Aaron Ross | KINSHASA

The president of Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission said on Saturday that he expects the presidential election, originally scheduled for this November, to be delayed until December 2018, lawmakers present at his speech said.

The announcement is likely to stoke political tensions after at least 50 people died last week in the capital Kinshasa in clashes between protesters and security forces over accusations that President Joseph Kabila is deliberately delaying the poll to cling to power.

Kabila denies he is behind the delays, which he says are due to logistical and budgetary constraints in the impoverished, infrastructure-starved country.

Commission president Corneille Nangaa told delegates at ongoing multi-party talks that the commission would finish updating the voter registry on July 31, 2017 and require an additional 504 days to organise the vote, several people present at the closed door meeting said.

A national deputy and the minister of parliamentary relations confirmed Nangaa’s remarks on Twitter.

The talks are meant to reach a consensus among Kabila’s allies, opponents and civil society on the election date.

However, most major opposition parties are boycotting the talks, which they say are intended to provide a pretext for Kabila to stay in office.

Kabila, who took office in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila, is required by constitutional term limits to step down in December.

Congo’s economy has been damaged by the fall in global commodity prices. In June the government cut its 2016 budget by 22 percent and the growth forecast for 2016 has been cut from 9 percent to 4.3 percent.

Congo relies heavily on the mining and oil sectors, which together account for about 95 percent of its export earnings.

(Editing by Alexander Smith)