Monday, March 27, 2017

Sunday Globe Special: Policing the Congo

It's the Globe's beat:

"Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 police, officials say" by Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro and Carley Petesch Associated Press  March 25, 2017

BENI, Congo — A Congolese militia group has decapitated 42 policemen after ambushing them in an increasingly violent region where the UN is searching for missing American and Swedish investigators, a local official said Saturday.

You wouldn't want to walk that beat, and if I'm not mistaken, the Congo is also the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation.

Members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia staged the attack between the cities of Tshikapa and Kananga in Central Kasai province on Friday, according to Kasai Assembly President Francois Kalamba. The militia members freed six policemen because they spoke the local Tshiluba language, he said.

Kasai Governor Alexis Nkande Myopompa said investigations were underway.

Always makes me feel better do official investigations.

Large-scale violence erupted in the Kasai region in August when security forces killed the militia’s leader. More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the UN.

The decapitations were announced as the rights group on Saturday called on Congo’s government to cooperate with UN efforts to locate experts, including an American and a Swede, who have been missing in the Kasai region for nearly two weeks. The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo said its movements have been restricted by security forces in Kananga, the provincial capital of Kasai Central.

That's my printed Sunday copy in its entirety, and is the recent disappearance simply a ruse for intervention? 

Web Globe kept patrolling:

The UN in recent days reported the discovery since January of more than two dozen mass graves in three Kasai provinces. And five videos have emerged in recent weeks that appear to show Congolese soldiers firing on militia members. 

I know I'm supposed to believe what agenda-pushing war pre$$ tells me, and if true horrible, however.... what if I no longer believe?

Point of order: too many false claims of mass graves while hiding their own. 

While the violence is linked to local power struggles, there are also clear ties to Congo’s political crisis, according to Human Rights Watch. Anger has been growing in the country at long-delayed presidential elections, and dozens were killed in December amid protests as President Joseph Kabila stayed on past the end of his mandate. A deal reached between the ruling party and opposition to hold elections by the end of this year, without Kabila, remains fragile as the UN urges its implementation.

Security forces have been known to back local leaders seen as loyal to Kabila, while militia groups support those who are believed to support the opposition, the rights group said.

Militia members have recruited large numbers of children and used crude weapons to attack security forces and some government buildings in Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sankuru, and Lomami provinces, Human Rights Watch said.

Michael Sharp of the United States, Zaida Catalan of Sweden, interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi, and two motorbike drivers went missing March 12 near a remote village south of Kananga. They were looking into recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups.

Their disappearance is the first time UN experts have been reported missing in Congo, Human Rights Watch said, and it is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the Kasai provinces.

‘‘The missing UN team reflects a bigger picture of violence and abuse in the Kasai region,’’ said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. She called on the UN Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry into abuses there.

Parts of Congo, particularly the east, have experienced insecurity for more than two decades since the end of the Rwandan genocide led to the presence of local and foreign armed militias, all vying for control of mineral-rich land.

I think you just hit upon something.

But the Kasai Central province where the UN experts were abducted represents a new expansion of tensions.

Who is arming and funding them all?


Can't remember the last time I was in the Congo:

"Rebels accused of 36 Congo killings" Associated Press  August 14, 2016

KINSHASA, Congo — Suspected rebels have killed at least 36 people in northeastern Congo, spurring residents to stage street protests against the ongoing violence, officials said Sunday.

Allied Democratic Forces, with origins in neighboring Uganda, probably carried out the attack late Saturday after the army pushed them from their bases, Congo army spokesman General Richard Kasonga said.

‘‘Two days ago, we won back their positions in Mwalika about 19 miles from Beni and we destroyed their underground dwellings,’’ he said.

‘‘In their flight, they killed at least 30 civilians in Rwangoma.’’

Congo’s government said the country will observe three days of mourning starting Monday.

The bodies of 22 men and 14 women are in the morgue and the toll is likely to rise, North Kivu provincial governor Julien Paluku said.

The area around Beni has been the site of repeated attacks. The ADF rebel group has killed at least 500 civilians in the region since October 2014, according to a local rights group that tracks attacks in the region.

Residents in Beni marched to the mayor’s office in protest, and one resident said others brought the body of a dead woman.

‘‘The city woke up with strong emotions following the killings, and we see people in small groups in several neighborhoods,’’ said Nicole Katavali, a Beni resident.

The attack comes just days after Congo President Joseph Kabila visited Beni. Kabila, in nearby Goma on Sunday, denounced the brutality of the attacks and the threat posed to civilians.

Scores of militia groups and rebels continue to destabilize Congo’s east more than two decades after the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when many of those who carried out the killings fled across the border into eastern Congo.

That's how elites rule.


"At least 17 dead amid opposition protests in Congo’s capital" Associated Press  September 19, 2016

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Street clashes between security forces and demonstrators opposed to President Joseph Kabila left at least 17 dead in Congo’s capital Monday in a dramatic sign of mounting tensions after officials sought to delay the upcoming election until next year.

Some view a delay as a way for Kabila to prolong his rule beyond the end of his mandate in late December.

‘‘Today is a warning. He must leave by December,’’ protester Salomon Kaba said.

Protesters threw stones and set tires and vehicles ablaze, according to witnesses. Interior Minister Evariste Boshab confirmed that three police officers were among the dead, including one who was burned alive. ‘‘This wasn’t a demonstration at all but an attempt to unleash civil war in the city of Kinshasa,’’ said government spokesman Lambert Mende.

For months, observers have questioned whether Congo could hold the presidential vote as scheduled on Nov. 27. Over the weekend, the commission made an official request to the country’s constitutional court for a delay of the vote. 

Kabila, who came to power after his father’s assassination in 2001, has yet to announce whether he will pursue another term in office, though the constitution prohibits it. 

I'm smelling CIA involvement. I mean, it's happened before.

The violence comes amid growing fears that the delay could lead to prolonged unrest in Congo, a nation as vast in size as Western Europe. The mineral-rich but largely impoverished country suffered back-to-back civil wars until 2003, and previous instability has drawn in armies from neighboring countries.

While the ruling party has held talks as part of a national dialogue, many of the top opposition figures have not taken part. In recent days, the ruling party has floated the idea of a unity government with opposition members until the next elections, though the proposal would keep Kabila in charge during that period.

Demonstrations also have erupted outside the capital. Human Rights Watch said police fired live bullets Friday in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi. Their report released Sunday also described a series of arrests targeting members of the opposition in recent days.


"Congo president calls for calm after bloody street clashes" by Saleh Mwanamilongo Associated Press  September 22, 2016

KINSHASA, Congo — The office of President Joseph Kabila appealed for calm Wednesday after two days of street clashes that left dozens dead, while accusing organizers of antigovernment protests of trying to incite ‘‘bloody riots.’’

In a statement, Kabila’s office said he was ‘‘profoundly touched by these sad events’’ and expressed condolences to the families of those killed.

Thousands took to the streets of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, on Monday to oppose an election delay that some call a plot by Kabila to stay in power after his mandate expires in December. Earlier Wednesday, police spokesman Colonel Pierrot Mwanamputu said the death toll was 32, including four police officers, though opposition leaders have said the figure is higher.

While officials have tried to minimize government responsibility for this week’s casualties, rights activists and government critics have placed blame on security forces. 


RelatedUp to 20 dead in clashes in Congo over president’s decision to stay in power

"Congo government: Elections are too expensive, so we may not have one this year" Washington Post  February 17, 2017

WASHINGTON — The ruling government in Congo has indicated it may not hold long-awaited elections this year because it’s simply too expensive.

‘‘It will be difficult to think that we can mobilize $1.8 billion this year,’’ Pierre Kangudia Mbayi, minister of state in charge of budget, said at a news conference Wednesday, Africa News reported.

That $1.8 billion cost was the one estimated by Congo’s Independent National Electoral Commission last year.

Election officials say the funds — almost two-thirds the estimated cost of America’s 2016 presidential vote — are needed to register more than 30 million voters in a vast country with poor transport links that has not held regular elections. The commission had announced last year that it doubted it would be able to register all voters before 2018.


I think that made someone mad:

"UN officials among 6 missing in Democratic Republic of Congo" New York Times  March 15, 2017

KINSHASA, the Democratic Republic of Congo — Two United Nations officials and four Congolese citizens have disappeared in a conflict-ridden region of the Democratic Republic of Congo where army soldiers have been accused of killing civilians, the UN mission there has said.

The officials — Michael Sharp, an American, and Zahida Katalan, a Swede — were traveling in the Kasai region Sunday with three Congolese drivers and a translator when they disappeared, the UN mission said Monday. It added that it was doing everything possible to locate them. 

I was told it was a Zaida Catalan.

The officials, who are in Congo as part of a peacekeeping mission, had traveled to Kasai to investigate possible human rights violations after reports that government soldiers there had killed at least a dozen unarmed civilians, including children.

Videos recently emerged on social networks showing what appeared to be Congolese government soldiers walking down a country road and shooting people.

I'm not saying it didn't happen; however, the sudden war pre$$ focus stinks.

The European Union, the United Nations, and the United States have called on the Congolese government to investigate the footage, which rights activists say is evidence of war crimes committed during a counterinsurgency operation. After initially ridiculing the video as fake, the government abruptly changed course and said in February that it had opened an investigation.

So they have turned on Kabila. What did he do wrong? Or was it something he didn't do?

The Congolese government said in a statement Monday that the UN officials had traveled to the province of Kasai-Central by motorcycle and were thought to have been abducted by unidentified forces near the village of Ngombe, in the Bukonde area.

Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the government, said the judicial authorities in the area were investigating the disappearance and trying to identity the perpetrators. He suggested the UN officials had acted recklessly in traveling without informing the government.

“It’s not normal for people to come here and start moving around like this,” Mende said Tuesday. “If the government had been informed of the activities of these officials, perhaps they would have had an escort for their safety.”

He said he would raise the issue with the United Nations.

Provinces in the Kasai region, in south-central Congo, have been the site of several days of fighting between the police and a local tribal militia called Kamwena Nsapu. Violence in the area has claimed more than 400 lives since November.

Congo has been struck by civil war and local conflicts since 1997, when its longtime dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, was overthrown.

Who did that?

Time to rid of a stale dictator, was it?


And after smattered reports for nine months, a three-day follow-up:

"Congo disappearances raise alarm as political tensions grow" by Carley Petesch Associated Press  March 18, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal — Nearly a week after Congo’s government announced the kidnapping of two United Nations workers along with their translator and drivers, no trace of them has been found. Their abduction in a region of the country where kidnappings are rare, and where the workers were investigating abuses by state and militia forces, has raised alarm as political tensions spread over an election crisis.

I'm sensing a manufactured crisis.

A new report by the UN secretary-general has warned that violence and threats to civilians have spread to new parts of the vast country because of Congo’s prolonged political crisis.

Parts of Congo have experienced insecurity for more than two decades since the end of the Rwandan genocide led to the presence of local and foreign armed militias, all vying for control of mineral-rich land.

But the Central Kasai province where the UN staffers were abducted represents the new expansion of tensions.

While the violence is linked to local power struggles, there are also clear ties to the national political crisis, according to analysts who say Congo’s security forces have been known to back local leaders seen to be loyal to President Joseph Kabila. Meanwhile, militia groups support those who are believed to support the opposition.

Just days after the UN expressed grave concern about reports of more than 100 people killed in Central Kasai region during clashes between soldiers and Kamwina Nsapu militia fighters, a video posted online appeared to show men in Congolese uniforms fatally shooting more than a dozen alleged militia members armed with little more than sticks.

International governments and rights groups have called for investigations into the shootings, which followed months of alleged violence by the militia after its leader was killed in a police operation in August.

Seven soldiers have been arrested in connection with the killings in the video, Congo’s armed forces auditor general, Major General Joseph Ponde, said Saturday. They are charged with various war crimes including murder, mutilation, and inhumane treatment, he said. Ponde also promised investigations into allegations of mass graves in the area.

Also Saturday, the UN mission in Congo reported renewed violence in the past week, with credible reports of a ‘‘high number of deaths’’ as Congolese security forces clashed with local Kamwina Nsapu militia members in the capital of Central Kasai province, Kananga. In a statement, the mission said it was concerned about the targeting of civilians, including women and children.

The UN mission also said security forces had restricted its movement in the area in recent days.

The UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Congo, Maman Sambo Sidikou, called for an investigation by authorities into the violence....


Opposition is now dead.

NDU: US extradites Rwandan academic to face genocide charges

Also see:

Congo finds 2 Caucasian bodies in area where UN experts lost

US ambassador to UN calls Congo government ‘corrupt’

That's where I thought this was all going. It's always about regime change in my war pre$$.

A whole new world for refugee family resettling in N.E.

Congolese refugees take halting steps in new land