Central Africa

Congo: intervention force against Islamist rebels?

The bodies of at least 21 people, including women and children, were found after an attack near Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN "peacekeeping" mission MONUSCO said Dec. 16. Local civil organization North Kivu Civil Society blamed the massacre on Ugandan Islamist group ADF-NALU. (AFP, Dec. 17) Days earlier, MONUSCO announced that following the defeat of M23 rebels in North Kivu province, UN and government forces will shift focus to northeastern Orientale, giving armed groups there a two-week ultimatum to surrender their weapons and return to civilian life. Said MONUSCO commander Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz: "We are going to use force. We will do everything we can to allow the FARDC [DRC armed forces] to take on these armed groups." He named ADF-NALU, along with the Congolese People's Liberation Army (ALPCU) and the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FRPI). (IRIN, Dec. 13) The Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda has operated in the DRC-Uganda borderlands since 1995. (International Crisis Group)

French troops to Central African Republic

France is escalating its military mission in the Central African Republic, airlifting troops and equipment to the capital Bangui ahead of an anticipated UN-backed intervention. With some 400 French troops stationed in Bangui presently, at least another 1,000 are on their way, said Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Paris, echoing the findings of rights groups, says the country has descended into chaos since the Seleka rebel coalition, many of its fighters apparently from neighboring Chad and Sudan, ousted president François Bozize in March 24. (France24, Nov. 29) With the French announcement, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the UN Security Council to "authorize a robust peacekeeping force" for the CAR. "If the Security Council does not act now to stem the horrific cycle of violence in the Central African Republic, that failure will hang heavily on the international community for years to come," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general. (AI, Dec. 12)

Congo: Katanga next for mineral boom —and war?

Recent headlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo are exceptionally optimistic, with government gains against the M23 rebels in the country's war-torn east followed by the guerilla army's pledge to lay down arms. (IRIN, Nov. 8) Few media accounts have noted that this development comes immediately after the US announced a suspension of military aid to Rwanda, the M23's patron, over use of child soldiers. The DRC itself was also officially blacklisted, but received a "partial waiver." Rwanda was explicitly held responsible for use of child soldiers by its proxy force in the DRC. (VOA, Oct. 3)

Is Rwanda really bombing itself?

As the world awaits military intervention in Syria and we are treated to idle theorizing about how the Ghouta chemical massacre was a "false flag" attack by the rebels, comes a grimly amusing analogue from Central Africa. Rwanda on Aug. 29 accused government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo of shelling its territory, killing a woman and wounding her baby. (BBC News) Open war between Rwanda and the DRC suddenly looms, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame for restraint. (BBC News) The shelling comes as DRC troops and the UN's new "intervention brigade," dubbed MONUSCO, have been battling the M23 rebels in Congo's east. (BBC News, Radio Australia) The DRC government has denied responsibility, and says it was actually the rebels that shelled Rwanda's territory—a claim backed up by MONUSCO. (Reuters) Now, since the M23 is said to be intimately directed by Rwanda's defense minister, Gen. James Kabarebe, who has apparently even sent military commanders to lead the rebel force, this basically means that Rwanda is bombing itself. Indeed, Congo Planet tells us the DRC is charging that Rwanda's government used the M23 rebels to shell its own territory, as a provocation to justify a direct military intervention in eastern Congo. 

HRW protests Rwanda aid to Congo rebels

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on July 22 that the rebel group 23 March Movement (M23, see BBC backgrounder) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is receiving assistance from Rwanda despite continued human rights abuses by the M23, including rape, executions and forced recruitment of young boys. HRW based its report on interviews with former M23 fighters who have abandoned the movement. According to the report, Rwanda is permitting the M23 rebels to recruit from within Rwanda and is giving material support to the rebels, including food, uniforms, ammunition and other supplies. While a panel of UN experts reported in June that Rwanda's support for the M23 is declining, HRW asserted that the support remains significant and called upon the UN and the US to urge Rwanda to halt support to the M23.

China mining firms contribute to Congo abuses: AI

Chinese-owned mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are contributing to a culture of human rights abuses, Amnesty International reported June 19. AI claims those companies should be held accountable for the longstanding, ongoing human rights abuses related to child labor, on-site injuries, financial exploitation and the illegal detainment of workers in improvised jail cells. Although AI does not claim that the Chinese companies are the original source of such treatment, the likes of which have been recorded for decades, it does maintain that the companies must be held accountable for the current situation. Furthermore, AI contends that the companies hold undue economic influence in the region, debasing the rule of law and and allowing mining interests to literally relocate entire towns without providing any compensation for lost homes or resources. According to the report, DRC is in violation of several UN resolutions regarding the rights of workers:

UN approves Congo 'intervention brigade'

The UN Security Council on March 28 unanimously approved the first-ever "offensive" UN peacekeeping brigade, to fight rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The force of more than 2,500 troops will operate under orders to "neutralize" and "disarm" rebel forces in the resource-rich east of the country. The intervention brigade is unprecedented in UN peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate. The resolution states that it will be established for one year "on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent" to the principles of UN peacekeeping. The force, to be deployed in July, will include troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. The UN currently has some 18,000 troops in the DRC, and has been widely accused of doing little to stop the violence in the eastern region. The latest rebellion flared a year ago, and has forced some 800,000 from their homes.

Central African Republic rebels void constitution

Michel Djotodia, leader of rebel forces behind a coup in the Central African Republic (CAR), declared in a radio address March 25 that the country's constitution is dissolved and he is now the nation's leader. Djotodia, a leader of the Seleka rebel alliance that seized the country's capital over the weekend and caused President Francois Bozize to flee the country, also declared the dissolution of the CAR parliament and government. The Seleka rebels' actions in taking control of the country ran afoul of a peace deal brokered in January between Bozize and the group. Seleka claims, however, that its actions are justified because the Bozize government first failed to uphold elements of the agreement, including a promise to remove South African troops from Bangui. Djotodia intends to serve out the rest of Bozize's term, which is set to end in 2016.

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